The best foods for weight loss and melting off unwanted fat may not be what you were expecting. See, a lot of people seem to equate low-carb dieting with weight loss. I did for many years too, so I completely understand why the connection is there.
After all, when we don’t eat bread and pasta, we’re set up to lose a ton of weight, right? While there is a truth to that, it’s important to understand WHY people lose weight when they jump into low-carb diets. It’s also important to understand WHY a large majority of people gain that weight back at some point on their journeys.
So, whereas I could write an article about low-carb foods that’ll help you lose weight, I’m going to focus on what’s most important, and that is calorie consumption. This is a topic I truly am passionate about. I’ve eaten low-carb diets for years, and while I made tremendous progress the first time around, it never seemed to do me any good after that first year.
This seems to be the case with a lot of folks.
So, before we get to the details of the best foods for weight loss and achieving your desired physique, let’s discuss why calories are the real reason people get stuck on their weight loss journeys.
Why Calories Matter
I never understood the concept of calories in vs. calories out. It’s a very popular phrase, and you may have even heard it before. What it means is that if you eat more calories than your body can burn off, you’re going to gain weight. If you eat fewer calories than your body can burn off, you’ll lose weight.
It’s really that simple. Most people who track calories have a daily number that they abide by. I’ll give you an example right now. At the time of this writing, my goal is to GAIN weight in the form of lean muscle. So, I’m eating at a calorie surplus that compliments my workout routine. So far, it’s working exactly as planned. I’m gaining a little over 1 pound per month.
When spring comes, I’ll switch to a calorie deficit, to burn off any excess fat that I may have accumulated.
I mention this because you cannot do this on a low-carb diet, or any diet for that matter. What I mean is, you can’t choose to lose weight dieting, because there are always strict rules to abide by. In other words, you are NOT in control of weight loss.
TRACKING CALORIES PUTS YOU IN CONTROL OF WEIGHT LOSS
Learn how to take control of your own weight loss by setting up a daily calorie deficit. Learn about it here.
When you set up a calorie deficit, you’re free to eat what you love. There’s no need to restrict french fries and ice cream if that’s what you want to eat. It does require, however, that you’re mindful of your choices, and that you don’t go over your daily calorie budget.
The calculation is set up to help you lose approximately 4 – 5 pounds monthly. Hitting your protein goals daily also ensures that the weight you lose is in the form of fat and not muscle or bone density. All details to set up these calculations are at the link above.
This is far simpler to do than dieting and restricting the very foods that you love to eat. Sure, diets work for a period of time, but in my experience, most of them are not sustainable in the long run. So, if you want to eventually eat pizza again, tracking calories is far more effective than dieting. I use this app to track everything daily.
Because this article is about the best foods for weight loss, I’ll be discussing low-calorie options below. These also happen to be foods that are lower in carbs. However, I don’t suggest restricting them from your diet altogether. Carbs are great and they complement most of our meals in some form.
Again, weight loss is a matter of being mindful of what you eat and understanding exactly how many calories your body needs in a day to lose weight.
Whether you choose chicken, pork, or steak, there a lean options for every one of these. When your goal is to lose weight, then the best choice for meat is always the leaner option. Here’s a breakdown of the calories in meats: A
3-ounce piece of chicken
- Dark Meat Chicken- 174 calories
- White Meat Chicken (chicken breast) – 100 calories
4 ounce serving of ground beef
- 80% Lean Ground Beef – 280 calories
- 96% Lean Ground Beef – 140 calories
4 ounce serving of pork
- Bone-In Pork Chop – 260 calories
- Pork Tenderloin – 189 calories
Simply choosing the lean version of these meats will cut down calories significantly and help you on your weight loss journey.
Low Fat Dairy
When it comes to dairy, it’s a very good idea to choose a low-fat version of whatever you consume.
Calories in milk:
- 2% Milk – 120 calories
- 1% Milk – 100 calories
- Skim Milk – 80 calories
Calories in cheese:
- 1 stick of regular string cheese – 80 calories
- 1 stick of light string cheese – 45 calories
As you can see, the differences in calories are quite significant. While I do enjoy skim milk, I’m not a fan of fat free cheese, so I always go for the low fat version instead, which tastes almost identical to the original. However, you’re cutting down on calories significantly.
By simply swapping out cooking oils with cooking sprays, you’ll be saving yourself almost a full 120 calories per serving. I’ve come to learn that there’s not even that big of a difference in taste by using one over the other.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using olive oil in your salads and adding flavor to certain foods. But, simply be mindful of how much you’re using. And if your goal is weight loss, then a spray is the way to go.
Here’s the calorie breakdown:
- 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil – 120 calories
- Cooking Spray – 0 calories
Sodas & Juices
Now, if you regularly drink sodas and juices, then this is a big one. While artificial sweeteners have their downsides, as far as weight loss goes, sugar-free or low sugar choices are best. If you’re health-conscious, there are many drinks that have natural sugar substitutes such as Stevia and Monk Fruit.
Here’s the calorie breakdown in soda:
- One 12 ounce can of Coke – 140 calories
- One 12 ounce can of Diet Coke (or zero sugar alternative) – 0 calories
Here’s the calorie info in an 8-ounce cup of juice:
- Cranberry Juice – 117 calories
- Light Cranberry Juice – 50 calories
- Diet Cranberry Juice – 5 calories
As you can see, the calorie differences are huge. If you are okay with choosing the lower-calorie alternative, then you’re in a much better position for weight loss.
What About Carbs?
Carbs aren’t bad for you. In fact, they’re one of the reasons we love to eat our meals! However, I’m not going to go into the calorie details on foods like bread, pasta, and potatoes.
There’s a reason the low-carb craze exists and always will. And, I’m not talking about the state of ketosis that your body enters once it’s gone a period of time without a grain of rice. There’s no need to get complicated here.
The reason I’m not mentioning high-carb foods is that they ARE indeed higher in calories. But they are NOT evil. Eat them and be happy! In fact, if you simply choose the lower-calorie options of foods listed above, such as chicken breast, pork tenderloin, or extra lean ground beef, that leaves you plenty of room for carbs.
You can add a baked potato or a serving of rice to your meal without any guilt.
Here’s an example of what I mean. If you were eating meatloaf with 80% lean ground beef before, and now prepare the exact same meatloaf using 96% ground beef, you’ll literally be saving yourself 140 calories per 4 ounce serving.
You can now replace those 140 calories with a serving of carbs. Does that make sense? It’s a math game, and when you play it right, you can eat carbs and not feel guilty about it because you’re making smart swaps.
The Best Foods For Weight Loss In Summary
So, to sum it up, here are some of the best weight loss foods listed in this article:
- lean chicken
- lean ground beef
- lean pork
- low fat or fat-free milk
- low-fat cheeses
- cooking sprays
- sugar-free sodas
- low sugar juices
This list could go on much longer. If you’d like to learn more about how to lose weight and eat more food, click here.
It really is possible to eat more and lose weight. It’s just a matter of understanding your calorie consumption and making the process of tracking them simple and seamless so you can enjoy your life while losing weight.
I hope you found this article to be helpful. If you have any questions or comments regarding anything written here, please let me know in the section below and I’ll be more than happy to get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks so much for reading!