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 and in my list of the 10 best fat burning foods.
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. Additional details here: How Much Protein Do I Need To Eat A 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.
NEW: My brand new fat loss program, Superior Fat Loss, is now available. It’s completely designed to allow you to lose fat as quickly and effectively as realistically possible… WITHOUT losing muscle, or feeling hungry all the time, or giving up the foods you love, or doing tons of cardio, or following annoying diet rules, or experiencing excessive metabolic slowdown and plateaus, or regaining the fat after you lose it. You can learn all about it right here: Superior Fat Loss
45 thoughts on “What Are The Best Foods For A Weight Loss Diet?”
An excellent and flawless article as usual Jay, you never fail to disappoint! Thank you very much for this in particular, I’m starting a caloric deficit diet in a few weeks. Keep up the fantastic work and good luck on your SFL book!
Thanks man, definitely appreciate it!
It should be mandatory for people to read your articles. The amount of ridiculousness i see people post or say is staggering, and god forbid you try and have a conversation about how they could be incorrect. Its like talking to a tree stump, but less intelligent.
Ha, yeah. It can definitely be like talking to a really, really stupid tree stump at times.
Excellent post as usual! One of your old articles is what helped me to lose weight and keep it off. I don’t know why people allow themselves to be deceived. They are always looking for a magic recipe that will do the work for them
Thanks dude. Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”
200 grams of protein for a 200 pound person, is normal pertaining to a extensive body building lifestyle. A subject that he or she retains throughout the day for their competition, no doubt. However, for the average workout subject just wanting to obtain more muscle and strength, 200 grams of protein consumed throughout the day is either impossible or ridiculous. Just 3 shakes a day will only give you 60 or so grams. Then there is the food choices, steak only 20 to 30 grams, egg only 6 grams each, etc. So unless you eat 6 high protein meals a day, you will never get there.
Ehhh, there’s literally no truth to anything you just said. Eat 50g of protein at 4 meals and you’re at 200g of protein for the day. Not really that hard at all for someone eating enough total calories to be 200lbs. A woman weighing 130lbs could eat 43g of protein in just 3 meals per day and hit her total with no problem.
I’ve eaten around 1g of protein per pound of my own body weight (sometimes as high as 1.3g per pound) with little to no problem for about 15 years now. I’ve done it with as many as 6 meals and as little as 3. For the last few years, typically 3-4. As have literally millions and millions and millions of other people. Not to mention the many using some form of intermittent fasting, who are often hitting their 1g per pound totals in just 2 meals per day.
If, however, 1g per pound is hard for you, 0.8g per pound is the low end of the optimal range I recommend.
I think this would depend on how many calories you need to consume. Obviously it’s harder to hit certain macronutrient goals if you only eat 1600 calories a day vs 3000.
200 grams of protein is 800 calories. 1/3 of your diet is a lot easier than 1/2. Without knowing what the calorie target is, there is no way to say whether a certain number of grams of protein is realistic.
That’s why protein recommendations are relative to bodyweight. Someone who weighs 200lbs would typically have a caloric intake high enough to suit 200g of protein.
Ill give you an example of what my typical meals look like on a diet. My weight is 210 lbs and I eat 3 meals a day and take one shake around my workout (not fussed about when – just need to hit the macros for the day).
2 boiled eggs
200ml skim milk
125 grams protein bread (they sell some tastefull stuff here in Denmark)
100 grams of both tuna and cottage cheese (pebber, onions and such mixed in)
30 grams protein powder
200 ml skim milk (mmmmh peanutbutter flavor).
250 gram chicken
300-400 grams of vegetables (what im in the mood for).
200gram nudles or rice (I prefer low cal. nudles when dieting)
Spices and curry paste
This nets me the following:
Calories: ~1800-1900 cal.
Protein: ~200 grams
Carbs: ~110 grams
Fat: ~65 grams
And the cost is around 8$ a day in Denmark (51 dkr). So it is very easy to hit those numbers.
If I have a long walk ill drink some chocolatemilk or something else I might crave. Dosnt feel like a diet tbh.
I’m not nor have ever been a competitive bodybuilder, but I have been bodybuilding for forty-five years since beginning at age sixteen.
For many years, I’ve kept an annual eating schedule which has me consuming about 1,850 calories per day for seven to nine months of each year, in order to hold a bodyweight of about 157 lbs and a bodyfat percentage of 12% (I’m a very-light-boned 5’8″) for the warmest six months of the year here. I’m currently on that 1,850 cal phase. I aim for a minimum of 130 grams and a maximum of about 150 grams of protein per day.
It’s 10:45 PM CST as I post…here’s what I ate for protein today:
Meal 1: 6 large whole eggs, 36 grams of protein
Meal 2: 2 cups of cottage cheese with 2 tbls of nutritional yeast, 58 grams of protein
Meal 3: 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt, 22 grams of protein
Meal 4: 2 small cans of tuna in water, 40 grams of protein
Total protein in four meals: 156 grams (624 of my 1,850 calories).
Notice — no protein shakes, only four meals, and yet I consumed over my maximum in protein.
So, consuming 0.8 to 1.0 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight is very doable by the average person who’s not a competitive bodybuilder. I’ve been doing it for decades.
Yes, it DOES require some thought, preparation, scheduling, and self-discipline. But it’s very within the capability of nearly everyone who wants to do it.
I lost 50lbs or so calorie counting using exactly your advice (and iPhone calorie counting apps). I’m trying to cut another 10lbs or so to get to how I want to look. I eat whatever I want so long as I maintain my calorie goals.
Having said that, my diet tends to gravitate towards very high protein high fiber foods for exactly the reason you said, it makes me feel fuller longer. I could live off twinkies but it would be a rough ride. In my experience high fat foods are also occasionally necessary as I seem to get intense cravings not for carbs but for high fat meats. Craziest thing.
There are also other hints which can help such as eating right after a workout to prevent getting too hungry and eating the house down. Some herbal teas also seem to have an appetite suppressing quality. Perhaps due to the taste.
Aa an aside, I don’t worry about consuming a certain number of grams of protein. I find that works itself out in the long run.
I’ve been a long time subscriber and I have come to know what to expect from your articles. It’s mainly no non-sense advice coupled with a dose of reality for the ones seeking a magical solution. But there are some people who have no knowledge of nutrition and may seek for advice on what foods are nutritious and how to make nutritious foods more enjoyable to eat. For instance, someone who enjoys pizza may use this to reach their caloric deficit which probably wouldn’t be optimal- yielding extremely slow progress resulting in one to quit their diet.
Hmmm, I’m not sure I understand the point you’re making at the end there. Can you clarify?
Yes- sorry. I got interrupted and I forgot to finish and pressed reply by accident. Now I can’t remember what I was going to say exactly. Anyways- carry on.
Ha, no problem.
Once again a very intelligent and informative article on a much confusing subject! Thanks again for hitting it out of the Ball Park, Jay!
Hey Jay, absolutely love the article. You dont happen to have an example meals you eat regularly do you? Ive lost quite a bit following your advice but figuring out what I want to eat to reach my goals has always been a pain ive struggled with for a long time. I tend to fall on many chicken breasts to get to my protein goal.
Explanation with a clear understanding for me, thank you!
Glad you liked it!
I just wrote page 257 about 30 seconds before typing this comment. 😉
Stop playing with my heart!!!!
(Writing page 261 as we speak.)
Jay, thanks for your article….as always straight to the point and succinct. Look forward to more!!
Glad you liked it!
I gotta say you are one to read
I was facing bariatric surgery and decided if I got myself in I have to get myself out. I researched a lot and its confusing as hell people are just plain mean about their own beliefs and that’s ok. But I was sure a deficit would work but how big of one, there are so many opinions.
Got a calendar and a dry erase board and went to work. Protein, fiber, few carbs that’s about it other than a couple beers in the evening (count all that too). I stay full it last 4+ hours between meals, light exercise ( just had knee surgery recently). Am I hungry? Sometimes. Do I act on it ? No. I wait and drink cold water and lots of it. Am I dropping pounds and inches? Hell yes. But all I read ( NOT YOU) says i’m not and cant unless I do their program. I’m burning baby and got a goal, it’s BIG but i’m gonna get there. Thanks again for supportive articles and inspiration.
Very glad to hear it, Joe! Few people reach the point of weight loss surgery and are able to take matters into their own hands instead (and even less are actually successful with it). Awesome job! Keep the updates coming.
What’s the problem with vegetable protein? It seems like it should fall under the same rules as the other stuff: get enough of it and fit it into your macros and that’s it.
Check out Lyle McDonald’s long series on protein sources. It will explain everything. Starts here.
Damn, I was hoping white powdered donuts, coffee and a cigarette in the morning would make the list. Great read and I glad you point out white potatoes and rice are fine.
Protein is hard to get without a lot of fat, I hate chicken more and don’t like whey powder. I’ve been doing the vegetable protein powder which is a lot more expensive. You who think it would be dirt cheap? I don’t get it.
Stay away from refined sugar and white flour and you will be good. From reading you stuff I got a bunch of people doing fruit and protein powder shakes in the morning to curb appetite. Veg shake to get them to dinner. Not a routine to build monster bodies, but it helps to slim down.
That’s a whole other list. 😉
Chicken, turkey, egg whites, low/no fat diary, fish (e.g. tuna) and extra lean cuts of meat are all good high protein/low fat sources, by the way.
Ugh, I know. Funny you mention Tuna, my favorite. Afraid to eat it…you know why. Yea, lean cuts of beef in the crock pot.
Thanks Jay! Great reminders about the protein and fiber on keeping us fuller to help with cravings. Love your no nonsense ways. I’ve lost 13 lbs this past 35 days and am still going strong and feeling great AND creating a deficit 🙂
Awesome… congrats on the progress!
Always an inspiration and a realistic reminder…..loved you since the day I found you (2010). Thank you for keeping it real!!
You are quite welcome! Thanks for sticking with me for 7 effing years.
I don’t know how I came across your site, but I’m thankful I did. I shared a few of your articles with my wife mentioning how similar your mentality is to mine and she completely agreed. Thank you for the time and effort you put in to helping others.
Quick question I have always wondered – does your body always make use of every calorie you throw at it? If for example someone binge ate an entire pizza and consumed 3000 calories in 20 minutes, is the body going to see to it that it uses everything? Is there a point where your body just uses a portion and gives up on trying to process the rest? I hope this makes sense.
Glad to hear it dude!
As for your question, your body will always either burn calories or store them (typically in the form of body fat) for potential later use.
One or both of those things will always happen to every calorie you consume (with exceptions for stuff that doesn’t get digested for whatever reason).
I have to say “Thanks” as well. A google search of a topic brought up a link to one of your articles. Ended up reading a bunch of them and finally gave into the idea of a calorie deficit. I tried every other way imaginable and you convinced me of the stupidity of it all. I stopped eating so damn much and I’m down 13 lbs and have a bunch of now saggy pants in 4 weeks. Fan-freakin-tastic.Thanks, man.
Boom! Congrats on the progress. Glad any of my stuff has helped in any way!
Comments Are Closed
If you have a question or comment about this article, or just want to give me your feedback on it, feel free to contact me directly by using the contact form here.
Comments are closed.