What You Should Eat for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner If You Want to Lose Weight

Slimming down is hard. Nutrition labels are confusing, cooking is time-consuming, and your best friend keeps giving you unsolicited nutrition advice. You’re just trying to lose weight — 10 pounds, maybe 15. But you don’t know where to start.

There are a lot of options on those grocery store shelves. Here’s what you should eat throughout your day to promote weight loss, feel more energized, and stop falling for all the diet tricks that never work.

Breakfast: Pack on the protein

A delicious and healthy breakfast plate

Why skip breakfast when it can be so nourishing and delicious? | iStock.com/Yulia Davidovich

Start your day off with a serving of whole grains, a few ounces of protein, and a serving or two of fruit. You can knock this out with a single bowl of oatmeal topped with nuts and berries. But eggs, toast, and half an avocado can accomplish the same goal. Avoid sugar-sweetened breakfast cereals, fruit juice, and sweet traps, such as syrups and sneaky spreads (sorry, Nutella enthusiasts).

Midmorning snack: Fiber is your friend

bowl of nuts

A handful of nuts can prevent an afternoon slump. | iStock.com/HandmadePictures

If you need a quick snack to help you power through till lunch, choose something packed with fiber, protein, and healthy fat. A handful of nuts, though high in calories per serving, can act as the filling you need to get through your morning. Health suggests choosing nuts that come in small portions, such as 100-calorie packs. Not feeling nutty? Snack on fresh fruit, vegetable chips, or veggies with hummus dip.

Lunch: Veggies as an entree

A delicious vegetable sandwich

Piling your lunch sandwich with veggies is an easy way to load up on fiber. | iStock.com/Lauraag

Lunch is the perfect time of day to pile on the vegetables. It takes some creativity to incorporate these protein-packed plants into a quick and easy meal, but you’ll be glad you did. Order or create a sandwich bursting with spinach, onions, bell peppers, and a healthy veggie or legume spread. You can also add these and more high-protein veggies to a colorful salad. Alternative options are a bean and vegetable soup, veggie flatbread, or vegetable “pasta” and homemade sauce.

Early afternoon snack: Curb cravings with carbs

Yogurt with fruit and granola

It tastes like dessert, but it’s good for your gut. | iStock.com/Laura Laporta

Your brain might need an energy boost to get you through the afternoon stretch, but a candy bar or bag of chips won’t help you lose weight. Instead, go for something that packs carbs, protein, and fat into a small, simple serving. Greek yogurt and cottage cheese fit into this category perfectly. If you’re dairy-free, consider making a few of these healthy snacks to fill up your afternoon.

Dinner: Go for variety, not quantity

A dinner bowl with wild rice, cabbage and sweet potatoes

Healthy dinners don’t have to be boring. | iStock.com/OksanaKiian

Your last full meal of the day doesn’t have to be complicated. To pack in the most nutrition possible for the least amount of calories, include a lean protein source, a serving of whole grains, and another serving or two of vegetables. Grilled chicken or fish, brown rice or quinoa, and a starchy vegetable, such as a sweet potato, can help diminish your dessert cravings.

Evening snack: Dessert can be healthy, too

Strawberries and a few pieces of chocolate

Don’t turn down dessert just yet. | iStock.com/FSerega

Now’s the time to squeeze in the last of your fruit servings for the day if you’re not quite there yet. Even a handful of strawberries paired with an ounce or two of dark chocolate is OK, as long as you’re limiting your portions of both. Don’t want to fill up on fruit alone? Try snacking on these tasty treats between dinner and bedtime if you’re tempted to reach for a more traditional (read: probably unhealthy) dessert.

Healthy foods to add to your grocery shopping list

A purple grocery cart heading to the store

Your grocery list needs a major upgrade. | iStock.com/Hin255

  • Eggs: They’re extremely versatile, and Mayo Clinic promises they won’t destroy your cholesterol.
  • Spinach: It’s a low-calorie, high-protein vegetable you can pair with almost anything.
  • White tuna: One serving of tuna provides protein and fat without sugar, says Livestrong.com.
  • Whole grains: According to Health, whole grains promote weight loss and prevent weight gain.
  • Seeds: Chia, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds make smoothies, salads, and breakfast bowls healthier.

Try these grocery shopping tricks to eat healthier and lose weight faster.

Processed foods to eat and avoid to lose weight

A frozen meal

Frozen dinners might be easy to make, but they can be loaded with sodium. | iStock.com/Joe Belanger

Removing processed foods from your diet is a great way to lose weight. It’s not easy to make that kind of major shift in your eating habits though. Thankfully, there are some processed foods that aren’t terrible for your health — and they might even help you lose weight.

Hummus, Greek yogurt, and nut butters often face shame for their calorie and fat content. However, these foods are much healthier than other alternatives you might know and adore, such as frozen dinners, hot dogs, bacon, and packaged trail mix.

Mind your portions

A perfectly portioned plate

Don’t let huge portions ruin your weight loss journey. | iStock.com/Golubovy

Many dieters determined to lose weight focus too heavily on eating healthy foods and forget to eat less. Research shows people tend to eat more when there’s more food in front of them. If you’re in control of what goes on your plate, you’re in control of how much you’re eating. Reference this portion size guide from Women’s Health to make sure your servings aren’t too generous.

Don’t forget about exercise

A group class does a fun workout.

With a healthy diet and lifestyle, what can go wrong? | iStock.com/Jacoblund

As you begin replacing less healthy foods with healthier options, keep in mind that diet and exercise are both essential if you want to lose weight. Focusing on one or the other might initially help you burn belly fat and take inches off your waist. But eating healthy and working out in tandem help build muscle and might also help you shed those last 10 (or 15) pounds.