Exotic superfoods, touted for their extraordinary fat-burning power or other weight loss miracles, get a lot of attention in the media. But the everyday heroes of healthy eating are these seven staples that deliver to you a powerful punch of nourishment and battle hunger whenever it strikes. Include these foods in your daily diet and they will be your most important allies on the way to your weight loss goal.
Power source: A cup of black beans fuels you with 15 grams of protein, but has very little saturated fat (less than a half gram), especially compared to other sources of protein. The cup of cooked beans also provides you with about 12 grams of fiber–nearly half the 21 to 25 grams recommended for adult women to eat daily. Fiber slows your digestion, helping you to feel full for hours after you eat.
Try: Try prepping a big batch of black beans on Sunday afternoon and use them all week in salads and quesadillas. Or puree them to add body to soups or stews. On Nutrisystem? A half cup of cooked beans counts as one SmartCarb.
Power source: Whole, unprocessed rice (aka brown rice) is high in vitamins and minerals, and has a low glycemic index, which measures how quickly foods raise blood glucose levels, the cause of hunger pangs. A study published in the medical journal, Archives of Internal Medicine, found that eating two or more servings of brown rice weekly is associated with a lower risk of obesity and developing type 2 diabetes.
Try: Use brown rice in your favorite pilaf or grain salad. Mix it with tomatoes and sauteed onions to make a hearty filling for stuffed peppers.
DARK LEAFY GREENS
Power source: Vegetables such as kale, collard greens and spinach are extremely nutrient-dense foods—that is, they deliver vitamins, minerals and other health benefits with the fewest amount of calories. Leafy greens are high in fiber and packed with folate, a form of vitamin B that helps your body break down carbohydrates and fats and convert them into energy you need to go about your busy day.
Try: Most greens are more nutritious when raw, so eat them in salads or add them to smoothies. If you prefer greens cooked, braise them with onions and garlic for a healthy side dish or add them to omelets, stir-fries and soups.
Power source: As a snack, almonds can have a significant impact on your weight, according to a study in the International Journal of Obesity. It followed two groups of overweight people, who ate the same healthy diet except one snacked on almonds while the other group could choose popcorn, crackers and other between-meal foods. After six months, those who ate the almonds saw an 18 percent reduction in weight and body mass index compared with an 11 percent reduction among the other group.
Try: Raw or dry-roasted almonds are free of the unhealthy fats that come with those roasted in oil. A half-ounce (or about 15 to 20 nuts) makes a filling snack you can enjoy on the go.
Power source: A cup of cottage cheese has only 160 calories, but provides you with 30 grams of protein and comes with just 2 grams of fat. Like other dairy foods, cottage cheese is high in calcium, a nutrient that speeds up your metabolism and helps your body burn fat.
Try: One percent fat cottage cheese delivers to you all of its protein without excess calories. Layer cottage cheese with fresh fruit for a fun and healthy breakfast parfait. Use it on baked potatoes in place of sour cream or as a substitute for cream cheese on toast. Stir in herbs like dill and thyme to make a quick and tasty dip for raw vegetables.
Power source: The foundation of many tasty soups, chicken broth can be an invaluable weight-loss aid on its own. It’s naturally low in calories—around 40 in an eight-ounce serving—with just two grams of fat. Warm broth not only heats you up on a cold day, its high-mineral content stokes your metabolism, burning calories after you’ve finished drinking it.
Power source: A squeeze of fresh lemon adds a spark of tart, acidic flavor to water and tea, turning those calorie-free drinks into refreshing sips. What’s more, the citric acid in lemons stimulates your digestive process and balances your blood sugar levels after a meal.
Try: Use lemon juice to dress up salads, to brighten up vegetable dishes, or to flavor fish or chicken dishes. After exercising, sip lemony water instead of sugary, high-calorie sports drinks to restore valuable nutrients lost while sweating.