When it comes to your weight loss journey, your diet is just as important (if not more) than your physical activity levels. While there are plenty of unique, specialty diets to choose from, certain foods continuously pop up across the board, universally celebrated for their low-calorie, nutrient-dense and highly satiable qualities. Below are six healthy foods to experiment with in your diet, items that I have seen continuously popularized among weight loss gurus. Just remember that one size does not fit all, so have fun discovering what best fuels and replenishes your unique body.
I’m talking about this food first because I would probably eat oats for every meal if it were possible. First of all, they are so diverse. You can mix these heart-healthy grains with fruits, cinnamon, seeds, peanut butter or even protein powder. The possibilities are endless. Many weight loss experts promote oats for their richness in fiber, a micronutrient that not only soothes the gut microbiome with little impact on blood sugar, but also keeps the body fuller for longer periods of time. Some new fitness enthusiasts may feel tempted to ban carbs from their diets, out of fear of being counterproductive in their weight loss journeys, but carbs are essential for providing your body the energy it needs to crush workouts and remain active throughout the day. Steer clear of processed sugars by instead substituting oats as your next breakfast cereal bowl. Oat groats are deemed most nutritional, with instant oatmeal being the least.
2. Egg Whites
I was so excited when I discovered the power of egg whites – they’re like the holy grail of protein. If your weight loss journey involves an additional monitoring of cholesterol, you’ll want to use egg whites for all you omelet and baking needs. This food is low in fat, calories and carbs, packing roughly 20g of protein and 100 calories in a whopping 12 tablespoons. Just don’t overdo it. As stated above, a diet too low in carbohydrates leaves the body feeling fatigued and poorly equipped to participate in daily exercise. Protein is helpful for repairing and building muscles, but it can’t run your entire body alone.
Nuts were once highly underrated. High in fat content, this food used to send most weight loss hopefuls running in the opposite direction. But nuts, particularly pistachios, are a wonderful addition to any fitness journey, as they’re packed with monounsaturated fatty acids. These are known as “the good fats,” helpful in lowering blood cholesterol and preventing the onset of cardiovascular disease. Nuts are great to pack as on-the-go snacks, replacing the processed options you would otherwise find in a nearby vending machine. Pro tip: Purchase pistachios in their shells. By individually breaking open each nut you slow down the eating process, giving your body the time it needs to let you know it’s full, as well as providing you the space to mindfully enjoy each bite.
4. Dark Chocolate
Yep, you heard me right: chocolate. I was floored too when I first heard health gurus celebrating this delicious dessert. But before you dive into a pool of M&M’s, let’s rewind and talk about the type of chocolate weight loss experts are referring to. Dark chocolate refers to chocolate that is 70 to 85 percent cocoa. Be forewarned that this processed, milk chocolate alternative is not for the faint of heart. It’s bitter and the higher the percentage, the more aggressive the taste. It may not be love at first bite but don’t give up. It’s an acquired taste and eventually I began preferring it. Made from the seed of the cocoa tree, this chocolate is an excellent source of antioxidants and brimming with iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium and selenium, among others. Just remember to save this food item for a rainy day. It’s meant to be consumed in moderation and replaced your sugary desserts. I always have some handy when it’s about that time of the month – it’s a great way to soothe those moody, mopey cravings.
You’ve definitely heard it before and you’re about to hear it again: Salmon rocks. It’s one of the few dietary sources for omega 3 fatty acids. A low calorie dinner option, this fish provides diners with healthy doses of niacin, B-6, B-12, selenium and vitamin D. Plus, as a lean protein, this food can keep you fuller longer while keeping your blood sugar at a happy medium. I will add, however, that the fish industry is notorious for food fraud. I’m currently reading Larry Olmsted’s Real Food Fake Food and it’s dumbfounding how unethical acts such as transshipment and loosely defined (FDA approved!?) marketing terms lead to completely different fish being passed off as salmon. Steer clear of farmed fish too, as they’re exposed to numerous harmful chemicals and antibiotics. I wouldn’t go for salmon on a regular basis, but when you do, look for Alaskan. Alaska has a strict no farming policy; all of their fish are wild-caught.
If you’re anything like me, you love to snack. I much prefer eating small meals frequently throughout the day then waiting in between three large meals. Cucumbers are a great way to fulfill this style of eating while also keeping your overall caloric intake low. Thinly slice up an entire cucumber (301g = roughly 47 calories) and you’ll have an entire plate full of crunchy bites at your desk or on the couch. Plus, cucumbers are packed with water, a daily macronutrient essential to any fitness journey.