Smart Foods to Eat When You're Trying to Lose Weight

What to Eat When You're Trying to Lose Weight

What are the foods you should consume when trying to lose weight? Use this list of important nutrients and types of foods to look for when trying to slim down. Find out which foods are likely to fill you up, provide essential nutrition, and keep you satisfied during your weight loss journey.

List of Foods to Eat When Trying to Lose Weight

You can eat any foods you like when trying to lose weight, since so long as you create a calorie deficit, you can lose weight. There are no specific foods that will automatically cause or stop weight loss, instead, it's about energy balance. However, there are some foods that make energy balance easier by filling you up and energizing you for activity.

  • Lean protein
  • Fiber rich foods
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Smaller portions of your favorite foods

Lean Protein


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Foods with protein help you in several different ways when you're trying to lose weight. First, protein will help you to maintain muscle mass as you lose fat. And if you start a strength-training program when you're trying to lose weight, protein-rich foods help you to build muscle.

Protein foods are also satisfying to eat. Many people prefer to enjoy a traditional meat and potatoes meal from time to time during the dieting process. It might help you to feel less deprived. While you may not be able to eat the same kind of indulgent dinner that you enjoyed before weight loss, eating a lean protein with vegetables may help you to get the same enjoyment.

Lastly, protein foods help you to burn (slightly) more calories due to the thermic effect of food. The thermic effect of food (TEF) contributes to your daily metabolism—or the number of calories you burn each day. Your body requires energy (calories) to chew, digest, and process the food that you eat. Protein requires more energy to process than other foods.

So which protein-rich foods are best? Look for choices that are naturally low in saturated fat and calories, those that are portion-controlled, and foods that you enjoy.

If you have a difficult time getting enough protein in your diet during weight loss, you can also make a smoothie with a protein powder supplement.

Fiber-Rich Foods


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

You'll be able to manage cravings better if you eat foods with more fiber. On this list you'll find delicious foods that help you to feel full longer after eating so you consume fewer calories. Most of these foods also provide other nutritional benefits that you'll enjoy during the weight loss process, like vitamins and minerals.

Fill your shopping cart with some of these foods.

Keep your fridge and pantry stocked with some of these staples to keep your hunger at bay.

Fruits and Vegetables


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

It's easy to find "diet foods" at your local super market. You'll find fat-free foods, low-calorie foods, and foods that advertise other health claims on the label. But some of these foods are not necessarily good for everyone who is trying to lose weight.

For example, some fat-free foods are higher in sugar than their full-fat versions. Some salad dressings, sauces, condiments and other foods remove fat but add back sugar and sodium to make up for lost taste/texture. They may not necessarily be lower in calories and if you are trying to reduce your sugar intake they can do more harm than good.

So should you avoid low-calorie foods? No! Just try to find foods that are naturally low in calories, such as fruits and vegetables. Consider some of these options.

Choosing these foods that are packed with vitamins and minerals will help you to get the nutrition you need when you are trying to slim down. You may also be able to save money as well. Those 100-calorie snack packs that you buy in the store are generally more expensive than 100-calorie snack packs you make at home with healthier foods.

Smaller Portions of Your Favorite Foods

Nutritious foods are always the best choice when you're trying to slim down. But sometimes you want more than whole grains, lean protein, and fresh fruits and veggies. If you're like most, you occasionally crave comfort foods like pasta, or chocolate.

If you're going to stay on your weight loss plan for the long-term, you may want to enjoy a treat or an indulgent snack from time to time. And there might also be times when you need to grab a quick bite on the go. Thankfully, there are ways to stick to your weight loss plan and still allow for certain convenience foods.

Consider any of these foods to eat when you're trying to lose weight.

A Word From Verywell

Remember that when you choose foods to eat during weight loss, it's not only about calories. The foods you choose should fill you up, satisfy your desire for a savory meal, curb your cravings for sweets, and provide your body with good nutrition. Thankfully, it is possible to find these foods.

Print out this list of foods to eat when trying to lose weight. Use it to compile your weekly grocery list or take it with you to the market so you know which foods to consume and which foods to avoid for a successful weight loss experience.

5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cava E, Yeat NC, Mittendorfer B. Preserving Healthy Muscle during Weight Loss. Adv Nutr. 2017;(8)3:511-519.  doi:10.3945/an.116.014506

  2. Pesta DH, Samuel VT. A high-protein diet for reducing body fat: mechanisms and possible caveats. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2014;(11)1:53.  doi:10.1186/1743-7075-11-53

  3. US National Library of Medicine. Fiber.

  4. McCaffrey D. The Science of Skinny: Start Understanding Your Body's Chemistry--and Stop Dieting Forever(Sixth Edition). Da Capo Lifelong Books. 2012.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy eating for a healthy weight.

By Malia Frey, M.A., ACE-CHC, CPT
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.