If you’ve ever tried to lose weight by going on a diet, you’re familiar with the advice to cut calories, restrict food groups and maybe even fast for quicker results.
Despite what the diet industry will tell you, restricting your food will not lead to long-term weight loss. Instead, it increases the chances of binge eating and emotional eating, compromises your metabolism, weakens your immune system, and makes it harder for you to lose weight and keep it off in the long run.
The secret to losing weight is to actually eat food — real food that nourishes your body, helps boost your metabolism, helps burn fat, strengthens your immune system, and keeps your body functioning at optimal levels. Eating for nourishment also helps you recover from your training sessions effectively, so you can remain consistent with your training, instead of succumbing to burnout and injury.
The importance of nutrition cannot be underestimated when it comes to weight loss. In order to build a body that burns fat, you need to ensure that it functions correctly, because when it does, you’ll be able to lose weight more easily. The best way to ensure your body functions as it was designed to, is to feed it the nutrients it needs. And the best way to get all the nutrients you need is through nutrition that includes a wide variety of foods from all the different food groups.
Read on to find out what foods you should eat, and how they help you lose weight.
1. Lean meat and poultry
Lean meat and poultry (i.e. chicken, turkey, duck, etc.) are great choices when it comes to weight loss because they’re low in fat and high in protein. Protein helps you lose weight in several ways. Firstly, it helps you build muscle, which is the biggest influence on your metabolism. To find out why muscle is so important, read our blog “I don’t want to get bulky”: 8 reasons why muscle is your friend.
Protein also helps you stay consistent with your training as it contains essential amino acids required for muscle growth and repair. Because our body can’t produce these acids, we need to obtain them through the food we eat. Protein also helps reduce soreness and the levels of stress hormones in our muscles, which means you’ll be able to recover faster, train better and train consistently.
Protein also helps you feel fuller for longer, has been shown to help you burn more calories, can significantly reduce your cravings, and your desire to snack after dinner.
2. Fish and seafood
Fish and seafood are good nutritional choices as they are low in calories and fat. Cold-water fish in particular, like tuna, salmon and sardines, are rich in omega-3 fats which help reduce inflammation that can lead to unwanted weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and even mental illness. With such a variety of seafood available, you’ll have no trouble creating delicious, satisfying meals.
3. Protein-rich dairy food
Studies show that a high intake of dairy-based calcium reduces the accumulation of body fat, and helps burn fat to use as energy. Good sources of protein-rich dairy foods include skim milk, low-fat yoghurt, and cottage cheese. A high-quality whey supplement also fits under this category. Whey protein is a mixture of protein isolated from whey — the watery part of milk that separates during cheese production. Research shows that it’s particularly effective at increasing muscle growth, especially when consumed before or after your workout. To find out more about what to eat around your training, read our blog What are the best workout meals?
Eggs have been given a bad rap over many years due to their cholesterol content. However, a high intake may only raise the levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol in some people, not all. When it comes to weight loss, eggs provide you with necessary protein and fat, and are high in nutrition. They can be used to make many quick, delicious meals. Eggs can increase your feelings of satiety (feeling full and satisfied after a meal) which make them a great choice for breakfast. In fact, studies have shown that swapping eggs for bagels for breakfast increased weight loss.
5. Cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are particularly good for weight loss as they are low in fat, high in fibre and keep you feeling full. They also contain compounds that help improve insulin sensitivity, promote efficient heart function and provide a spectrum of antioxidants that protect against free radical damage. Damage to your cells from free radicals can increase your risk for heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussel sprouts.
6. Green plant food
Green plant foods — think spinach, capsicum, celery, kale, cabbage, beans, peas, avocadoes, grapes, apples, pears etc. — are brilliant for your overall health and weight loss. First of all, they’re high in fibre and low in calories which means they can easily increase the volume of your meals without adding extra calories. They are also high in vitamins and minerals including calcium which has been shown to help burn fat. Green veggies can be enjoyed as part of a salad, in soups and stews and even in your favourite smoothies.
7. Red plant food
Plants with red colourings contain lycopene, which has been shown to help fight cancer and promote heart health. This group of plants also contain anthocyanins which can help prevent plaque build up on your arteries, which leads to heart disease including heart attack and stroke. Anthocyacins have also been shown to promote cognitive function and protect against cancer. Good sources include tomatoes, capsicum, chillies, red grapes, strawberries, red apples, watermelon, plums and raspberries.
8. Orange/yellow plant food
Foods with orange and yellow pigments contain carotenoids which are great for eye health. They also help lower your blood pressure and levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, therefore optimising your heart health. They promote healthy joints, help build better bones, and boost your immune system. They also help protect against cancer. Plant foods that fit into this category include pumpkin, corn, sweet potato, capsicums, oranges, lemons, mango, apricots, nectarines, and pineapple.
9. Blue/purple plant food
Blue and purple-coloured foods not only make your meals look appealing, but they contain a range of different nutrients that are important for optimal health and function of your body. Foods in this category include eggplant, blueberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, plums, purple grapes, raisins, purple figs, black olives, purple asparagus, purple carrots, and purple potatoes. By including these foods in your diet you’ll improve your body’s ability to absorb calcium and other nutrients, reduce inflammation, lower LDL cholesterol (the bad levels), boost your immune system, improve your digestion, and may help protect yourself against some cancers.
When it comes to weight loss, legumes can be one of your best friends. Quite simply, legumes are the fruits or seeds that are found in the pods of plants. Typical examples include lentils, peas, chickpeas, soybeans and peanuts. Legumes are high in fibre and protein and provide your body with many essential nutrients. Because of their high fibre content, your body has to work hard to digest them, which helps burn calories. They also help raise your metabolism and stabilise blood sugar levels. Legumes also help lower LDL cholesterol and protect against heart disease. Because they are relatively cheap, they’re a great option to help bulk out your meals without bulking out your weekly shopping bill.
11. Premium grains
We all love carbohydrates, but the best options for a healthy, functioning body are those that are the least processed. Think premium grains such as rice, oats, quinoa, barley, and rye. Many people mistakenly believe that carbohydrates need to be avoided if you want to lose weight. This is untrue. Eating carbohydrates before exercise provides you with the necessary energy you need to make the most of your workout. This energy is broken down into glucose which enters our muscles via the bloodstream which enables us to train. We also need carbohydrates after our workout, as this helps replenish our glycogen (energy) stores, so we can train at our next session. If we don’t eat enough carbohydrate around exercise, we end up with depleted glycogen stores. This will impact your training, and will have a knock-on effect with your weight loss journey.
13. Herbs and spices
In order to stay on track with healthy eating and lose weight, you need to ensure your meals are tasty and interesting. One of the easiest ways is to add herbs and spices to your cooking. The addition of mint and coriander, for example, freshens up a summer salad. Similarly, adding spices to your BBQ meat or casserole can turn bland into amazing. Herbs and spices are virtually calorie free so you’re only limited by your imagination. To get a few ideas on how you can spice things up in the kitchen, why not check out our range of super-tasty, healthy recipes.
14. Treats…in moderation
Another key component of being able to consistently eat healthy, and lose weight is to allow yourself your favourite foods from time to time. Traditional diets follow food rules and restrictions, but this just increases the likelihood of bingeing and falling off the wagon. Those who are most successful at losing weight are those who allow themselves to enjoy their favourite foods every now and then, because they don’t end up bingeing on them.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean you have ‘treat’ type foods every day. But you can indulge in a glass or wine, your favourite chocolate, or even ice-cream and cake every now and then. You can also eat out at your favourite restaurant or enjoy the odd take-away. The trick is to make sure these foods are part of your weekly plan, and to choose quality over quantity. For example, if you feel like a burger and fries, order one from a café or restaurant, instead of going to a fast-food joint.
Putting boundaries around how many times you eat out each week, and how often you let yourself indulge in your favourite treats, will mean that you won’t undo all your good work you do for the rest of the week. And learning to relax around food will also mean you’ll be more successful in losing weight, than you would be if you tried to be perfect with your food all the time.
Learn how to eat better
The truth is you don’t have to diet to lose weight. You just have to change your habits and mindset around food, and start feeding yourself good, healthy nutrition that you will love. Diet food doesn’t help you lose weight and nor does starving yourself. What works is eating delicious food that you enjoy, which contains all the nutrition your body needs, so it can function as it’s meant to.
For some great family-friendly recipe ideas that everyone will love, check out our Recipe Book.
Getting off the diet rollercoaster and learning how to enjoy food without feeling guilty can be tough, especially if you’ve been a chronic dieter. But that’s where we can help.
We can help you get over the diet mindset that has been holding you back and preventing you from losing the weight you’ve always struggled with. We can show you how to be free around food and have the confidence that you can handle any situation where you need to make choices around food.