Forget counting calories or fat grams, or filling your pantry with “diet” foods or drinks. If you want to control your weight, try eating these.
mamadela via Getty Images
It seems counterintuitive, but a recent study from Loma Linda University in California found that the people who ate the most tree nuts were up to 46 percent less likely to be obese than those who ate the fewest nuts. “They are high in protein, fiber, and unsaturated fat—all of which digest slowly and help to keep you feel full longer,” says Alissa Rumsey, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “In comparison to refined carbohydrate-based snacks, nuts do not cause a blood-sugar spike and subsequent insulin release, so your body is less likely to store the calories as fat.” To avoid excess calories, limit your intake to one ounce, Rumsey advises—about 20-24 almonds, 14 walnut halves, 28 peanuts, 14 pistachios, or 16 cashews. Almonds, walnuts, pecans, and, macadamia nuts are particularly linked to weight benefits.
Creative Crop via Getty Images
Say no to potato chips and other fattening snacks, and yes to popcorn. Air-popped popcorn only has 30 calories per cup, and with a whopping 5 grams of fiber per 4-cup portion, it keeps you feeling full. Just steer clear of butter and oil, which will negate the health perks. Rumsey suggests these seasoning ideas: Dust with chili powder and a dash of sea salt. Lightly mist with olive oil and sprinkle with a tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese and black pepper. Or toss with rosemary, thyme, and sage.
juefraphoto via Getty Images
Some research has shown that spicy foods may promote weight loss. The magic ingredient: capsaicin, a chemical compound found in chili peppers that appears to suppress appetite or boost metabolism. “Adding spicy ingredients like cayenne or red pepper to your meals may not only improve your weight, but it's also a no-calorie way to flavor your dish,” says Rumsey.
Kevin Chelko via Getty Images
It’s a little known fat-fighting fact: People often think they are hungry when they are really thirsty. So it makes sense to stay hydrated. Drinking water also helps you feel full. Starting your meal with a broth-based soup or a veggie-filled salad (veggies have a high water content) will help you eat less of your main course. “There’s data that shows people who drank two cups of water before eating lost more weight than those who didn’t,” Rumsey adds. What’s more, a study from German researchers found both men’s and women’s metabolic rate surged 30 percent after drinking about 17 ounces of water. Over a year’s time, that could add up to a five-pound weight loss.
Peaches (and other fruits)
Tastyart Ltd Rob White via Getty Images
A study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that women of normal weight consume one or more servings of fruit per day on average. Aim for two or three servings per day, Rumsey suggests. “Top yogurt with berries, add sliced apple to your sandwich, or have a kiwi for dessert,” she says. In general, foods with a high water content help people feel full and satisfied with fewer calories. The fruits with the highest water content—such as peaches, strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, papaya, and grapefruit—tend to have the lowest calorie levels, giving you the biggest bang for your buck. High-fiber fruits like apples (with skin), berries, bananas, apricots, and pears, help by filling you up.
Burke/Triolo Productions via Getty Images
Eating whole grains has been associated with maintaining a healthy weight, and oats are “a great blank canvas for other healthy stuff like nuts and chopped fruit,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, a Chicago-based dietician and author of "The Flexitarian Diet". “They’re super filling and control appetite for hours because of the fiber and water content,” she says.
Chicken (and other proteins)
Annabelle Breakey via Getty Images
Protein helps keep you full and increases your lean muscle mass, which keeps metabolism revved, Rumsey says. So instead of filling up on carbs like pasta and bread, aim to include some lean protein—such as low-fat dairy, legumes, eggs, poultry, and fish—in every meal and snack.
monticelllo via Getty Images
Research has shown that those who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight or obese. “Eating a nutritious meal first thing in the morning jumpstarts your metabolism and may prevent you from overeating later in the day,” says Rumsey. No time? Prep the night before—hard boil eggs, make a peanut butter-banana sandwich, or grab a yogurt and fruit before you head out the door.
Jacek Nowak via Getty Images
Small amounts of its intense flavor satisfy sweet and chocolate cravings, saving you from the high calories of treats like cakes, cookies, and ice cream, says Blatner. A study from the University of California at San Diego found that people who ate chocolate most frequently had lower BMIs (body mass index) on average. Research done in mice chalks up chocolate’s weight-suppressing effects to antioxidant compounds called oligomeric procyanidins (PCs). An ounce or so is usually enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, while keeping calories to a minimum.