Trying to Lose Weight? Don’t Eliminate These Surprising Foods From Your Diet

You can easily tell who’s trying to slim down at the grocery store by glancing at various shopping carts. Dieters almost always opt for some combination of greens, lean protein, yogurt, and avocado. Are they smart choices? Definitely. Are they exciting? Not at all. Losing weight is hard enough, so always going with the same healthy foods makes meals a lot less enjoyable.

Prepare to be surprised; some foods we usually steer clear of when losing weight can actually help. Give your diet a boost and a lot more flavor with these healthy choices.

1. Barley

healthy barley with vegetables

A healthy barley salad should be on the menu. | iStock.com

Cutting back on sugary snacks and refined flour is absolutely a good idea when trying to drop pounds. These simple carbs don’t do anything to fill you up, often leaving you even hungrier shortly after eating. But carbs aren’t the enemy, as long as they’re minimally processed.

Barley is among the best choices. Research published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism reported barley and barley-based foods can significantly maintain satiety. And there’s more good news for this grain. One recent review of 14 different trials found eating barley can effectively reduce bad cholesterol levels.

2. Shrimp

pasta with shrimp

Throw some shrimp in your pasta. | iStock.com

If you’ve ever passed on shrimp worrying about the cholesterol levels, you’re missing out. It’s time to add shrimp back to your diet menu. Repeated evidence showed dietary cholesterol doesn’t negatively affect heart health. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee reported, “Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for over-consumption.”

Shrimp are low in calories and high in protein, making them a great choice for anyone trying to stay lean.

3. Pork

sliced, cooked pork tenderloin

Pork tenderloin is a good diet addition. | iStock.com

While a diet rich in bacon probably won’t do your weight any favors, lean pork is a perfectly healthy addition to your meals. There’s even reason to believe the protein can help you slim down.

Australian researchers sought to find out how replacing some protein consumption with pork influenced health. At the end of the six-month study, those who ate more pork lost weight, particularly around their bellies. The key is reaching for lean cuts, such as tenderloin. If you need a pork primer, check out a helpful table on Pork Be Inspired.

4. Cheese

pile of cheese at a market display

Cheese makes for a healthy snack after all. | iStock.com

When trying to lose weight, many people feel they have to eliminate cheese from their diets. But what if you can lose weight and have your cheese, too? It’s less crazy than it sounds. One 2009 study found women who snacked on cheese were less likely to overeat later in the day. This was a relatively small study, but the results aren’t too hard to believe. Cheese contains both protein and fat, which are key to helping you stay full, so it can certainly quell midday hunger.

And forget about those waxy, low-fat varieties because the real deal is a lot less sinful than you think. According to research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating a diet rich in fatty cheeses may help lower cholesterol. Just keep your portion reasonable, or your snack could turn into a full-fledged meal.

5. Popcorn

bowl filled with rosemary popcorn

Popcorn with rosemary is a healthy choice. | iStock.com

Popcorn is another great option for healthy snacking. This theater favorite is a whole grain, meaning you actually get a decent amount of fiber. Today says you can chow down on 4 cups of air-popped kernels for about 120 calories and 5 grams of fiber. Just make sure you don’t douse it in butter. Instead, try adding a sprinkling of salt and some of your favorite spices.

6. Strawberries

hulled strawberries

Don’t ignore fruit. | iStock.com

Learning the consequences of eating too much sugar has spurred many folks to snub fruit, but this is actually a mistake. For one thing, fruit is also filled with plenty of fiber to help slow the rate at which the sugars enter our bloodstream. Strawberries are particularly good because, according to the USDA’s nutrient database, a 1-cup serving contains 53 calories and more than 3 grams of fiber.

Research has linked fruit consumption to staying slim. One study published in the British Medical Journal followed more than 124,000 people for 25 years, finding those who consumed the highest levels of flavonoids, which are abundant in strawberries, were more likely to maintain their weight.

7. Cauliflower

sauteed cauliflower in a skillet

Cauliflower is ideal for weight loss. | iStock.com

Most people think of white food as nutrition-less junk, but this isn’t always true. Cauliflower is actually packed with vitamins and minerals, which you can easily see over at Nutrition Data. It’s also one of the best veggies for slimming down.

A team of researchers from Harvard examined the effect specific fruits and vegetables had on weight fluctuations for more than 133,000 people. The results, published in PLOS Medicine, found cauliflower to be one of the best for losing weight.

8. Bananas

Bunch of Bananas

Bananas are full of healthy fiber and potassium. | iStock.com

Many people stay away from bananas when trying to eat better, seeing as they’re higher in both sugar and carbs than my fruit. There’s more to these fruits than carbs, however.

Shape explains they’re filled with fiber to help keep you full and the potassium acts as a natural diuretic. This means noshing on a banana can prevent your body from retaining excess fluid, which leads to bloating. And with just 105 calories per medium-sized fruit, they’re a super smart snack.

9. Peanut butter

Healthy oat bran bagel spread with creamy peanut butter.

Peanut butter in moderation isn’t the enemy. | iStock.com/rojoimages

Dieters often shun peanut butter because it’s high in calories and fats. You could be doing your diet a disservice and missing out on some delicious snacking opportunities by avoiding the condiment. Two recent studies suggest centering your meals around peanut butter could be the stuff great diets, and good meals are made of.

The studies, from Harvard and Penn State University respectively, inspired nutrition editor Holly McCord’s book The Peanut Butter Diet. “Overweight people thought peanut butter was taboo,” says McCord, “But studies now say that you don’t just lose weight on the diet, but you stick with the diet better, because peanut butter is tastier and more satisfying, compared to other low-fat, high-carb diets.”

10. Potatoes

potato

There are plenty of different potato varieties to try. | YelenaYemchuk/iStock/Getty Images

Enthusiasts call them a vegetable, cynics refer to them as the secret starchy killer. The truth about spuds? If you fry them and load them with cheese, they won’t be doing you any favors. However, if you boil and prepare potatoes in a healthy way, they’re an excellent source of potassium.

Research indicates a potato-rich diet can help lower blood pressure, and even contribute to weight loss. “The potato, more than perhaps any other vegetable, has an undeserved bad reputation that has led many health-conscious people to ban them from their diet,” said Joe Vinson, Ph.D., who headed the research. “When prepared without frying and served without butter, margarine or sour cream, one potato has only 110 calories and dozens of healthful phytochemicals and vitamins.”

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