Like a magic pill, a magic food for weight loss just doesn't exist, according to the experts. Sustainable weight loss is all about balance, portion control and consistency, with a focus on consuming nutrient-dense instead of calorie-dense foods. However, if weight loss is your goal, and you'd like to add at least one extra edge to your shopping cart, we surveyed Atlanta dietitians to determine the top grocery item. And for good measure, we included the first and second runner-up as well.
It was a close race, but non-starchy veggies were recommended by each nutritionist. Non-starchy veggies are typically the flowering parts of a plant. Think lettuce, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers and onions. Starchy vegetables include corn, peas, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkin, squash, zucchini and yams. Starchy or non-starchy, vegetables are great to include in your diet; however, if weight loss is your goal, the fiber-to-calories ratio in non-starchy veggies can be very effective in your diet endeavors. Veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower and carrots are really making a name for themselves lately. The health-conscious are finding non-traditional ways to incorporate them into their diet. And for good reason!
"By adding lots of extra non-starchy veggies to a meal, you create the visual image of a large satisfying meal, but calories remain in control," said Courtney Plush, bariatric dietitian at Emory Healthcare and registered dietitian with Atlanta Dietitian Services, LLC. "When my clients start creating a meal with veggies as the base, they naturally eat less starchy foods and meat, meaning they're taking in less calories overall and seeing weight loss."
Plush recommended throwing spinach, mushrooms and sliced tomatoes on top of a plain frozen pizza, bulking up a can of soup by adding in a frozen vegetable medley before heating or using cucumber slices instead of chips for hummus and other dips.
"Start meal planning by choosing your veggie first; then figure out the protein and the starch," Plush said.
At zero calories, water has always been highly recommended for everyone, especially those looking to shed weight. It helps keep you feeling full, which in turn reduces cravings, and if timed correctly, can help you to eat smaller portions at meals. Water helps to detoxify your system, it aids in digestion and helps your body avoid excessive water retention. Additionally, Page Love, MS, RDN, LD, CSSD Nutrifit Sport Therapy Inc., said that water plays a noticeable role in metabolism.
"Water is effective for weight loss by hydrating muscles to be at peak calorie burning levels," Love said.
She recommended drinking one cup of water per waking hour and one to two cups during meals. Plush suggests 16 ounces before every meal and somewhat of a daily self-competition with drinking H2O.
"Set an alarm to go off every 30 minutes to take a drink of water," Plush said. "Buy a good sturdy water bottle, and set a goal to fill it up a set number of times during the day. If it's 20 oz., fill it up three times; if it's a 32 oz. bottle, twice."
You may be taking trips to the restroom more often, but a little extra movement never hurt anyone's weight loss goals.
Nonfat Greek Yogurt
"Nonfat or low fat high protein dairy helps fill you up at meals and snacks, and they're also low in calories," said Rachel Brandeis, MD, RD, LD. "Specifically, nonfat Greek yogurt; select your flavor of choice, but keep to around 100 calories per serving."
Since, Greek yogurt contains twice the amount of protein as traditional yogurt, it certainly fits the bill of a powerhouse dairy protein. Greek yogurt is another food that folks are getting more and more creative with, like substituting it for pie filling or even condiments.
"Nonfat Greek yogurt contains a lot fewer calories than mayo or sour cream, but it has the same rich creamy texture," Plush said. "It can take the place of high calorie condiments anywhere you use them. Greek yogurt can actually make mayo- or sour cream-based dishes healthier, thanks to the protein and calcium content."