The Best and Worst Foods for Weight Loss

There’s more to losing weight than eating salad and avoiding French fries. Here, some surprising foods that will help or hurt your slim-down efforts
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In the weight-loss war, a dieter wants the best possible resources on hIs or her side. It helps to know, then, that some foods are sturdy soldiers, nutritious as well as satisfying for the eater. Other foods, alas, are traitors, ready to sabotage weight-loss efforts from the first bite. Before considering specific foods, there are three crucial factors to keep in mind when on a weight-control regimen, according to Debra Brown-Grossman of Montclair, a registered dietitian in private practice and a certified diabetes educator: Caloric density: If a food has a low caloric density—as is the case with dark salad greens, fruits and vegetables—you can eat more of it. “Studies have shown that people tend to eat the same volume of food, by weight, per day,” says Brown- Grossman. “So lowering the calories per bite lowers the total calories per day.” Portion size: “People notice changes in portion size more than they do changes in caloric density,” says the dietitian.

“So rather than making dramatic changes in portion size, it’s better to make small changes and lower the caloric density— for example, substitute applesauce for butter when making muffins.” Nutritional content: “We must also take into account the nutritional content of food when making food choices for weight loss,” says Brown-Grossman. “For example, peanut butter or other nut butters have a high caloric density. But they’re very nutritious and tend to sate us, so they can be useful for weight loss.”


The Best Weight-Loss Friendly Foods

Dark leafy greens, raw in salads or cooked with a little olive oil. “

Choose from kale, collard greens, broccoli rabe, bok choy or spinach,” says dietitian Debra Brown- Grossman. “All are fiber- and nutrition-rich and filling.”

Fish and seafood

“Again, high in nutrition, low in caloric density, all protein and very filling,” says our expert. “They can be baked, broiled and even occasionally lightly pan-fried in good oils such as olive or canola. Fish that’s white is best because it’s about 10 calories per ounce, compared with fatty fish like salmon, which is 50 calories per ounce. However, compare that with red meat, which is 100 calories per ounce.”

Cage-free eggs

Eggs are a nutrition powerhouse, says Brown-Grossman. “You don’t need to throw the yellow away—that’s where all the vitamins and minerals are,” she says. “There’s no evidence that eating eggs raises cholesterol, especially if the eggs are cage-free, because they contain less dietary cholesterol and have extra omega-3 fatty acids.”

Garbanzo beans

“Beans in general have a low caloric density and are filling and full of nutrition,” Brown-Grossman says. “Garbanzos can be mashed, used as spreads or made into salads with the addition of a bit of feta cheese and vegetables.”

Greek low-fat or fat-free yogurt

It has a low caloric density but it’s full of nutrition and protein and helps you feel full, says our dietitian.


The Worst Five Weight-Loss Villains

“Healthy” cereals

“First, most people tend to eat considerably more than the ¾-cup serving recommended,” she says. Second, claims made on the front of the box, like “whole grains,” “high fiber” or “organic,” can be misleading. Check out the ingredients information: Whole grains should be listed first. Look for more than 5 grams of fiber that comes from real whole grains, more than 7 grams of soy protein and less than 10 grams of added sugar per serving. 

100-calorie snack packs

Not only do these processed foods provide little nutrition, they also aren’t filling. According to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, people tend to eat more than one small package at a time, negating the promised benefit of portion control. For snacking, stick to fresh fruit, nuts, seeds or Greek yogurt instead.

Protein bars

Often touted as a meal replacement, they’re convenient, and protein promotes a feeling of satiety. On the other hand, many brands are high in calories and contain high levels of carbohydrates, hydrogenated fats and artificial ingredients. A better choice: all-natural fiber bars, which are low-calorie and filling (try brands Gnu and Lara).

Frozen yogurt

“‘Fat-free’ or ‘no added sugar’ or not, frozen yogurt is just extra calories and not much nutrition,” says Brown-Grossman. “At 20 or 25 calories per ounce, an average 1.5- to 2-cup serving can pack 150 to 200 calories, not to mention the extra calories in the sugary toppings.”

Diet soda

With zero calories, what could be the problem? Plenty. In a study by the University of Texas Health Science Center, diet softdrink users experienced 70 percent greater increases in waist circumference than non-users; frequent users (two or more diet sodas daily) experienced 500 percent greater increases than non-users. One theory: People who consume artificial sweeteners tend to crave, and therefore consume, greater amounts of sweet food overall.


Related Read: The Best and Worst Flavored-Water Drinks

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