No singular dish holds the secret to weight loss: Some are energy-dense, aiding long workout sessions—but others are worth their weight, or lack thereof, in calorie counts. But what you eat matters, and nobody wants to follow a diet that keeps their stomachs rumbling.
Because there’s no “one size fits all” approach to fat loss foods, what works for one might not work for you. Health factors, genetics, and daily lifestyles each come into play, and effective weight loss requires commitment, patience, and some creativity to explore different foods.
What Makes a Healthy Dish?
Calories Can’t Always Be Counted
Most people respond well to calorie-counted foods—but these dishes can be more restrictive than fulfilling. Ultimately, the best diet is one that works best with your personal needs: one you’ll not only manage to stick with—but enjoy doing so.
But what makes a healthy dish, exactly?
We know that “calories in versus calories out” holds true. If you consume fewer calories than you burn, you’ll enjoy a thinner waistline. This said, the type of calorie matters. Eating 100 calories of refined sugars, for example, can impact your body differently than eating 100 calories of carrots.
Blood glucose matters—and that memorable “fullness” feeling does, too. The best calories will keep you satiated, throughout the day, so as to stave off tempting hunger pains.
When cutting out calories, you might shed some pounds over the first couple of weeks. But then, the process stalls.
It’s possible to stick to the same calorie counts and stop losing weight: Some diets result in rapid water loss, leading to a misleadingly thinner waistline in under a month. If the diet isn’t dialed in nutritionally, however, your body might not hang onto lean muscle mass. If this happens, your metabolism can slow down—burning far fewer calories than is ideal.
It’s easy to accidentally count calories the wrong way—especially when our bodies aren’t following a regimen we expected it to follow.
Don’t Discount Digestion
A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville suggests another fit-food factor to consider: Almonds have 20 percent fewer calories than we’ve previously estimated. Where fat loss foods are considered, news like this is certainly good to hear.
The opposite is true, too, unfortunately. When we count calories, we’re counting the energy a piece of food contains. Humans can expend this energy in a few ways, however, spanning from digestive processes to heat regulation. Caloric estimators are still pretty accurate, but some foods—like high-fiber foods—aren’t digested as easily.
Sometimes, counting calories—while effective—isn’t enough to lose weight: Pureed carrots, for example, give us a different amount of calories than whole carrots. As a good rule of thumb, keep the following in mind before beginning your weight loss journey:
In general, processed foods contain between five to 10 percent more calories than unprocessed foods. These numbers differ on a dish-to-dish basis, but they’re still not able to make every calorie count.
To avoid caloric “gray areas,” consuming fewer processed foods, in general, is a good approach to take. This goes double for added sugar, too: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that only 10 percent of our daily diets should consist of added sugars.
Getting Down to Business: Fat Loss Foods You’ll Love
The best fat loss foods are high in fiber—which keeps us feeling fuller, longer. They also have low energy densities—allowing us to eat decent-sized portions while consuming fewer calories, overall. Unprocessed foods come first, and sugars come last. Don’t worry, though, because these top fat loss foods are still super tasty.
Yogurt is packed with protein, and it’s full of probiotics, too. It’s one of the healthiest “gut health” foods around—shedding extra pounds by keeping your digestive bacteria happy. Studies show that a belly full of healthy micro bacteria not only aids in digestion directly but also through passive metabolic processes. As one of the best probiotic food sources available, yogurt earns its spot at the top of the fat loss food list.
We recommend Greek yogurt to get the most protein per portion.
Greek yogurt is also associated with increased satiety—which will keep you fuller throughout the day. You can mix a number of healthy ingredients into your daily yogurt, too, to boost its fat-burning properties. Just be sure to keep an eye on added sugars.
Instead, try tossing in some fresh fruit and nuts.
Did someone say guacamole?
Avocados might be savory—but don’t let their taste deceive you: They’re certainly satisfying—but they’re also a superfood.
Rich in monosaturated fatty acids, potassium, phytochemicals, and dietary fiber, avocado consumption is directly linked with lower BMIs, waist circumferences, and body weights. They might have more calories than other fruits and veggies, but their fat and fiber power-combo tends to balance the scales.
So, as long as you’re keeping those calories in check, some mashed avocados on your sandwich, in your salad or atop your tacos will please not only your taste buds—but your waistline.
Salmon is another delectable dish too good to pass up. Rich in high-quality protein, salmon is packed with “good” fats—or those conducive to a healthy metabolism: omega-3 fatty acids. These acids can help you feel more satiated, which is definitely a plus if you’re watching your caloric intake.
Studies suggest that eating more fish packed with omega-3 fatty acids reduces the risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity alike. Eating salmon can support healthy cholesterol levels, too. It’s a great “cornerstone protein” of any diet, providing each of these benefits in as little as two dishes per week.
A salmon-centric meal is pretty flexible: Baked salmon makes for a zesty main course, and boiled salmon offers additional heart benefits by reducing the risk of ischemic heart disease.
We mentioned almonds earlier, and they totally deserve their own spot on the list. They’re an awesome source of fiber and protein, whether consumed raw or roasted. Almonds are a great fat loss food snack, experts suggest, as only an ounce packs about six grams of protein—as well as another 14 grams of heart-healthy fatty acids.
The same ounce contains roughly 180 calories—so consume them wisely—but they’re famed for making the stomach feel fuller. Capable of lowering bad cholesterol, or LDL, almonds are packed with magnesium and vitamin E: two essential fat loss ingredients. Even better: Almonds are known as “bone-building” food, as the same, one-ounce serving contains the same calcium count as ¼ a cup of milk.
Five: Cayenne Pepper
It’s spicey—and it’s scientifically proven to speed up fat loss. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, daily consumption of cayenne pepper boosts the body’s ability to transform food into energy. This is due to a compound within it: capsaicin.
Capsaicin is a natural appetite suppressant—and a single pinch to season your fish, meats, or eggs can help you consume less throughout the day. It’s a thermogenic chemical, too, so it’ll throw your metabolism into hyperdrive: A study from 2003 discovered that women who ate fresh chili peppers experienced heightened metabolic rates for up to 30 minutes after consumption.
When our metabolisms are faster, our bodies convert nutrients quicker—resulting in more energy, and less fat. Cayenne peppers might make you a little toasty, but rest assured: That heat is transferred from pounds otherwise gathered around the waistline.
Six: Dark Chocolate
It’s time for a fat-burning dessert, and dark chocolate is always on the menu.
You needn’t ditch the sweets entirely to lose weight, and dark chocolate is a fantastic inclusion to your fat loss food selection. Our stomach’s gut microbes ferment chocolate to increase its production of polyphenolic compounds.
These gut-healthy compounds include butyrate—which is a fatty acid our bodies use to burn fat as fuel—as opposed to carbohydrates.
Moreover, butyrate is known to “deactivate” some genes linked to bodily inflammation. To get the most out of your post-dinner dark chocolate, try to opt for chocolate with a cacao content over 70 percent: Chocolates in this category have high antioxidant polyphenol concentrations, which help release the healthy compounds.
To double down on the delectable snack, try mixing in some fresh fruit—as fruit can increase the chocolate’s fermentation, yielding even more butyrate.
As they say: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Don’t let common, early-day dishes deceive you, however, because eggs are a great addition to any meal. Take them hard-boiled, scrambled, poached, or sunny-side up.
Whichever way you consume your eggs, consider them a vital fat loss food.
Egg whites are one of the best sources of lean protein around—and they’re packed with choline, too. Choline is a big-time, fat-burning nutrient which directly targets, and reduces belly-fat storage. Where the lean protein is considered: Lean proteins further increase our metabolism’s capacity for shaving off extra pounds—even if they’re consumed later in the day.
Even so, hard-boiled eggs make for great, mid-afternoon snacks. If you’re on the run, a Tupperware container with sliced egg whites sprinkled with a little salt and pepper can really hit the spot.
Fueling the Lean, Clean Fat-Burning Machine
It’s a good idea to space out your meals during the day: The best fat loss foods make us feel fuller—which means you can consume fewer calories, overall, by timing them correctly. Remember to drink plenty of water on your weight loss journey, as fluids will further benefit digestion, reduce bloating, and keep your metabolism running.
Staying lean isn’t too difficult, once the meals are planned out. When in doubt: Go green. Veggies are always great foods to fill up on, and they’re awesome complements to any dish. If you stick to these fat loss foods, you’ll feel leaner in no time.
So get ready to take on the day—and don’t forget to take a snack with you.