Good nutrition is the cornerstone of attaining and maintaining a healthy weight. And we’re not talking about taking part in the latest fad diet promising fast fat loss. (I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but those never really work.) If dropping a few pounds is your ultimate aim, you’ll need to nourish your body with a nutrient-dense, balanced diet, which requires knowing which items are considered among the best foods for weight loss.
“A balanced diet, one with adequate calories and a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats is essential to weight loss, as this will help you keep hunger at bay and resist the urge to overeat,” says registered dietitian Katherine Brooking, MS, RD.
However, the focus here is on balance—no singular food will magically melt away fat.
Below, you’ll find the best foods for weight loss to include in your weekly meal plan on the regular. After stocking up on these delicious foods, be sure to also check out 15 Best Healthy Breakfast Foods for Weight Loss.
Chicken breast is the poster child for healthy foods that help you lose weight, and for a good reason. Just 3 ounces cooked of cooked chicken breast provides 26 grams of protein. A 2012 review in the British Journal of Nutrition also found that foods rich in protein provide the perfect trifecta that supports weight loss: They can help with satiety, maintaining muscle mass, and increasing your metabolism.
Make cod a part of your weekly meal plan, and you might notice the number on the scale drop. A 2009 study published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases found that folks with overweight and obesity who ate cod five times a week lost nearly four more pounds in two months than people who didn’t eat seafood. Just make sure to skip the butter when you’re cooking cod to avoid adding too many calories to your meal.
One of the highest-fiber foods you can get, artichokes are a superstar veggie that fits into most diet plans. One medium artichoke supplies about 7 grams of fiber—that’s an impressive 25% of your Daily Value (DV), which can help keep you fuller for longer. A 2017 study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine also showed that people who ate more fiber lost nearly four more pounds than those who didn’t eat as much of the nutrient.
Sweet potatoes are loaded with dietary fiber—one sweet orange tater has nearly 4 grams of fiber, or 14% of your DV.
“This, in turn, promotes satiety, slows down digestion, and improves blood sugar level,” says Brooking, echoing the 2017 aforementioned study in Annals of Internal Medicine. “Also, the fiber and carbohydrate content of this root vegetable provides sustainable energy and can be an excellent food option pre- and post-workout,” she adds.
Gone are the days when folks feared bread. In fact, quality, whole grain bread (not the fluffy white loaves) can and should be a part of your weight loss diet. According to a 2010 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who ate three or more servings of whole grains per day were observed to have 10% less belly fat than those who didn’t eat any whole grains.
“Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are high in fiber and low in calories, making them a stellar food for weight loss,” says Brooking.
In fact, a 2012 Journal of Functional Foods study showed that eating more of these veggies is linked to a reduced incidence of obesity. Try stir-frying broccoli with garlic, then serving it alongside your favorite protein and a half cup of brown rice for a balanced meal.
Speaking of brown rice, this stellar side dish is easy to digest and versatile. Eating whole grains, such as brown rice, regularly is linked to having less belly fat, per the previously referenced 2010 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. For a delicious and balanced meal, pair it with your favorite protein, like grilled chicken, tofu, or roasted salmon, and a non-starchy veggie, like zucchini or asparagus.