Five foods to add to your diet for weight loss
- Live yoghurt: This has the advantage of meeting all three of the above criteria to support weight loss. The fat and protein content helps you feel fuller for longer, stabilises your blood sugar levels, and the live bacteria help to feed your gut microbiome.
- Eggs: Extremely rich in high-quality protein and fat, eggs are an excellent addition to any balanced diet to help you feel fuller for longer and support weight loss.
- Non-starchy vegetables: Rich in fibre, micronutrients, and water – these vegetables help to bulk out your meals and support your stomach and the gut send signals to your brain, letting it know you’re full.
- Tempeh and tofu: Rich in plant-based protein and micronutrients, these soy-based products can be an excellent addition to any diet and are a great meat substitute, whether you’re on a plant-based diet or one that includes animal products.
- Red meat: A rich source of protein, essential micronutrients like iron and vitamin B12, and fat – red meat is an excellent addition to a balanced diet to help you feel fuller for longer and support weight loss.
Weight loss is a challenging endeavour. People often have to undergo a significant shift in their lifestyles and psychological outlook to achieve weight loss and maintain a lower weight for life.
Still, nutrition is a significant part of any weight loss journey, and it’s often about what foods you add to your diet, as much as what foods you might limit or exclude entirely.
Contrary to popular belief, healthy foods to support weight management aren’t off-the-shelf low-calorie processed foods, smoothies, or supplements.
They’re often higher in calories but nourish your body and mind to keep hunger at bay and bring various health benefits beyond weight loss.
The most crucial aspect of any weight loss diet is the overall balance; no single food will determine your success or failure.
The best foods to support healthy weight loss do the following:
- Help you feel fuller for longer (increased satiety): If you feel less hungry, you’re more likely to eat fewer calories across the day. Over time, reducing hunger can help you lose weight.
- Stabilise your blood sugar levels: Research has shown that ‘glucose dippers’ (individuals who experience a blood sugar drop after eating, particularly after eating refined carbohydrates) eat more calories than those with more stable blood sugar levels. Therefore, managing your blood sugar levels can support weight loss in the long term.
- Feed your gut microbiome: Research into our gut bacteria is still in its infancy. Still, there’s good evidence that increasing your fibre intake can help achieve good gut health and support weight loss.
So, our registered dietitians and nutritionists have compiled these five essential weight-loss foods to add to your diet to help you achieve your weight-loss goals, lower your cravings, and maintain a healthier weight in the long term.
At Second Nature, we focus on what we can add to your diet rather than what to take away. Sure, we recommend a whole-food approach to nutrition, which means limiting certain foods – but this balance is down to you and your personal preferences and lifestyle.
We don’t recommend counting calories, tracking macros, or having a grading system (like syns, points, or a traffic light system) to tell you which foods are ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
Our nutritionists and dietitians support you in developing an understanding of your physical and psychological drivers to eat. You’ll learn how to manage your intake without the stress and boredom of counting and tracking.
If you’d like to join over 150,000 others who’ve joined the Second Nature community, click here to take our health quiz.
Otherwise, keep reading as we dig deeper into the science behind the five foods we’ve recommended and how they can support your weight loss journey.
1) Live yoghurt
Yoghurt is a unique food in that it’s a rich source of protein, healthy fats, essential vitamins and minerals. It’s also beneficial for gut bacteria without containing any fibre due to its probiotic content.
Yoghurt’s food matrix has led many researchers to suggest that yoghurt could be a great addition to diets to support the management and treatment of type 2 diabetes and obesity; research supports this.
4545 individuals – who took part in a large randomised controlled trial comparing the Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil to a low-fat diet on cardiovascular risk factors – were followed up to see whether low-fat or whole-fat yoghurt had an impact on the amount of fat stored around their belly and internal organs, which we call visceral fat (or abdominal fat).
The study showed that individuals with the highest consumption of whole-fat yoghurt were 43% more likely to have lower abdominal fat levels. In contrast, low-fat yoghurt didn’t show the same association.
Human clinical trials also support the use of yoghurt to help with loss. A randomised controlled trial placed participants living with obesity in either a high-yoghurt or low-yoghurt (control group) diet. Both diets were designed to be equal in micronutrients, fibre, and total calories.
Interestingly, the yoghurt group lost more weight (-4.43kg) than the control group (-2.75kg) after 12 weeks. Additionally, the amount of fat loss around the trunk (belly fat/visceral fat) was 81% greater in the yoghurt diet compared to the control group.
This suggests that yoghurt may support increased fat loss during weight loss, particularly around the belly, when replaced with other foods in the diet. We recommend consuming whole-fat natural yoghurt that doesn’t contain added sugar.
Yogurt is something you can enjoy every day; try a simple breakfast of Greek yogurt, chia seeds, and blueberries or click here for our much-loved Greek yogurt bowl recipe.
- Yoghurt has a unique food matrix that supports weight loss from multiple angles.
- Observational research suggests that whole-fat yoghurt consumption is associated with lower abdominal fat levels.
- Clinical trials also show a similar relationship between yoghurt and fat loss.
Eggs are a rich source of fat and protein; they can be a valuable addition to your diet if you want to lose weight, and research appears to support this.
A study investigated the impact of two diets on weight loss. The first group was instructed to eat eggs for breakfast, while the second group was instructed to eat bagels. The diets were designed to be matched for total energy intake, with the only difference being the breakfasts.
After eight weeks, the egg group lost an average of 2.63kg compared to 1.59kg in the bagel group. The egg group also achieved a 34% greater reduction in waist circumference and a 16% greater reduction in total body fat.
Similarly, diets higher in eggs and total protein may help to maintain lean mass while supporting weight loss compared to diets lower in protein. Lean mass comprises our muscles, bones, and vital organs – and reductions in lean mass are typically not a good thing.
A study compared a high protein, high egg diet to a lower protein diet without eggs on weight loss and lean mass retention. Both groups lost the same amount of total weight, averaging 3.3kg. However, only the egg group maintained their lean mass after 12 weeks.
This suggests that eggs can help support weight loss and help maintain lean mass during a weight loss journey to ensure that most of the weight being lost is excess body fat.
Click here for some of our favourite egg recipes.
- Eggs are rich in protein and fat, and diets rich in protein and fats from whole foods have been shown to support weight loss.
- Clinical trials have shown that eggs can support weight loss more than lower protein diets that don’t contain eggs.
- Due to their protein content, eggs can also support lean mass retention, which is often reduced during weight loss.
3) Non-starchy vegetables
Non-starchy vegetables are rich in fibre, antioxidants, micronutrients, and water and are a great way to add bulk to your meal without energy. They support signalling from the stomach and the gut to your brain to trigger the feeling of fullness. Sources of these veggies include:
- Leafy greens like spinach and kale
- Brussel sprouts
It’s well established that vegetables are health-promoting and help to lower blood pressure as they’re rich in potassium, and research suggests they may also help you achieve healthy body weight.
A follow-up study from a weight loss trial in Brazil analysed the participants’ diets and found that for every 100g/day of vegetables added to their diet, it equated to an extra 0.5kg of weight loss after six months.
Similarly, a follow-up study of the DIETFITs trial – a study that compared a low-fat diet to a low-carb on weight loss – analysed the sources of dietary fibre in the groups.
Interestingly, the lower-carb group lost slightly more weight after 12 months (-6kg vs -5.3kg) and increased their non-starchy vegetable intake by 32%, while the low-fat group by 16%.
Vegetables can support our health in many ways, and while they won’t be the food that determines the overall success of your weight loss journey, adding them to your meals is an excellent way to bulk them and help you feel fuller for longer.
- Vegetables are health-promoting in many ways beyond weight loss.
- They’re a rich source of fibre and micronutrients.
- They help to bulk out meals without adding too much energy.
- Research suggests a high vegetable intake will help you lose weight.
4) Tempeh and tofu
Tempeh is fermented soybean ‘cake’, often cooked with other ingredients such as wholegrains and other legumes. It’s a rich source of protein and contains moderate amounts of fat; the bacteria in it help to feed the gut microbiome.
Tofu is condensed soy milk moulded into solid blocks and follows a similar process to cheese production. It’s a rich source of protein and micronutrients such as calcium.
Tempeh and tofu are excellent plant-based substitutes for meat and other animal products in recipes as your primary source of protein, and they can support weight loss.
A randomised controlled trial compared a lower-carb vegan diet to a high-carb vegetarian diet on weight loss and cardiovascular risk factors such as triglycerides (blood fat levels) and blood pressure.
The vegan low-carb prioritised soy products, such as tempeh, protein powders, and tofu, as primary protein sources, with 23% of their total protein coming from these sources.
The results showed that after six months, the vegan-low-carb diet lost more weight (-6.8kg) than the high-carb vegetarian diet (-5.8kg). The low-carb group also saw more significant triglyceride reductions and their calculated 10-year risk of cardiovascular disease.
Similarly, a controlled feeding study compared the impact on weight loss of a diet rich in soy protein from tofu, tempeh, or powders to one containing non-soy products such as animal protein sources.
The results showed that a diet rich in soy products was as effective at supporting weight loss as non-soy products, with both groups losing 7.8kg after 12 weeks.
This research suggests soy-based products like tempeh and tofu can be an excellent addition to your diet to support weight loss.
Find some of our tempeh and tofu recipes here.
- Tempeh is a fermented soybean cake often baked with other ingredients such as whole grains and other legumes.
- Tofu is condensed soy milk.
- Both are excellent sources of protein and micronutrients.
- Research has shown that soy-based products can be an effective protein source to support weight loss.
5) Red meat
Often blamed for causing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases, red meat has a controversial reputation.
However, most of this research is poorly designed observational research showing weak associations between red meat and disease.
Higher-quality research has shown that when whole sources of red meat are consumed in line with a healthy diet and lifestyle, these associations all but disappear.
Red meat is nutrient dense and an excellent source of protein and essential nutrients such as B12, iron, and vitamin D3. It can be a great way to support weight loss due to its positive impact on reducing hunger (satiety). Grass-fed meat is also a source of omega-3 fatty acids.
A controlled feeding study compared 24g of beef and soy protein in mixed meals to determine their effect on hunger and fullness (satiety) signals in healthy adults.
The results showed that both lean-protein sources positively affected satiety and significantly reduced circulating hunger hormones.
This positive effect on satiety from red meat can support weight loss. A randomised controlled trial compared a lower-protein diet to a higher-protein diet, which predominantly contained lean red meat.
The results showed that the higher-protein diet rich in red meat lost more weight than the lower-protein diet (-7.2% vs -6.2%).
The study also showed that the red meat diet lowered insulin resistance and triglyceride levels more than the low-protein diet, suggesting an improvement in the risk of chronic diseases.
Despite the bad press, research suggests that red meat from whole sources such as beef and lamb can be a great addition to your diet to improve your health and support weight loss.
Click here for one of our favourite lamb recipes.
- Red meat has often been vilified and linked to many chronic diseases.
- However, high-quality research has shown that red meat can be a great addition to a healthy balanced diet.
- It’s a rich source of protein and bioavailable nutrients; it can reduce hunger, increase fullness, and aid weight loss.
Take home message
Weight loss is a challenging experience for anyone. No single food will determine whether you successfully lose weight and keep it off in the long term.
Additionally, diet alone isn’t enough to sustain weight loss and avoid weight gain; there needs to be a seismic shift in overall lifestyle and psychological mindset to support long-term weight loss maintenance.
However, from a dietary perspective, the healthiest foods you can include in your meals will support you to feel fuller for longer, manage your blood sugar levels, and feed your gut microbiome.
Adding the foods we’ve highlighted above to your diet, you’ll be helping to support one piece of a very complex puzzle: weight loss. You’ll likely be able to eat smaller portion sizes without worrying about the number of calories in your meals.
If you’d like to try an indulgent healthy eating meal plan from Second Nature to support your weight loss plan, click here for our NHS-trusted meal plan.