Weight loss plans vary in the "do's" and "don'ts" which they allow, so it's no surprise that very few foods get a nutritionist's seal of approval when it comes to dieting.
We chatted with Rachel Stahl, RD, CDN, a New York City-based registered dietitian, and Danielle Starin, MS, RD, the director of nutrition at Nutritionix to find out exactly which foods will give you the best "bang for your buck," diet-wise and will set you off on the right foot in the New Year.
Check out these 15 best foods for weight loss, to get you started on your healthy (and delicious) dieting journey:
The calcium-filled favorite is a stellar breakfast food, but never forget that it can be used in lunch, dinner, dessert, and snack recipes.
"Greek yogurt is great not only as a breakfast food topped with some fruit but it really shines as a weight loss superfood when used as a substitute," Starin says. "Try it instead of sour cream, mayo, or even as a fruit dip."
Are you hungry, or just dehydrated? That's the ultimate question.
"Sparkling water is great for weight loss because not only is it an alternative to sugary sodas but it also hydrates you," Starin notes. "Sometimes thirst can be misread as hunger, [but] staying hydrated can help you to recognize the difference."
"Everyone needs to have a quick snack on hand and nuts are ideal for those trying to slim down," Starin says. "Nuts are a powerhouse for the three super nutrients important for holding off hunger: protein, fiber, and good fats. Keep your serving to around one ounce, though, because too much of a good thing, even good fats, can lead to weight gain."
When it comes to the nutty varieties, one specific type wins most nutritionists' approval.
"While almonds are high in calories, they can fit well into a healthy eating plan," Stahl adds. "Almonds help keep blood sugar steady, and contain components that may help suppress hunger hormones and burn belly fat. They are also a good source of healthy fats, protein and fiber, a nutritious trifecta to keep you satiated for longer."
Start to mix-and-match with your pasta options, and see how quickly the changes happen. "Whole wheat pasta is loaded with fibers that promote fullness and reduce hunger," Starin says. "It is also great to keep in the house because it can be tossed with some pasta sauce for a healthy meal in less time than it takes for pizza delivery."
New year, new diet. The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses (a.k.a. dry beans and lentils), which means it's officially time to fully incorporate these powerhouses into our daily weight loss plan.
"These affordable and nutritious foods are a great source of protein and pack a big fiber punch," Starin says. "They will keep you feeling full longer are are a great base to incorporate veggies into."
"Avocados are high in monounsaturated fatty acids, which may help quell hunger and diminish belly fat," Stahl says. "Further, they are chockfull of protein and fiber in addition to nutrients including vitamin C, vitamin E, B-vitamins, and potassium."
"This natural and healthy source of creaminess is a friend to the weight conscious crowd," says Starin. "Avocados are full of vitamins and minerals and good fats. They also give the mouth feel of an indulgent food but without the calorie load. Try avocados instead of calorie loaded spreads, blend avocado into your homemade salad dressing, or even try it in a chocolate avocado mousse!"
Be they tart or sweet, apples are not only delicious, but also powerful hunger suppressants.
"Apples, eaten with the skin on are packed with antioxidants, fiber, and water, making this snack a great option for weight loss," says Starin. "Because they are so crunchy, they take longer to eat, allowing you to register your hunger cues."
We've all heard the "an apple a day keeps a doctor away" saying, and experts confirm its validity.
"For under 100 calories, a medium apple contains nearly 5 grams of fiber," Stahl adds. "The dynamic combo of high fiber and high water content will provide a feeling of fullness with minimal calories. As an added plus, by incorporating more apples into your diet, you'll also increase your nutrient intake because apples provide a variety of vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, vitamin A, and B vitamins."
Yes, chocolate. You can put the indulgent snack squarely in the diet's "yes" column,
"Oftentimes, when a person sets out to lose weight, they start by depriving themselves of all the food they loved. This is not sustainable in the long term; dessert happens," Starlin reminds us. "Having a small piece of dark chocolate or 10 to 20 dark chocolate chips after a meal will keep your sweet tooth at bay and help you to stay on track even after a stressful day at the office. Just remember, portion control is key."
"Eggs have gotten a bad rap when it comes to weight loss, but more recently are making a comeback," says Stahl. "This breakfast staple is loaded with protein and healthy fats that will stave off hunger and make you feel fuller for longer, with a very low amount of calories."
And don't go for egg-whites-only! "Don't be afraid of the yolk," she adds. "The yolk contains valuable nutrients for proper body functioning."
There are so many pros of quinoa that it's tough to choose just one, but it's weight loss components are surely a plus.
"While quinoa isn't technically a grain (botanically, quinoa is related to chard, spinach, and beets) it's prepared and consumed like grains," Stahl says. "Quinoa is a great source of protein and fiber. In fact, it is a complete protein meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids, which is rare for a plant source. This dynamic combo of protein and fiber keeps hunger away, which may prevent you from reaching for a high-calorie food. It's also relatively low in fat, as well as naturally gluten-free."
From kale and spinach to collard greens and Swiss chard, your leafy greens options are pretty varied.
"The darker in color the better," Stahl says. "These are loaded with fiber, an important nutrient for weight loss. Incorporating dark leafy greens into your diet increases the volume of your meals, without dramatically increasing the calories. Adding dark leafy greens to your meal plan ensures you are packing nutrients into your diet and yields big portions for fewer calories so you can eat more without gaining weight."
Turning a bland side dish into a memorable main-course salad by incorporating proteins and crunchy veggies can revolutionize your entire lunch game. Just remember: go heavy on thea leafy greens for an added nutritious punch.
What’s also great about oats is that they not only represent a great breakfast option, but can also be used in a variety of other dishes including added to smoothies, binder in meatloaf, substituted for some of the flour in your favorite bread, cake, cookie, or muffin recipe, tossed into a soup or stew to create a creamier and thicker texture, or utilized as base ingredient in granola bars or energy bites