Food and weight loss are huge complimentary components. I think some people have the impression that they can go to the gym, put in a good work out, then go home and continue to eat unhealthily. Unfortunately the biggest part of weight loss is actually your nutrition. Of course going to the gym is important but if you’re not fueling the body properly then you can not only hurt yourself but won’t be seeing the results you’re wanting. That sucks. No one wants to put in all the hard work, time, and dedication, for nothing.
This post is going to cover some foods that you should stick to if you want to reach your goals and foods to avoid. It’s also going to talk about some basic food terminology in case you have no idea what all these nutritionist people are talking about or if you’ve heard of them but still not entirely sure what they are.
Where To Begin
We’ll start with some basic terms you’ve probably heard of but aren’t entirely sure what they are.
- Calories- the amount of energy that is in foods.
- Amino acids- our bodies make some amino acids while others have to be consumed. They’re essential because they transport nutrients, help build muscles, helps avoid illnesses, and causes chemical reactions in the body. They do a lot of good stuff for you.
- Macronutrients (Macros)- describes the types of foods you should be consuming the most of. There are three main macros we consume: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
- Carbohydrates- one of the main type of nutrients we need. Our bodies turn carbs into glucose (a type of sugar) that is then used for energy. There are two types of carbs: simple and complex. Simple carbs are natural and added sugars (ones we should try to avoid). Complex carbs are foods like vegetables, and whole grain breads.
- Fiber- a type of carb. Fiber is great! It’s found in plants and is great for weight loss because fiber helps you feel full faster and for longer. So you can quit that excessive snackin’!
- Protein- Essential for weight loss and health because it helps maintain and build your skin, muscles, and bones. Protein can come in dairy, meat, nuts, and beans. Meat products give you all the amino acids your body needs while plant products only give you some. It is important to eat proteins every day because they’re not stored like other macros.
- Fats- there are lots of different fats you will see on packages and in articles and you may be confused about them all so I will just lay out the four here and explain them individually:
- Polyunsaturated Fat- (Fats that are liquid at room temperature). There are two types. Omega-6 fatty acids are typically found in liquid oils that you can use in cooking (safflower, corn, and soybean oil). Omega-3 fatty acids come from fatty fish (salmon), some nuts and seeds (walnuts and flax seed), and some oils as well.
- Monounsaturated Fats- The healthy fats! Foods in this category include avocados, olives, nuts, seeds, and canola/olive oil.
- Saturated Fats- (Fats that are solid at room temperature). Found in dairy products (cheese, milk, butter, ice cream, etc.), coconut/palm oil, lard, chicken skin. While some of these can be alright in the diet, overall, eating excess amounts of saturated fat can contribute to weight gain, risk of heart disease, and an increase in cholesterol.
- Trans Fats- Fats that are originally liquid but then turned into solids. The process to make trans fat helps food last longer and is typically associated with margarine and shortenings. This fat is really unhealthy. It can be found in crackers, chips, cookies, or snacks (processed foods). It raises your bad cholesterol.
Foods To Eat
There are lots of options for healthy foods out there for you to eat. There are also lots of diet plans. If you already have a diet you’re on or if a professional as directed you towards one then please stick to that plan. Otherwise, I believe that the best diet isn’t one that is restrictive but incorporates all the necessary nutrients for you body. A well-balanced diet of meats, grains, fruits and veggies will really take you places.
If weight loss is your goal then here are some really important foods you should try to incorporate into your diet:
- Lean beef- red meat has a bad rep and while processed meats are very unhealthy, unprocessed red meats don’t raise your risk of diabetes or heart disease. Yay! Protein is the most filling nutrient you can eat. So having a high protein diet will not only help you feel full but can help you burn more calories throughout the day.
- Tuna- High in protein and low in calories and fat. A popular option for those wanting to lose weight. However, if you eat tuna canned make sure it is canned in water and not oil because that will increase your fat intake.
- Beans and legumes- (kidney, legumes, and black beans). High in protein and fiber. Low in calories.
- Dairy- Specifically cottage cheese and Greek yogurt. These two are high in protein and low in carbs and fat. They help you feel fuller, and are high in calcium.
- Eggs- High in protein, fat, and are super nutrient dense. Having eggs in the morning for breakfast is not only a great start to the day but can help you feel fuller.
- Greens- (Kale, spinach, collard greens). Low in calories and high in fiber. A super weight loss friendly food. You probably automatically thought of salads when you saw this one. I was not a big salad fan when I first started eating healthier so I liked to eat them with a protein. If you make some chicken, salmon, or whatever it is, I just ate my greens along with my protein. That way I am still getting all those nutrients and fiber to help me feel fuller.
- Cruciferous veggies- (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts)- packed full of fiber and even have a decent amount of protein in them. Of course, not as much as animal proteins though.
- Whole grains- (oats, quinoa, brown rice). High in fiber and have some proteins. Note: be careful and knowledgeable at the store because foods are often labeled in ways that can be confusing. Some foods that are labeled “whole grain” can be highly processed and junk food. These are refined grains and can aid in weight gain.
- Fruits- while they contain natural sugars, they also have lots of fiber that slows the release of sugar into your blood stream. Making you feel full while giving you a steady pace of energy.
- Fatty fish- (Salmon, mackerel, trout, herring, and sardines). Great for healthy fats, proteins, and incorporating other nutrients into the body. Eating 4-5 oz of salmon twice a week is enough omega-3 fatty acids for the week.
- Avocados- Mostly fats and are loaded with nutrients. Avocados are still a fat and when eaten in moderation can aid in weight loss.
- Nuts- High in protein and fats, they make a great snack. They are high in calories so make sure you don’t binge eat them. You should eat about a small handful.
- Apple Cider Vinegar- it has become a large part of the health focused community. It has been found to help you feel fuller and curb your appetite, making you want to eat less. People often use it in their salad dressings or even drink it. However, if you chose to drink it make sure you dilute it in water… Not that you would want to drink it straight anyway though!
- Capsaicin (chili pepper)- capsaicin is most commonly found in chili peppers. It has been found to curb appetite and increase fat burning. If you don’t like spicy foods or peppers than you can also get capsaicin in a supplement form. However, if you do already eat a lot of spicy foods then a tolerance to it can build up over time.
- Grapefruit- has been studied directly in correlation with weight loss. Eating grapefruits before meals can help you feel fuller and eat fewer calories. It also helps with some chronic diseases, insulin resistance, and metabolic difficulties.
- Chia Seeds- 11 out of 12 of the carbs in chai seeds are fiber. This makes chai seeds one of the most fiber dense foods in the world. They can absorb about 11 times their weight in water, so when they’re in the stomach they expand and help you feel full.
Foods To Avoid
I feel like we mostly know when we look at something that it is bad for us and we probably shouldn’t be eating it. The little voice in our head that goes “hmm that’s not healthy” is often overridden with “Oh well, just this once won’t hurt” or “It’s not really that bad”… You know the voice. But we will talk about these BIG NO NO, slap your hand away, foods anyway.
- Sugar drinks- this goes for juices, sports drinks, and different pops.
- Juices lead you to believe they’re healthy but in reality they’re not that great. Juice takes all the sugar out of fruit and leaves out all the healthy nutrients and fibers. It’s like your body is consuming multiple pieces of fruits and without the fiber to tell you you’re getting full then it’s just straight sugar.
- Sports do provide you with electrolytes and carbs which are great if you’ve been sick and your body needs to be replenished but shouldn’t be consumed on a daily basis. This is because they’re also high in sugar and calories which will contribute to weight gain.
- Pops or soda drinks have a lot going on in them. Number one is the amount of sugar in them that makes them incredibly bad for you. They can cause weight gain, sugar cravings, and can lead to tooth decay. Lots of bad things. If you haven’t seen the video about Coke and it being used to clean off rust on cars and other items… I don’t know how that wouldn’t want to make you quit. I have never liked pop so I always had that going for me at least.
- Simple Carbs- these types of carbs are most commonly found in refined sugars, processed foods, pastas, and white breads. These are the types of foods that give you a spike in your blood sugar or otherwise known as “the sugar rush”. They can give you that short term raise in energy but can leave you feeling more tired afterwards and not at 100%.
- Sugar packed foods- these are more self explanatory. Ice cream, candy bars, jams, syrups, cookies, cakes, pastries. You get the idea. Any foods with added sugars.
- Processed foods- they have lots of additives to help preserve them. Added sugars and salt are some big ones to watch out for. Frozen pizzas, frozen ready to eat dinners, deli meats, crackers, and various snack foods, are among the most preserved and unhealthy items you can get.
- Foods that say they’re low fat- this can be hard because we’ve been told that a low fat diet is the way to go. That’s not entirely true. We do need fats in our diet especially for weight loss, it just depends on the types of fats you’re consuming. A lot of “healthy” foods that say they’re low in fat, do have fat removed but to make up for the taste sugar has been added to them. They’re tricky, tricky. Make sure you’re looking at the nutrient label on the back to see what’s inside.
- Fried foods- High in bad fats, calories and salt. They can raise your bad cholesterol, cause weight gain, and put you at risk for heart disease.
Your Body and Your Choices
Really it comes down to knowing what is in your food. Avoid empty calories (calories with little to no nutrients), sugar, bad fats, and processed foods. Nutrition can be confusing at first, but once you take an interest and dedicate yourself to learning about what’s in your food it will all start to make sense.
It is crazy the amount of “ingredients” that are in foods. You look to see what is in something and you see this long block of text and you maybe know what 3 out 30 things are in it. You may think to yourself “I can’t even pronounce half of these ingredients, let alone know what they are” or “These all seem really unnecessary”. I like to look at these lists and if it is super long or I don’t know/can’t identify what is in a certain product then I don’t buy it.
This can be hard for some people because they buy these types of preserved foods because their schedules are hectic and busy. They think they need foods like these because they can’t afford healthy, fresh foods or they don’t have time to prep food. There are ways around this. Simplifying your meals and prepping meals for the week on one day so you can grab and go. Taking supplements and vitamins to get your nutrients or proteins.
If you’ve tried before to eat healthy then you’ll understand that it can be really hard to stop eating unhealthy types of foods. Maybe you’ve eaten them your whole life, maybe you’re addicted to the sugar, maybe you just don’t know anything else. Remember that if you try to eat healthy, go in with an open mind because you probably won’t like a lot of foods at first. You will be so used to the tastes of additives and sugars that natural tastes, bitter tastes, vegetable tastes… won’t seem great to you at all. If you give it the time your tastes towards foods will start to change and you can appreciate the new flavors.
At the end of the day it is your choice. I hope this article gained you some insight on to what foods you should be eating and how they’re affecting you. Slowly try new foods and incorporate them into your diet. Before you know it you’ll be a veggie freak and will be throwing all those sugary foods out the door.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a dietician. The information I provide is based on my personal experience, and scientific studies. Any recommendations I may make about weight training, nutrition, supplements or lifestyle, or information provided to you through email or on this website should be discussed between you and your doctor because working out involves risks. The information you receive in our emails, programs, services and products do not take the place of professional medical advice.