Okay, let’s get something important out of the way up front.
If you came here thinking that the best foods to eat for weight loss are foods that will, in some way, burn fat and actually cause you to lose weight, then there’s something you need to know.
There is no such thing as a food that makes you lose weight, a food that burns fat, or a food that will help with weight loss in any way even remotely resembling this.
That silly myth is something I cover in detail in my article about Superfoods.
In reality, the one and only thing capable of actually making weight loss occur is a caloric deficit, which is the state a person is in when they are eating less calories than they burn (or burning more calories than they’re eating… just different ways of saying the same thing). When this happens, your body will seek out an alternative fuel source to burn instead.
That fuel source? Your stored body fat.
So, regardless of whatever other nonsense you may have heard (and will surely continue to hear), a caloric deficit is the sole cause and requirement of weight loss, and this fact is unaffected by the specific foods you are (or are not) eating. My articles about How To Lose Fat and The Best Way To Lose Weight Fast cover this in detail.
But wait, don’t give up hope just yet.
There Are STILL Things You Should Be Eating
You see, even though this article isn’t going to contain some list of supposedly special foods you need to eat in order to lose weight (no such foods exist), I’m still going to give you a list of things that you should most definitely be eating if you want to be as successful with your weight loss goal as you can possibly be.
I’m talking about things that are useful.
Things that are helpful.
Things that are extremely beneficial.
Things that won’t actually cause weight loss, but will absolutely improve your ability to make it happen.
Here’s the really interesting part, though: not a single one of these “things” is a food.
Because it’s not the foods themselves that provide the benefits we want. It’s the nutrients those foods contain and our approach to eating them that makes a person’s diet successful.
Here, let me show you the 3 best examples.
The 3 Best “Things” For Your Weight Loss Diet
See, protein isn’t a food. It’s just a macronutrient that many foods contain.
And it is, by far, the second most important “thing” within the diet of a person who wants to lose weight (calories are always #1).
- Protein plays a crucial role in controlling hunger (it’s the most filling macronutrient of them all).
- Protein preserves muscle while losing fat (thus helping to ensure the majority of the “weight” you lose is body fat rather than muscle mass).
- Protein is the macronutrient with the highest thermic effect (which means your body will burn more calories during the digestion of protein than it will digesting carbs or fat).
To get these benefits, a good starting point to aim for is about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight (a little more or a little less is fine, too). So, a 200lb person would eat about 200g of protein per day.
If you are significantly overweight, use your target body weight instead (so, a 300lb person looking to get down to 200lbs would eat 200g of protein).
To maximize these benefits, spread your protein intake out in a way that allows you to eat a good amount of it during each of the meals you eat per day.
Beyond that, as long as you’re not getting the majority of your total protein intake from lower quality protein sources (e.g. plant sources), it makes virtually no difference whatsoever what foods you eat to meet your daily protein needs. It’s the protein itself that’s beneficial to weight loss, not the foods that contain it.
That is why #1 on this list isn’t “chicken” or “turkey” or “eggs” or anything similar.
It’s protein, period.
And you’re welcome to get it from any of the countless foods (chicken, turkey, eggs, fish, beef, dairy, protein powder, etc.) and combinations of foods that you happen to like the best and would most prefer to get it from.
Similar to protein, fiber is another nutrient playing a key role in controlling hunger. It actually does so in two different ways.
- The first is simply that fiber is just a filling nutrient. This is why despite being quite low in calories, eating a nice-sized serving of vegetables will often produce a greater physical feeling of fullness in a person’s stomach than a low fiber meal that contained significantly more calories.
- The second hunger-controlling benefit of fiber is that it helps with controlling our blood sugar levels. When those levels spike and then crash (as they often do when we consume what can best be described as an “empty calorie” meal… such as a meal that is high in sugar and low in everything else), we get hungry. Fiber just so happens to be one of the main nutrients that helps to slow the digestion of the foods we eat, thus preventing large spikes and equally large crashes, thus minimizing the hunger signal this kind of thing can cause.
To get these benefits, a good starting point is to aim for somewhere between 10-17 grams of fiber for every 1000 calories you eat per day.
And, just like with protein, spreading this daily intake out so that you’re eating a decent amount of fiber at each meal is the ideal way to do it.
Once again, there are tons of different foods that are high in fiber (fruits and vegetables of all kinds, nuts and seeds of all kinds, beans of all kinds, wheat, oats, etc.), and it’s always the fiber itself (not any one particular food) that provides the dietary benefits we want.
Which means, you’re welcome to get your daily fiber intake from whatever the hell foods you like best, regardless of whether or not they happen to appear on some list of the supposedly BEST foods for weight loss.
3. Foods You Actually Enjoy Eating
Can you do me a favor?
Think of what articles like this are usually like.
You know, one of those typical lists of the “101 Best Weight Loss Foods You Must Eat To Burn Belly Fat Fast, Lose Inches Instantly and Shred Pounds Rapidly!!” or some such nonsense.
Now think of the foods you might see on that sort of list.
Broccoli? Walnuts? Grilled chicken? Grapefruit? Oatmeal? Brown rice?
Now, are these all potentially “good” foods? Sure. Most of the foods on these types of lists contain fiber, protein or some other nutrient that is beneficial to us in some way.
But, like I’ve already explained… it’s never the foods themselves that are providing any of the benefits. It’s the nutrients they contain, and those nutrients can be gotten in similar quantities through a wide variety of foods and combinations of foods.
Why do I keep repeating this? Why does this matter so much?
Because let’s say you hate some (or even all) of those foods.
Maybe you don’t like them because you think they taste like crap. Or maybe you don’t want to buy them (due to price, availability, etc.). Or maybe they are an inconvenient pain-in-the-ass to cook.
Whatever it is, you don’t want to eat them, you won’t enjoy eating them, and you won’t be happy eating them.
BUT, you saw them on a list of foods that claimed you SHOULD be eating them… so you try to make them a part of your weight loss diet anyway.
Do you know what this does?
It instantly guarantees that there will be at least some part of your diet that you’re not going to be happy with.
Which means you eventually won’t be happy with your diet, period.
Which means you will be a lot less likely to stick to that diet and sustain it long term.
Which means – despite having plenty of the most super-amazing-magical-bestest weight loss foods on the planet in your diet – your diet will fail to cause you to lose weight as a direct result of not actually sticking to that diet… which is something that occurred as a direct result of unnecessarily filling your diet with foods you don’t want to eat… which is something that you did for no other reason than because you saw them on some stupid list of foods that you supposedly need to be eating.
Now, I’m obviously not saying to eat cookies instead of broccoli because you “hate broccoli” and “love cookies.” (Although, side note: the occasional cookie is perfectly fine.)
In this example, I’m just saying to eat the specific vegetables you like the most, and completely avoid the ones you don’t like… even if those vegetables were on “the list” and your preferred choices weren’t.
I’m also saying that if you hate brown rice but love white rice… you never need to eat a single grain of brown rice for the rest of your life. You can exclusively eat white rice and still lose weight just fine.
If you hate walnuts but love almonds, feel free to let almonds be the only nut you ever eat… even if walnuts are the only nut you ever see on one of these annoying lists.
If you think oatmeal looks and tastes like something someone else already ate (I’m with you on that one), then don’t eat oatmeal ever again. Get those calories/nutrients from literally any other nutrient-dense carb source that you actually enjoy eating (e.g. potatoes… yes… even white ones).
You can apply this same bit of common sense to every single food in existence.
Because there is nothing about any food that requires you to eat it or force yourself to try to make it a part of your diet if you don’t want to. There are always other foods and combinations of foods that can be eaten instead. Foods that you actually enjoy eating.
And as long as your total calorie, macronutrient and micronutrient intake is what it needs to be each day… it won’t make any difference whatsoever.
Well, except for the tiny difference of making your diet infinitely more enjoyable for you, thus making you infinitely more likely to sustain it and actually reach your goals.
Yeah… so… just a tiny difference.