The Best and Worst Foods for Weight Loss

A good weight loss plan requires a balanced diet. A nutritionist breaks down five foods to add and five to lose to make shedding pounds a little easier.

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Some of the Best and Worst Foods for Weight Loss

When losing weight, it’s about eating the right balance of wholesome foods to help keep your body nourished. Any weight loss plan should include a variety of nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, whole grains, fruit, lean protein, legumes, nuts, seeds and healthy fats. Many of the "best" foods on this list have a tendency to add lots of nutrients and few calories, while the "worst" foods tends to be high in calories and over-consumed nutrients like saturated fat and added sugar. Although there are many more foods that can be added to this list, here are our top picks for the five best and five worst foods when you’re trying to lose weight.

Best Food: Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is packed with protein: about 15 grams per 6 ounce serving of nonfat plain. As protein takes longer to digest, Greek yogurt can help you feel fuller longer. Feeling full and satisfied is especially important when you are trying to lose weight, since it can help minimize those extra snack cravings. In addition, a study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that obese participants who ate yogurt daily over the course of three months lost more body fat while maintaining lean tissue compared to those who did not eat yogurt daily. Those eating yogurt also lost more inches around their waist.

Worst Food: Potato Chips

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at the diet of 120,877 men and women over 20 years to determine which foods led to long-term weight gain. Potato chips topped the list of foods and were most strongly associated with a four-year weight change of 1.69 pounds. Although potato chips on occasion can fit into a weight loss plan, eating them regularly (or even daily!) can certainly lead to weight gain.

Best Food: Eggs

Eggs contain protein and fat, which help keep you feeling satisfied. One study examined 30 overweight women after they after they ate eggs for breakfast instead of bagels. The study found that eggs at breakfast increased the feeling of fullness and those participants ate less for the next 36 hours. Although more research is needed in the role of eating an egg-based breakfast on weight loss, eggs can certainly be part of a healthy weight loss plan.

Worst Food: Soda and Other Sugar-Sweetened Drinks

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention one of the leading sources of added sugars in the American diet include sugar-sweetened beverages. Not only does that include soda, but also sugar-sweetened lemonade, iced tea and other such beverages. Opt for calorie-free drinks like water, seltzer and hot or cold plain coffee or tea.

Best Food: Pulses

A 2016 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at 21 clinical trials consisting of 940 men and women who lost an average of .75 pounds over six weeks with the additional of a single serving of beans, chickpeas or lentils (also known as "pulses") to their diet. That is equivalent to adding 3/4 cup of pulses a day to your diet. Pulses contain fiber and fat, which helps keep you feeling satisfied.

Worst Food: Processed Meat

The same study that called out potato chips as a top weight gain food, also named processed meats like bacon, hot dogs and processed deli meat and as food that contributed to weight gain over a four-year period. Those individuals gained almost one pound over the four-year period from eating more processed meats and fewer vegetables, whole grains, fruit, nuts and yogurt. Eating processed meats are okay on occasion, but you do want to limit its consumption as they are high in saturated fat and calories. You can also find brands that are made with fewer calories and less saturated fat and salt, so do your research and compare labels.

Best Food: Leafy Green Vegetables

Those leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach, collard greens and the like are an excellent addition to a weight loss plan. These veggies are lower in calories, filled with fiber, and provide a ton of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Eating lower calorie leafy greens can add volume to your meals without going overboard on calories. One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating foods with fewer calories (like fruits and vegetables) can help people eat fewer calories overall and lead to weight loss.

Worst Food: Store-Bought Muffins

Have you seen those oversized muffins sold at delis, breakfast joints or your local bagel shop? Those are huge and come with an overload of calories — upwards of 600, depending on the ingredients. Eat one of those daily and not only are you going overboard on calories first thing in the morning, but you’re probably eating way too much added sugar and saturated fat too. If you’re a muffin-lover and are trying to lose weight, make your own using mini-muffin tin or a standard muffin tin.

Best Food: Nuts

Nuts like almonds provide healthy monounsaturated fat and fiber to help stave off hunger. They’re also packed with nutrition and shockingly some nuts actually have fewer calories than once thought. A 2016 study from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that in whole unroasted almonds offer 19% fewer calories and chopped roasted almonds provide 17% fewer calories compared to the number of calories listed on the label.

Worst Food: Coffee Drinks

If you love those fancy drinks with whipped cream, syrups and other goodies, you may want to think again how often you guzzle them. These sippers rack up liquid calories quickly, and can sabotage any weight loss plan. If you love your coffee drinks, opt for a kids size or small — and minimize those calorie-heavy add-ons.