Weight loss

The best foods for weight loss

Could your seemingly healthy diet be negatively impacting your weight-loss efforts? We lift the lid on the latest research.
Published 29 October 2015

Foods for weight loss

On the WW program you have the freedom to eat your favourite foods, and still achieve your health and weight-loss goals. But, according to a 20-year study published by the Harvard School of Public Health, certain foods are linked to a pattern of long-term weight gain or loss. So, what are the top foods to enjoy and limit?

The best foods...

1. Vegetables

Vegetables are an easy and healthy way to boost nutrition. There’s no end to the scientific research on the benefits of a diet high in vegetables for health and weight loss. You can add bulk to meals by piling your plate with ZeroPoint veg in a range of colours, including asparagus, squash, cauliflower and capsicum.  Don’t forget that you can easily substitute pasta with zucchini noodles and rice with cauliflower. Not only will you boost the fibre content of your favourite pasta or stir-fry dishes this way, but you will also bump up your overall vegetable intake.

2. Whole grains

Thanks to their amazing health benefits, whole grains have had their turn in the scientific spotlight in recent years. Eating two or three serves daily has been consistently reported to reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases (including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers) by between 20 and 30 per cent. A diet high in whole grains is also associated with a lower body mass index, waist circumference and risk of being overweight. To help stay on track, choose whole grains for at least half of all your bread, cereal and grain serves.

Brown and whole grain varieties should be your preference over white carbs— such as rice, couscous and pasta. Simply swapping to the wholemeal or brown varieties, or choosing whole grains such as quinoa, will add extra protein and fibre to any meal. Plus, boosting the fibre content of the meal will help you stay fuller for longer after eating, and support gut health.

3. Fruit

In addition to being the perfect on-the-go snack, fruit is bursting with filling fibre, essential vitamins and minerals and potent antioxidants. Just like vegetables, fruit can also be added to meals to increase your overall satisfaction levels. Try pear or peach slices on breakfast cereal or berries with yoghurt and a sprinkle of pistachios for a delicious dessert.

4. Nuts

Once a dieter’s foe, nuts are well and truly back on the bestseller list. When you’re craving a crunchy, savoury snack, ditch the chips and go for nuts instead. Packed with antioxidants, vitamins and essential fats, nuts also keep you feeling fuller for longer due to their protein content. Whenever possible, choose unsalted nuts, such as raw almonds, and add your own low-salt seasoning, for example, a sprinkling of the Moroccan spice ras el hanout.

5. Yoghurt

Been avoiding dairy? Don’t. There’s a growing body of research pointing to the role of dairy products with an improvement in a variety of ‘health markers’ including better insulin resistance (a known risk factor for type 2 diabetes) and, for women, lower body weight, waist circumference and body mass index. So, include snacks of low-fat yoghurts and cheeses in your repertoire occasionally.

The not so good...

1. Potato chips

You don’t need a degree in nutrition to understand this one – packet potato chips are high in fat, salt and kilojoules and should be reserved for treats only. When packing school lunches, include healthier snacks, such as air-popped popcorn or multigrain crackers and dip. As for grown-up snacks, if you love the occasional potato chip, stick to portion-controlled chip packs so you’re not tempted to scoff the whole big bag.

2. Potatoes

Interestingly, Harvard School of Public Health researchers found that increased potato intake was also associated with weight gain. This doesn’t mean that potatoes themselves are fattening – far from it, in fact. It’s just that eating potato and potato products, especially fries or hot chips, is associated with weight gain. Why? Because eating these foods is probably part of a dietary pattern of fast food, takeaways and not eating at home. A medium potato at dinner is fine and a small serve of hot chips as part of your weekly Points Budget is fine, too – so long as you’ve budgeted for it.

3. Sugary drinks

A spoonful of sugar is not so bad, but, unfortunately, you’re often drinking far more than that when you pour yourself a glass of soft drink, juice or cordial. When watching your weight, opt for no- or low-kilojoule beverages. This way, you’re not drinking your Points Budget and can still fill up on an adequate volume of food to feel satisfied. Stuck for inspiration? Other than good old plain water, try soda or tonic water, sparkling mineral water, and herbal teas.

Somewhere in between….

Meat products

While it is highly likely that big meat eaters may, in fact, be big eaters overall, it’s also true that a portion-controlled serve of lean protein will help you stay satisfied for longer. So while it’s a good idea to skip that plate-sized steak, do try to stick to a palm-sized serve of lean meat three to four times per week.

Love deli meats? While the World Health Organisation has recently identified processed meats as containing carcinogenic chemicals, if you still want to eat them occasionally, switch to lean ham and fat-trimmed bacon, which are lower in kilojoules and saturated fats. And be aware of how you eat them too: people who eat a lot of processed meats may be more likely to consume them as pizza toppings or in American-style sub sandwiches, which makes it easy to clock up the kilojoules. Try adding lots of ZeroPoint salad fillings to increase your sandwich to a satisfying size, and ZeroPoint veggie toppings to homemade pizzas.