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Protein-based foods help you feel fuller for longer.
Losing weight is all about managing your calorie balance -- to drop pounds you need to burn more calories than you consume. The easiest way to do this is by upping your activity level and reducing the number of calories you eat. The idea that certain foods boost your metabolism and increase fat burning is generally a myth, according to sports nutritionist Mike Roussell. While there are no specific foods you must eat on a weight loss diet, some food groups are important for a healthy, sustainable weight loss eating plan.
Vegetables and Fruits
Vegetables and fruits have many health and weight loss benefits -- they're high in fiber, contain many different vitamins and minerals and are low in calories. The American Heart Association advises consuming at least 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables daily. When it comes to vegetables, pick mainly dark green or brightly-colored vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, peppers, beets, eggplant and spinach, rather than starchy vegetables like potatoes or yams as these are higher in calories. For fruits, pick berries, cherries, apples and grapefruit and avoid fruit juices, as these contain all the sugar but none of the fiber, according to nutritionist Dr. Jonny Bowden.
Protein is an essential part of any weight loss plan. Apart from helping to build and repair cells, protein also takes longer to digest, meaning you feel fuller for longer. Eating protein at breakfast can also help prevent cravings and stop you from overeating the rest of the day, claims Dr. Heather Leidy, professor of nutrition at the University of Missouri. Look to lean sources of protein such as chicken or turkey, red meat with less than 10 percent fat or low-fat dairy products like Greek yogurt and cottage cheese. If you're a vegetarian, stick to dairy protein, or choose beans and legumes. Men should eat two palm-sized protein servings at each meal, while women need one palm-sized portion, advises nutritionist Ryan Andrews of Precision Nutrition.
Grains and Starches
Grains and starches, such as pasta, bread, potatoes, rice and cereals are major sources of carbohydrates in the Western diet. Low-carb diets can be highly effective for weight loss, though you still need some carbohydrates in your diet for optimal health. When picking your grains and starches, choose whole grains such as brown rice, whole-wheat bread and pasta, quinoa, couscous or whole-grain cereals like oats and bran cereals over sugary ones. As well as being excellent plant-based protein sources, beans and legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, black beans and kidney beans also provide carbohydrate with a high fiber content and have a low glycemic index, meaning they digest slowly and aid satiety.
Nuts, Seeds and Oils
No weight loss diet should eliminate fats. Despite the fact that reducing your fat intake can help cut calories and speed up your weight loss, you do need some fat. Nuts, such as almonds, pistachios and cashews, along with seeds and oils like olive, coconut and peanut oil all provide essential fats that aid with hormone production and the absorption of vitamins and minerals. Aim to get a small serving of fat at each meal -- 1 ounce of nuts or seeds or a half a tablespoon of oil counts as a serving. Alternatively, change a lean protein source to a fattier one in one of your meals. Salmon, mackerel and whole eggs all contain both protein and fat.