I’ve never felt comfortable creating meal plans for clients. It’s just never felt right to me. Although, it’s the most popular question I get:
“Elizabeth, just tell me what to eat!”
I mean, sure! I can tell you what to eat – but chances are that you’re going to get bored with it. People’s tastes are so different! I love eating eggs for breakfast. But I know a LOT of folks who don’t.
I can eat the same thing over & over & over again – every day. I rarely get bored with eating the same foods. But I know a lot of folks who need something new at every meal.
Some people are really drawn to Asian flavors; others, not so much. Most folks like minimal preparation meals, but there are a number who have the time, and like to cook. (yes! really – they’re out there.)
So, although no foods are off limits, there are definitely foods that contribute to better weight loss, and foods that are, well, less weight loss friendly.
Before I tell you what to eat, let’s define some things.
Healthy Foods versus Weight Loss Foods
There’s a difference between healthy foods and weight loss foods. Not all weight loss foods are healthy, and not all healthy foods are weight loss friendly. Lean Cuisine frozen meals can be weight loss friendly; but are they healthy? Peanut butter and avocados are healthy. Are they weight loss friendly? Maybe.
Okay – so I think there might be some guidelines to determine what makes a food, a weight loss food?
So the first factor in determining weight loss, is calorie balance. In order to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn. Given the example above, of peanut butter and avocado – are those foods weight loss foods? They can be. They can certainly fit into and be part of a healthy weight loss diet.
However, both peanut butter and avocado tend to be rather calorie dense. Meaning, that the volume to calorie ratio is pretty high.
So, in order for these foods to be weight loss friendly, they need to be eaten with some caution and portion control in mind.
But you do need calories, and your body needs fat to function and to absorb fat soluble vitamins. So these foods are definitely not off the list. Just be aware of dietary fat when it comes to trying to lower your calorie intake. Fat has more calories per gram. And when trying to lose body fat, the overarching principal is calories in versus calories out.
But again, you need ditary fat. Fat also leads into the next guideline:
Rice cakes. Celery. Salad – but not good salad. Bad salad with squeaky broccoli, vegetables that hurt your gums, and a splash of lemon juice. Gluten-free pancakes. What do all of these things have in common? They’re not satisfying. You can imagine eating each one of those right now, and not being satisfied with it.
That’s because our stomachs tell our brains that we’re full based on a few things: volume of the stomach, weight of the stomach, but then also, as our stomach acids break down what’s in our stomach to find out what we’ve eaten and our body starts to send signals to other parts of the body to start the process for digesting those types of foods.
Dietary fat certainly helps with making meals more satisfying. If you’ve ever eaten a bowl of broccoli without any butter or cheese on it, you’ve probably experienced the effect of being full and yet hungry at the same time.
Eating dietary fat is what makes a meal satisfying. And eating satisfying meals is what prevents us from overeating.
Again, going back to the calories in versus calories out rule, what prevents us from overeating helps us lose weight.
There are a few other guidelines that help with making meals high in satisfaction.
High Water Content
So let’s compare a grape with a raisin. OR better yet, let’s compare 10 grapes with 10 raisins. Which one is going to fill you up more?
The raisins? No?
Of course the grapes will fill you up more! But the only thing different between a grape and a raisin is that the raisin has been dehydrated. It’s water is all gone!
Remember above when I mentioned that the stomach registers fullness based on bulk and weight? Water helps out with this equation. Foods that have a high water content are more filling than those that are dry.
That’s why I can eat 5 cookies, and then if I drink some water immediately afterwards, I feel incredibly full! (mental note: don’t drink water after eating cookies!)
Okay – so, how does fiber help you lose weight? There are two different types of fiber: insoluble and soluble.
Insoluble fiber helps your body move the food you’ve eaten through your digestive tract.
Soluble fiber absorbs water and turns into a gel-like substance. In your stomach, soluble fiber creates bulk and volume so that you feel full.
Both types of fiber are great. And they’re both found in plant foods. Generally speaking, soluble fiber is found on the inside of the vegetable, fruit or grain, where insoluble is found in the outer coatings (peels) of vegetables and fruits, and (the bran in) grains.
So, another vote for eating the whole food – peel and all!
Protein doesn’t have a lot of water when it’s cooked, and it generally doesn’t contain fiber. But like fat, protein is very dense and heavy, and it’s also very satisfying.
Think about this:
Could you eat two donuts right now? Yes? What about two chicken breasts?
One donut and one chicken breast have approximately the same number of calories (125). But chicken breast is almost 100% protein. The donut contains barely any!
But the other thing that’s fantastic about protein is that it slows the digestion of the stomach! Translation: you stay fuller for a longer period of time!
Oh wait! one more thing about how awesome protein is for weight loss: There’s something called Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) it’s the number of calories your body uses to digest the food you’re eating. When you eat protein, your body uses a whopping 30% of the calories that are in that chicken breast just digesting it! (compared to fat, which is around 3%; and carbohydrates which can range between 7-20% based on how processed or whole they are)
Okay – so now that I have the guidelines around what makes foods weight loss friendly, which foods actually abide by those guidelines?
The 4 Weight Loss Foods: Find Them Here!
Protein – (Oh! You knew that was coming. Right?) Lean proteins like chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish, eggs and egg whites, and some cuts of beef and pork are best.
What about bacon? Bacon isn’t lean, but 1 slice is only 35 calories. Bacon used as a garnish can really lend to the satisfaction of salads and sandwiches. A little can go a long way!
And if you don’t like animal sources of protein, protein powders are a fantastic way of increasing your protein intake.
Vegetables – Most vegetables, but not necessarily all vegetables (of course, all vegetables are better than baked goods!). Vegetables that grow above ground are going to be better because they have a really high water content (check!) and are also high in fiber (check! check!). Vegetables that grow above ground are also typically lower in starch, so they keep your blood sugar low, even, and under control.
Water – Is water a food? I don’t know. Some would argue that it is a macronutrient – something that we need in large quantities. So, I’m including it here.
If you don’t like plain water, that’s fine. Just try not to drink your calories. Coffee and tea have very little caloric impact, however fancy coffee drinks at specialty coffee shops can really come with a significant caloric load. So, be careful.
And if you’re thinking that diet soda is better because it doesn’t have calories, there are some studies that suggest that the artificial sweeteners in diet sodas – although not caloric – can disrupt your hormones, and prevent weight loss.
Less Sweet Fruit – Apples, pears, berries. They’re all high in fiber & water, and lower in sugar.
Bonus – Okay – so looking through this list, this isn’t anything that you don’t already know. Right?
One thing that I think is incredibly important when trying to lose weight, is to not deprive your self. Every day you should have a treat. It doesn’t need to be much (and you need to pick your treats wisely – so that you don’t go over your calorie goal), but I try to reserve 10-20% of my daily calories for a treat. It could be a glass or two of wine, or it could be a protein bar. But you NEED to have something to keep yourself sane.
Otherwise you’ll find yourself elbow deep in a bag of cookies never wanting to leave! And we all need treats – whether we’re actively trying to lose weight, maintain, or can’t EVEN think about it yet.
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