In our journey to better health, we hear a lot about the best foods for weight loss and ingredients we should be avoiding. By now, we’re all aware that foods with too much added sugar, salt and unhealthy fats are nutritional no-nos. But what about the best foods for weight loss that we should be eating? There are plenty of delicious foods you can enjoy even when you’re trying to find the best way to lose weight. Here are 10 nutritional powerhouses recommended by Nutrisystem’s dietitians that should always be on your grocery list—whether you’re on Nutrisystem or not!
1. Leafy Greens
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), adults should consume a minimum of two to three cups of veggies a day. A dieter’s dream, veggies are naturally low in fat and calories, and are completely void of cholesterol. Plus, many are full of fiber, which may reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes, making them among the best foods for weight loss… and your health in general! Leafy greens (think kale, spinach, watercress and Swiss chard) in particular are packed with all kinds of body-boosting nutrients like vitamin A, which is important to eye health and protecting against infection; vitamin C, which is crucial to wound healing, keeps teeth and gums healthy, and plays an important role in iron absorption; and vitamin K, which is integral to proper blood clotting. Many also contain calcium, which is important for bone health; iron, which is key to oxygen transport and energy production in the body; and folate, which is essential to tissue growth and cell function. Try using leafy greens as a base for salads or sneak them into smoothies for added nutrition. On Nutrisystem, one cup of raw leafy greens counts as one Vegetable.
2. Greek Yogurt
Adults should consume three cups of dairy daily, according to the USDA. Dairy products are the main source of calcium in the American diet, and also include potassium, which may help maintain healthy blood pressure; vitamin D, which plays a role in bone health; and protein. Dairy products are associated with improved bone health, lower blood pressure, and a reduced risk of osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Although both Greek yogurt and regular yogurt are good dairy choices, by “going Greek” you’ll get almost double the amount of protein, and often, get less sodium and sugar. Opt for low-fat or fat-free versions, and be sure to read the ingredient list to make sure you avoid added sugars and artificial flavors. One cup of non-fat Greek yogurt counts as one PowerFuel on Nutrisystem. Yogurt makes a great thickening agent in smoothies (try this Berry Delicious Smoothie!). It’s also delicious on its own with fresh fruit and granola.
Small but mighty, berries are packed with nutrients like antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C, potassium and folate. Many are also a rich source of compounds called flavonoids, which may help boost memory function. These health benefits make berries a great choice to help fulfill your fruit needs for the day (women should consume one and a half to two cups a day, depending on age; men should strive for two cups daily). Try adding blueberries to your oatmeal before cooking, top summer salads or Greek yogurt with fresh strawberries and raspberries, or get a big berry boost by adding all your favorites into the blender for a “berry” sweet smoothie that packs a nutritional punch! On Nutrisystem, one cup of berries counts as one SmartCarb.
Often mislabeled a vegetable, avocados are actually a member of the fruit family. And, given all their wonderful health benefits, they should be a regular on your plate. Avocados provide a host of nutrients, such as folate, vitamins E, C and B6, plus potassium and soluble fiber. They also contain monounsaturated fats, the “good” kind associated with reduced heart disease risk. Avocados also contain compounds called plant sterols, which may help lower cholesterol, have antioxidant properties, and promote healthy vision. It’s really no wonder they’ve made our list of the best foods for weight loss, right? Try adding sliced avocado to salads, tacos and wraps, or use it as a creamy spread on a piece of whole wheat toast. One tablespoon (or 1/8 of avocado) counts as one Extra on Nutrisystem.
Eggs shell out all kinds of nutrients your body needs, like iron, vitamin D and B12. Plus, a single egg serves up a whopping 6 grams of protein, making it a great alternative to other protein sources like meat (you need five to six ounce equivalents of protein daily, depending on your age and gender). Eggs are also a good source of compounds linked to memory preservation and vision protection, making them not just one one of the best foods for weight loss… but a good selection for your general health, too! Add a sliced hard-boiled egg to your favorite green salad, make an omelet full of your favorite veggies, or add scrambled eggs to a whole wheat tortilla topped with salsa for a flavorful breakfast wrap. On Nutrisystem? Count one whole egg or a half cup egg whites as one PowerFuel.
6. Whole Grains
Experts recommend that adult women should strive for 3-ounce equivalents of grains each day, and adult men should aim for 3-4 ounce equivalents. There are two types of grains: whole and refined. Whereas refined grains have had part of their kernel removed to extend their shelf-life and change their texture, whole grains contain the entire kernel. By including the whole kernel, whole grains provide more nutrients, like dietary fiber, iron, bone- and immune-boosting magnesium, several B vitamins that play a key role in metabolism, and protein. The greatest thing about whole grains is that working them into your diet is simple since there are plenty of options available. Try starting your day with some oatmeal and fruit, using quinoa or brown rice as a base for salads, and snacking on whole grain popcorn with a sprinkle of cinnamon when hunger hits. Just make sure that at least half of your grains are whole. On Nutrisystem, a half cup of brown rice, quinoa or oatmeal, or 1 slice of whole wheat bread, counts as 1 SmartCarb on Nutrisystem.
7. Fatty Fish
Fatty fishes like salmon, bluefin tuna, sardines and herring are swimming with omega-3 fatty acids, which are big-time for brain health and memory, and may also help alleviate dry eyes. Some of these fish also include vitamin D, which we know is important for bone health. Substitute grilled, baked or broiled fish for meat a few times a week for an alternative protein source. Try salmon tacos or tuna in lettuce wraps. On Nutrisystem, two ounces of fatty fish counts as 1 PowerFuel.
8. Beans and Legumes
Visit the USDA’s MyPlate, and you’ll see that beans and legumes (a fancy word meaning a less mature form of beans and peas), are included in both the Vegetable and Protein groups. That’s because these tasty little gems have nutritional similarities to foods in both groups. They are excellent sources of plant protein and are similar in their iron and zinc content to meats, poultry and fish, making them a great vegetarian alternative. But, because they are also excellent sources of dietary fiber, folate and potassium, they rival many veggies in their nutritional superpowers. Therefore, consuming beans and peas is recommended for everyone―even those who eat meat regularly. Try adding kidney beans, pinto beans and black beans to a homemade chili, or add lima beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas or lentils to a salad to reap the benefits of these nutritional powerhouses! A half cup of most beans and legumes count as 1 SmartCarb on Nutrisystem.
9. Tree Nuts
Tree nuts, like walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios and Brazil nuts, are plant-based protein sources that contain fiber, protein and an impressive combo of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Tree nuts also have cholesterol-lowering properties and are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats―the heart-healthy, “good-for-you” kinds. Together, the nutrients in nuts can also help keep you feeling full. In a nutshell, these tiny treats are a snack-time superfood! Add them to salads and stir-fries, or munch on them raw. Just be mindful of portions, since they can pack a pretty big calorie punch. Stick to one ounce of tree nuts a day. On Nutrisystem, 2 tablespoons, or half an ounce of nuts, count as 1 PowerFuel.
10. Green Tea
When it comes to superfoods, green tea may very well take the cake. A staple in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine, green tea contains a high concentration of free-radical fighting antioxidants. Research suggests that the compounds in green tea may help treat a number of health conditions, including heart disease, high cholesterol, several cancers, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), diabetes, liver disease and more. As if these health benefits weren’t reason enough to start sipping, clinical studies have also suggested that green tea extract may have a positive impact on metabolism and fat burning. Try starting and ending your day with a steaming cup of good-for-you green tea to take advantage of these big-time benefits! Green Tea is a Free Food on Nutrisystem.