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Published on June 18, 2021

8 Best Foods for Dieters to Eat Healthily

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8 Best Foods for Dieters to Eat Healthily

When looking to start a healthy diet, it can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many diet foods to choose from, and the media gives us mixed messages about which foods are healthy constantly. Luckily, a registered dietitian is here to quickly break down the best diet foods for dieters looking to lead a healthy lifestyle. Moreover, I’ll also provide some ideas on how to simply and easily incorporate these foods into your diet.

Here are the eight best diet food for a healthy body.

1. Nuts

Nuts often get a bad reputation due to their fat content. However, that is exactly what makes them great! Nuts have plenty of healthy fats called polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and fiber. These nutrients help to provide satiety after a meal and keep dieters full longer.

In addition to keeping you full, nuts have also been shown to help improve your health. For example, one study found that nuts helped improve blood glucose control, weight control, and heart health.[1]

One thing to keep in mind with nut consumption is that because of their high levels of fat, they have a lot of calories. It’s important that when you are eating nuts, you do so in moderation. The American Heart Association recommends that you consume about four servings of unsalted nuts per week. One serving of nuts is equal to a small handful of whole nuts (1.5 ounces). If you choose to use nut butter instead, a serving size is two tablespoons.[2]

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2. Lean Protein

When you’re dieting or looking to build muscle, you must eat enough protein. We hear this message all the time from personal trainers, magazines, and nutrition coaches, but what foods are they really talking about?

When you’re looking to increase your protein consumption, you want to focus on lean sources of protein. This includes things such as chicken breast and lean beef. Lean protein sources exclude items such as beef or pork, which have more saturated fat (an unhealthy type of fat that you should aim to reduce your intakes of).

In addition to helping you build muscle, protein is actually harder for our body to digest, meaning that we burn more calories in trying to do so. This is referred to as the “thermic effect of food.” Since our body has to work harder to digest lean protein, we end up storing fewer usable calories than if we eat carbohydrates or fat.[3]

3. Fish

Fish, like chicken breast or lean beef, is a high-protein food that is overall low in fat. While certain fishes, such as salmon, are fattier, these contain healthful fats similar to those found in nuts. The fat in fish also provides other nutrients to the body, such as Omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, glaucoma, and various mental health disorders, such as depression and dementia.[4]

Fish can also be a great protein source for individuals who follow a plant-forward, Mediterranean, or pescatarian diet. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that adults in the US eat two to three servings of fish per week with one serving being about the size of your palm (4 ounces).

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4. Whole Grains

While we’ve discussed the fact that protein has a much higher thermic effect on food than carbohydrates or fats, it is still crucial that we have healthy carbohydrates as a part of our diet. To do this, dieters will want to focus on choosing whole grain foods.

Whole grain products are less refined than their counterparts, meaning that they have more nutrients in them. Whole grains provide the body with fiber, which helps keep you feeling full longer and promotes satiety. Fiber can also help lower cholesterol and prevent blood clot formation.

Whole-grain foods also help the body to maintain a steady blood glucose level, something that’s important for all dieters but especially crucial for those with pre-diabetes or diabetes. These foods also supply the body with various vitamins and minerals, such as iron, Vitamin B, magnesium, zinc, copper, and antioxidants.[5]

If you’re looking for a way to introduce whole grains into your diet, try incorporating oatmeal into your breakfast! If plain old oatmeal feels too boring, you may want to try making Bircher Muesli, a blend of oats and any toppings you prefer, soaked overnight.

5. Legumes

While you have probably heard of nuts, lean protein, and whole grains, the term “legumes” may be a bit more foreign. Legumes are a category of vegetable and include items such as green peas, beans, chickpeas, and lentils.

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According to the American Diabetes Association, regular intake of legumes can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes and improve blood glucose control for those who have already developed this disease. They have also been shown to improve heart health, and research shows that they may improve weight control, which is key for dieters.[6]

Some legumes, such as chickpeas and beans, can also serve as a great source of lean protein for individuals who are looking to follow a more plant-based, vegetarian, or vegan diet. Throwing some chickpeas or rinsed, unsalted black beans on top of a salad or brown rice bowl can be a delicious way to get protein and keep yourself full without consuming animal products!

6. Berries

As we have noted, fiber is an extremely important nutrient for dieters. It can help improve blood glucose stability and improve heart health, all while keeping you full and satisfied after meals. Berries, like nuts and whole grains, are high in fiber. In addition, berries provide our bodies with antioxidants, which are substances that can help. prevent cell damage.[7]

It is best to consume antioxidants in whole foods rather than supplements, so go ahead and add some berries into your day! If you are still not convinced, check out these other benefits that fresh or frozen berries can provide.

7. Dark Leafy Greens

Dark leafy greens are yet another great source of fiber as well as other vitamins and minerals. For example, kale and spinach are high in Vitamins A, E, C, and K. Other dark leafy greens such as broccoli and mustard greens are high in many of the B-vitamins.

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Dark leafy greens also provide a high level of antioxidants, which, as previously noted, help prevent cell damage. Antioxidants have been known to help prevent osteoporosis and inflammatory diseases.[8] These greens are also low in calories and carbohydrates, which is helpful for those looking to slim down.

Adding dark leafy greens into your diet is so easy! They are the perfect base for a salad, or you can make a sandwich or wrap that includes them.

8. Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt has twice as much protein as regular yogurt, which we’ve already seen is very helpful for those individuals who are dieting. Additionally, greek yogurt has fewer carbohydrates than its regular counterpart.[9] Greek yogurt also provides your body with probiotics, which can help to improve gut health and reduce bloating.

When looking for greek yogurt, be sure to choose one that is lower in sugar to prevent the intake of unnecessary calories. Go for an unsweetened yogurt if possible, and add your own toppings such as berries or nuts to give it more flavor.

In Conclusion

If you are looking to start a diet while maintaining a healthy lifestyle, it’s not difficult. As we’ve discussed, there are so many healthful foods that many of us are already eating in our daily lives. If you are not eating some of these foods, it is so easy to start!

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If you’re looking for something a bit simpler, don’t be afraid to grab a handful of nuts as a snack or make some oatmeal for breakfast in the morning. These foods will help keep you full and provide your body with many of the nutrients it needs to help your diet on track.

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Featured photo credit: Louis Hansel via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Samantha Klig, RD

Registered Dietitian

What Is the Best Time to Take Your Vitamins? Do Vitamins and Supplements Help With Energy? 8 Best Foods for Dieters to Eat Healthily Flaxseed Oil vs Fish Oil: Which Is Better? Cod Liver Oil vs Fish Oil: Which Is Better?

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Published on August 24, 2021

What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work?

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What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work?

I’ve been a dietitian now for a long time (more years than I care to mention), and if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that fad diets are best avoided. This is why I’m so pleased that whole food diets are being talked about more and more.

Rather than a “diet,” I prefer to think of a whole food diet as a way of life. Eating this way is balanced, and it is a great way to support your all-around body health and longevity. Plus, it’s delicious and—in my opinion—not limiting either, which is a massive bonus.

A well-balanced diet follows some fairly basic principles and, in essence, consists of plenty of the following:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Lean protein
  • Nuts
  • Water

This is essentially all a whole food diet is. Unfortunately, there isn’t an accepted definition of the whole food diet, which means that there are some highly restrictive versions around and some involve principles to frame your diet around rather than strict rules.

Read on to learn more about the whole food diet as a framework for eating rather than a strict rule book of dos and don’ts that restricts your lifestyle.

What Is a Whole Food Diet?

By definition, a whole food diet consists of eating foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. It’s easy to get lost in a quagmire of organic, local, or pesticide-free, but a whole food diet is basically food in its most natural form. Obviously, spices can be ground and grains can be hulled, but you get the idea. You eat the whole food rather than what’s left after being refined or processed.

In other words, it involves a lot of cooking because whole foods do not involve anything processed. That means no premade sauces, dips, or convenience foods like chocolate bars, sweets, or ready-meals. It also includes things like tinned vegetables and white bread.

Why? Processed and convenience foods are often high in salt, saturated fat, and additives in comparison to anything homemade. Because of this, their toll on your overall health is higher.

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Can Other Diets Also Be Whole Food Diets?

Here’s where it gets confusing—yes, other diets can also be whole food diets. Eating a whole food diet is a lifestyle choice, but many other diets can exist within a whole foods construct. So, diets like the MIND Diet and Mediterranean Diet are also whole food diets.

For example, here are the foods involved in the MIND Diet:[1]

  • Green, leafy vegetables five times a week
  • Five or more different colored fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Berries five times a week
  • Five or more servings of nuts a week
  • Olive oil five times a week
  • Whole grains five times a week
  • Oily fish twice a week or take an algae-based omega-3 supplement
  • Legumes and pulses five times a week
  • White meat/mix of plant-based proteins twice a week
  • Vitamin D supplement
  • Minimally processed foods
  • No more than one glass of wine a day
  • One or two coffee or tea a day max
  • Two liters of water a day

That’s pretty much a whole food diet, right? As long as any meat or plant-based proteins are as unprocessed as possible, then it can be a whole food diet.

Other diets, like a vegan diet, for instance, could be whole food diets or not. It really depends if processed foods are included. Some food substitutes are really heavily processed, so it’s important to read labels really carefully. But it’s only some, not all.

And here’s where it gets woolly. If you don’t need to eliminate certain food groups for whatever reason—ethical, health, religion—then a whole food diet can be great. But if you do exclude certain foods, then it could be beneficial to include certain “processed” foods. This is to make sure that you don’t miss out on vital nutrients to keep you healthy.

Processed Foods That Are Okay on a Whole Food Diet

Many brands of cereals are fortified with B vitamins, which can be hard to come by on a plant-based diet.

For example, vitamin B12 (needed for maintaining a healthy nervous system, energy, and mood-regulation), is largely found in animal sources. It is something that those on a plant-based diet need to keep an eye on, as studies show that around 20% of us are deficient. And we also know that 65% of vegans and vegetarians don’t take a B vitamin supplement.[2]

So in that case, choosing a cereal fortified with B vitamins would be a good option, if done wisely. By that I mean use your discretion and check the labels, as many brands of cereals are packed with sugar and additives. But you can strategically choose minimally processed foods using a whole foods mentality.

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As a rule of thumb, if there are any ingredients that you can’t pronounce, don’t understand, or sound artificial, they probably are best avoided.

Benefits of a Whole Food Diet

In a 2014 analysis by Yale University, they concluded that “a diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”[3]

A diet rich in fruit and vegetables or other high-fiber foods like whole grains and nuts is really important in maintaining good long-term health and preventing health problems like diabetes and cancers. These kinds of foods also help our bodies to cope and control the effects of inflammation.

In fact, one review from 2019 stated that “diets high in plant foods could potentially prevent several million premature deaths each year if adopted globally.”[4] This is a big endorsement for a whole food diet.

Whole Foods and the Gut

Whole foods are loaded with fibers that are sometimes lost during processing or refinement. Fiber is essential for a healthy gut because aside from its traditional “roughage” reputation, it also feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut, providing a whole host of other benefits.

They also provide a lot of variety, which the gut loves. The more variety, the better. So, even though you might fall in love with certain recipes, it’s important to mix up the kinds of whole foods you eat to maintain a healthy gut. Aim for 30 different whole foods each week. It’s easier than you think!

Whole Foods and the Brain

The brain is a really hungry organ, and it uses 25% of the total energy you consume from your food. Everything it needs to function at its best is—you guessed it—a whole, unprocessed food.

In fact, the best diet recommended for brain health is the MIND Diet. In one study, it was shown that people who follow the MIND diet closely had a 53% reduced rate of developing Alzheimer’s.[5]

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Some of the best whole foods for the brain are:[6]

  • Oily fish
  • Nuts
  • Eggs
  • Berries
  • Broccoli
  • Whole grains

Is It Easy to Follow a Whole Food Diet?

Once you’ve got your head around having “ingredients” rather than “ready-to-eat” things in your kitchen cupboards, it’s actually very easy. The only issue is the lifestyle and habit changes that come along with it.

It is very likely that for many people, following a totally, religiously whole food diet may be unattainable at least some of the time. For example, there are days where you don’t get time to make your lunch or if you want to enjoy social eating. Similarly, people who have young children or who are working more than one job are unlikely to be able to follow a whole food diet all of the time.

Sometimes, we put ourselves under pressure to be as perfect as we can with diets like this, which can lead to an eating disorder called Orthorexia, which is a preoccupation with healthy eating.

This means that following a whole food diet, in principle, can be healthy and accessible for some people but not for everyone. It also means that those with previous disordered eating, as always, need to avoid any form of dietary restriction or rules around their diet.

Is a Whole Food Diet Boring?

Absolutely not! The beauty of this way of eating is that there are barely any recipes that are off-limits. If you can make it yourself using natural ingredients, then it counts. So, dig out your recipe books and get familiar with your spice cupboard.

Here’s my advice if you’re just starting: stock up on coconut milk and canned tomatoes. You’ll use them all the time in sauces.

Best Hacks for Sticking With a Whole Food Diet

Here are some tips to help you stick with a whole food diet and develop this lifestyle.

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1. Practice Batch Cooking

Especially in the beginning, if you’ve been used to eating more convenience-based or packaged foods, you’re likely to feel like you spend the majority of your life in the kitchen. So, I’d suggest getting your cookbooks out and planning around five things to make per week. If you make double, or even triple portions depending on your household, you’ll have enough quantity to last several meals.

For example, his could be homemade granola. Make it once, and that’s breakfast sorted for a week. Whole food diet ingredients like oats, quinoa, buckwheat, nuts, and seeds are all delicious, and great nutritional resources to keep you feeling full until lunchtime.

I also love to make big stews, sauces, and curries that can happily be reheated and added throughout the course of a few days.

2. Make Your Own Convenience Foods

Sticking to a new way of eating can be really difficult, especially for your willpower. So, it’s very important to make it as easy as possible for yourself.

Pre-chop. Pre-chop. Pre-chop.

If you’ve got a container of carrot sticks on hand or can happily munch on a few pieces of melon from the fridge, use those—it’s almost easier than grabbing something from a package. This can extend to your other vegetables, too. If you get your veg delivered or buy it from a market, choose a few things to slice after you wash them. That way, if you need a speedy lunch or a lazy dinner, it’ll be ready in minutes.

Ready to Try a Whole Food Diet?

If you’re looking to maximize your overall health, well-being, and vitality, I’d absolutely suggest a whole food diet. But, as with everything, it’s important to do what works for you and your own lifestyle.

Featured photo credit: Louis Hansel – Restaurant Photographer via unsplash.com

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Reference

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