If you know our approach to nutrition, you’ll know that we are huge advocates of variety in the diet. So, it may seem odd that we have written a ‘top 10 foods’ article.
First of all, let’s be clear, variety is by far the best strategy for optimising health. This top 10 list is a small fraction of the delicious and nutritious foods that we regard as appropriate for healthy weight loss. It’s just fun to do a top 10; you enjoy it, we enjoy it and it enables me to make some important points about a good eating approach for healthy weight loss.
So, what is healthy weight loss? It means a sensible calorie deficit and foods chosen from a variety of food groups in order to provide you with all the nutrients you need to stay fit and healthy. When you’re in calorie deficit it’s important that you get all the nutrients you need whilst minimising hunger. To do that you need to make the right choices. Take a look at this article about ‘The fullness factor’ for more discussion on what helps you stay full for longer. In short, in almost every meal or snack, you should try to get:
- Lean protein
- Plenty of fibre
- Slow digesting carbs
We added the last one because most people want carbs with their meals. It’s just a question of choosing the right slowly digesting carbs. Why is ‘liquid’ in there? Because liquid in the food helps swell the fibre, swell the stomach and keep you full. Compare breakfast cereals and bread to apples and cooked wholegrains, for example. The former, though instantly gratifying, will leave you hungry again soon after. The latter will keep you full.
I like to create a diet that ticks the fullness boxes using 5 food groups. These are:
- Lean protein
You’ll see that my top 10 has two from each. These foods, in various combinations, will tick all the fullness boxes listed earlier, and will help to contribute to healthy weight loss.
Ok, so now you understand the rationale for the choices in the list, let’s get to the list!
Foods for Healthy Weight Loss
1. Lean protein: Salmon
Ok, so it’s not that lean, but it is super healthy, providing essential omega 3 fatty acids and a long list of other health benefits. See all the benefits here.
It’s a high protein food, so ticks the fullness criteria. In addition, the fat content will slow gastric emptying, helping to keep you full for even longer.
And, because this protein is animal derived, it has an excellent amino acid profile. That means it is great for maintaining or building muscle.
It’s also delicious and versatile. We love it steamed with black pepper and a squeeze of lemon.
2. Lean protein: 0% Greek yoghurt
The protein content of Greek yoghurt is much higher than ordinary yoghurt, making it a great way to boost the protein content of any meal, but particularly snacks or healthy puddings.
Being animal derived, it has a good amino acid profile perfect for helping to build and maintain muscle.
As well as protein, Greek yoghurt provides lots of calcium which is great for muscle contractions and has been associated with weight loss. See an article on this here, and another here.
For all the health benefits of Greek yoghurt, take a look at this example.
Greek yoghurt is our number 1 food for snacking for healthy weight loss. It provides that protein content that is so often missing in people’s snack choices.
Why do we choose the 0% option? Because that gives us the choice of what fat to add back in. If you choose the full fat stuff, you’re getting more saturated fat than if you put back the fat in the 0% stuff by adding, say, crushed almonds or pumpkin seeds. Try it – you get a satisfying crunch as well as the creaminess of the yoghurt.
3. Fruit: Berries
Berries are packed with health benefits, high in fibre, slow to digest, low in calories and delicious! How’s that for a great healthy weight loss food?
Try apple and raspberry as a healthy pudding. Or ladle on the Greek yoghurt for a filling snack. We’ve written before about one of our favourite treats, raspberry ice yog, here.
If you’d like to earn your berries by burning a few calories, try picking your own blackberries.
4. Fruit: Apples
You’ve heard the old adage: an apple a day keeps the doctor away. There has to be some truth in that and, as you might expect, apples have a long list of health benefits.
You may have heard people say that if you want to eat less at meal times and curb your appetite, you should eat an apple before the meal. That works because they have a high soluble fibre content, so are filling and slow to digest with few calories. That makes them ideal as a healthy weight loss food.
If you have an apple between meals, try to get some protein with it. Cheese and apple is a well known combination, but why not avoid the saturated fat and extra calories and have some lean protein instead. Before my apple I might have some cooked chicken breast or a piece of white fish from the day before. Why not?
5. Vegetables: Beetroot
Not the “perfect” healthy weight loss food, you might think, because of its relatively high glycemic index (around 65). But I wanted to include a purple food and one that is super healthy. Take a look at this array of health benefits here. I particularly like the fact that beetroots can help with boosting your exercise performance; that’s a great benefit if you’re looking to lose weight as you can burn a few more calories!
For optimal health, buy fresh beetroot and prepare it yourself. We like it simply steamed, but you can roast it with a little cooking spray, grate it into salads or incorporate it into delicious and colourful soups.
6. Vegetables: Broccoli
It’s on the list of healthy weight loss foods because of how well it meets the fullness criteria. High water content, packed with fibre and a relatively high protein content for a veggie; it’s super filling. It also has a low calorie density, meaning it will swell your stomach despite having few calories.
Include it often in your meals and try eating it first to curb your appetite early in the meal.
7. Wholegrains: Oats
There are lots of grains out there but, for us, oats are super tasty, versatile, and tick all the fullness boxes.
For a start they are packed with soluble fibre. This swells the stomach and slows the digestion so that the carbohydrate is released slowly into the bloodstream. They are relatively high in protein and fat compared to other grains; both factors that help make them filling. Cooked in water, they also come with a lot of liquid. If you prefer to cook them in milk then you’ll get more protein, but also more calories, so keep your portion sizes in check if you’re looking to lose weight.
And I almost forgot, as with all our choices, there are loads of health benefits.
8. Wholegrains: Quinoa
Although it’s fashionable, that’s not why it made the list. It’s a great healthy weight loss food!
When cooked, it’s stuffed with water, fibre and is high in protein. And what’s more, the protein contains all 9 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein and better for building or maintaining muscle.
Not only that, but it’s also slow to digest which, along with the properties above, makes it a great filling choice for weight loss.
And as if this wasn’t enough, it’s also stuffed with health benefits and is also gluten free, making it a good healthy choice for almost everyone.
9. Pulses: Lentils
Lentils make the grade because they meet all the fullness criteria really well. When soaked and cooked, they are stuffed with fibre, protein and contain plenty of water. They are a great choice for vegans looking to get enough protein in their diet. As a weight loss food, they’re perfect for all the above reasons, but also because they have a really low glycemic index.
We particularly like them because they have a satisfying dense texture and delicious earthy taste that goes well with lots of other foods. They’re also really versatile; they work well in the slow cooker, in soups, in curries, in salads or just as a filling and tasty component of a meal.
And, you guessed, it, they are packed with goodness. See the benefits here.
10. Pulses: Chickpeas
Like lentils, chickpeas come with a long list of health benefits.
Also, like most pulses, they tick all the boxes when it comes to fullness and weight loss. High in fibre, water, protein, slow to digest and they have one of the lowest glycemic index scores of any food (12). They’re going to keep you full for a long time!
And, like lentils, they are a great protein choice for vegans.
We love them because they’re super satisfying and perfect for curries and salads. And because they are relatively high in carbs too, they can be your super healthy, slowly digesting carb choice in a meal.
So, there you have it! Ten foods you could include in your diet to help you achieve healthy weight loss. Notice anything these foods have in common? They are, more or less, unprocessed. If you want a rule of thumb for good healthy weight loss choices, think ‘unprocessed’.