Site icon Erin O'Neill | Dietitian

What foods to eat for weight loss: my top recommendations as a dietitian

what foods to eat for weight loss

If you search online for what foods to eat to lose weight, you’ll likely come across an AVALANCHE of information (in fact, it might be how you found your way here!).

There are a million different opinions about what foods to eat for weight loss, which can be a little overwhelming and confusing.

Which is why, even though I’m a dietitian, I’m not the biggest fan of telling people exactly what to eat.

Instead, I prefer to help my clients listen to what their mind and body are telling them about food, so they can lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way.

That said, of course food is a big factor in losing weight.

You can’t expect always to eat unhealthy or high-calorie food and still lose weight – it simply won’t work.

And having a list of healthy food ideas you can turn to when you’re not sure what to eat does make it a lot easier to make those good food choices.

So, in this article, I’m going to share with you the 15 foods I make sure I never run out of.

With a mix of protein, carbohydrate, fat and fibre (or, as I like to call them, the ‘Power Four’), they’re all great options to include in your daily diet so you can give your body everything it needs, without the excess calories.

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Here’s my list of 15 foods to eat when you’re trying to lose weight (in no particular order):

1. Sourdough bread

Sourdough bread is my go-to bread for lots of reasons, not least because it’s delicious!

And while everyone seemed to discover it during the pandemic, it’s actually one of the oldest forms of bread that dates back to ancient Egypt.

Sourdough uses lactobacillus cultures as the rising agent, rather than the yeast that’s used in normal bread.

The baking process unfortunately kills these cultures, but it also creates lactic acid, which makes the nutrients in the bread easier to digest and absorb.

Sourdough is also low in fructans (a type of sugar that can cause digestive problems in some people), which is why it can be a good option if you’re sensitive to bread.

Healthybake has some good sourdough options, or ask at your local bakery for authentic sourdough that doesn’t contain yeast.

2. Natural Greek yoghurt

Yoghurt – or specifically, natural greek yoghurt – is a good source of protein that helps you feel fuller for longer.

With less lactose than regular yoghurt and dairy products, it’s a great option if you have a sensitive tummy.

It’s also a rich source of calcium – something that’s especially important once you reach menopause!

You can eat it by itself or with fruit or cereal, or I like to use it as a base for smoothies.

There are lots of different brands of greek yoghurt to choose from, but Chobani and Farmer’s Union are two of my personal favourites.

3. Mixed nuts and seeds

Nuts are one of my favourite snacks, but they often get a bad rap.

People think because they’re high in fat, they’ll make you fat.

In fact, numerous studies have shown that people who regularly eat nuts actually have better outcomes with managing their weight.

While they ARE high in fat, it’s mostly ‘healthy’ fats, and they’re also high in important minerals, antioxidants and fibre.

That’s why I recommend you aim to have a handful most days (or 30-40g for those of you who like to be specific!).

You can eat them on their own or add them to things like muesli, salad, pasta and rice dishes, biscuits, bliss balls… the list goes on.

I also recommend adding chia seeds wherever you can, as just one tablespoon contains 10 per cent of your daily fibre needs, and an amazing 100 per cent of your daily omega 3 fatty acid needs.

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4. Dark chocolate

People often think that chocolate is a no-go food if they’re trying to lose weight – but that’s just not true.

Dark chocolate is actually an excellent source of polyphenols, which help to increase and feed the beneficial bacteria in our gut.

I recommend choosing something like 70% Lindt chocolate, which has a higher cocoa percentage.

There are even different flavoured options for you to choose from, like salted caramel, mint and orange.

5. Rocket and baby spinach

Eating a diet rich in leafy greens has numerous health benefits, including reduced risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and mental decline.

Greens like spinach, kale, cabbage, rocket, romain lettuce and bok choy are all excellent foods to have in the fridge that you can add to meals in a variety of ways.⠀

For example, I love the peppery flavour of rocket in a salad or wrap, and often add spinach to my morning smoothie.

Leafy green vegetables are also perfect to use in any stir-fry – just make sure you add them at the end so they’re only just wilted when you serve them.

6. Avocado

Avocados need no introduction – but did you know they’re an incredibly nutritious fruit?

With lots of vitamins, minerals and healthy fats, they’re a great food to include in your daily diet that helps you stay fuller for longer.

You can eat them as most people do – smashed on toast with a drizzle of lemon and topped with an egg and some feta (YUM!).

Or, some other ideas you can try include:

  • as a side with your eggs and a banana for breakfast
  • in smoothies
  • with cottage cheese and tomato on toast or wholegrain crackers
  • with hummus on rice cake or corn thins
  • with tomato and boiled egg on toast or wholegrain crackers

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7. Salmon

Fresh, tinned, smoked – salmon is a wonderfully nutritious food no matter which way it comes.

As an oily fish, it’s a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation and support a healthy heart.

One of my favourite ways to eat salmon is the Bird’s Eye Frozen Atlantic Fillets with the skin on.

The omega 3 fatty acids are found just under the salmon skin, so leaving the skin on gives you maximum nutritional benefits.

Simply pop them in the oven straight from the freezer, and in just 35 minutes they’re good to go. 

Serve them with a bagged salad and roast potato, and you’ve got a delicious and healthy dinner that’s quick and easy to prepare.

8. Green tea

Just like dark chocolate, green tea is a great source of polyphenols.

It also provides a more sustained release of caffeine than coffee, which gives you a longer lasting energy boost.

In terms of brands of green tea, none are particularly better than the others, although I do recommend you consider using loose leaves rather than bags to reduce the amount of micro plastics you consume.

9. Kombucha

Kombucha is another food (or rather, drink) that seems to have risen in popularity in the last few years, with lots of options now available at your local Coles or Woolies.

As a lightly fermented black or green tea drink, it’s got the double benefit of probiotics from the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) and polyphenols from the tea.

This means it’s great for your gut – and it tastes pretty good too!

Rok and Mojo are my favourite brands as they don’t contain any artificial sweeteners.

Just remember that it’s a living thing, so make sure you buy it cold and keep it cold!

10. Wholegrain crackers

Wholegrain crackers are always a healthy snack option, with Ryvita and Vita-Weat my go-to brands.

It’s really a personal preference, but I recommend choosing crackers that have more than 5g of fibre per 100g and less than 120mg (sodium) per 100g.

Some different things eat your wholegrain crackers with include:

  • cottage cheese and tomato
  • cheese and hard boiled eggs
  • cottage cheese and raspberries
  • peanut butter and banana
  • cream cheese
  • pear, cheese, honey and thyme
  • cheese and grapes in a bento box

11. Oats, brown rice, quinoa and barley

Wholegrains like oats, brown rice, quinoa and barley are packed full of fibre – but which grain do you choose?

Well, the most common way to eat oats is in porridge, or you can include it in biscuits and slices (like Anzac biscuits), in smoothies, and in overnight oats (also called Bircher muesli).

Quinoa and brown rice can also be used in porridge, although they’re more commonly eaten as a side dish, or cooked and cooled and then added to salad.

Once cooled, the starch in brown rice increases in resistant starch, which is a great prebiotic fibre (i.e. great gut food).

Barley is an excellent addition to soups, stews and risottos, and can also be cooked, cooled and added to salads.

12. Muesli

Muesli is one of those foods that everyone automatically thinks is healthy.  

But actually, that’s not always the case.

Commercial muesli can have a ton of added sugar and fat, which is why it always pays to be careful about which type of muesli you choose.

Any untoasted muesli is usually okay, and Carman’s Muesli is my preferred brand.

When choosing muesli, make sure to check the food label and choose one that has less than 3g per 100g of saturated fat.

Or, you can try my banana coconut muesli recipe, which has no added sugar and is sweetened with – yes, you guessed it – banana!

RELATED:   Recipe – Banana Coconut Muesli

13. Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese is an excellent source of protein that contains relatively few calories. 

It’s also packed with many nutrients, such as B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus and selenium.

Apart from the usual topping for crackers, there are many other ways to get creative with cottage cheese.

For example, you can:

  • add it to pancakes or waffles by using it as a substitute for milk
  • mix it with fruit like berries, sliced bananas and melon chunks
  • use it as a substitute for sour cream
  • top it with granola and drizzle it with honey.

14. Seasonal fruits and vegetable

Fruit is one of those foods that sometimes confuses people.

Sure, we all know it’s healthy – but what sort of fruit should you eat?

Well, fresh is always best because it will fill you up due to the water and fibre content.

Dried fruit is less filling because all the water has been removed.

Does that mean you shouldn’t eat it? No! It just means you need to keep your portion sizes in check.

Canned fruit is often lower in fibre because the skin has been removed. The syrup that comes with it can also be high in sugar, which is why I always recommend that you choose ones canned in juice.

15. Legumes

Whether fresh or canned, it’s recommended that you eat legumes at least twice a week.

Examples of legumes include:

  • chickpeas
  • kidney beans
  • black beans
  • fava beans
  • baked beans (navy beans)
  • soy beans
  • split peas
  • lentils

I like to extend casserole dishes by adding beans and lentils, and serving veggie sticks with hummus made from chickpeas for a delicious snack.

I also love making these black bean brownies, which is an excellent way to get more legumes and fibre into my super fussy son!

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BONUS food: Lite n’ Easy

Something many of my clients find surprising is that I recommend Lite n’ Easy!

It’s a great option to have on hand for an easy and nutritious dinner, as it’s full of real food ingredients without any added sauce fillers, additives or starches.

There are lots of different options to choose from, so to make it easier, here are my top 5:

31 – Lasagne

82 – Beef Korma

125 – Honey Soy Chicken

244 – Japanese Vegetable Stir-fry with Udon Noodles

249 – Greek Style lentils – even my fussy 13-year-old son likes this one!!

So, there you have it! My ultimate list of foods to eat when you’re trying to lose weight. Save it or print it out and keep it somewhere handy so you’re never stuck for ideas for healthy food options to try.

Want to know more about how to lose weight and keep it off so that you can say goodbye to dieting and hello to being the energetic hands-on mum you want to be?

What you need is a new approach, some support, and accountability to help set you on the right track.

That’s where I can help!

You’re invited to watch my free on-demand masterclass: 5 Steps to Permanent Weight Loss.

In this free on-demand masterclass, I share:

  • The 3 biggest reasons why diets don’t work, and how they’re stopping you from achieving permanent weight loss and keeping you in the diet cycle.
  • My 5 step plan to permanent weight loss that doesn’t include counting calories or following a restrictive diet.

It’s the exact same framework that I teach my 1:1 clients in my Eating Made Easy program.

And now I’m going behind the scenes and sharing it with you too!

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