The Best Foods To Eat When Trying To Lose Weight (And What To Avoid)

Trying to lose weight is never easy. It can be frustrating, especially when you want fast results. At the start of a new diet, results may seem quick, and you are motivated to continue. However, it is often a result of water loss and not fat loss and doesn’t last for long.

To keep your motivation and momentum going, and to avoid a weight loss plateau, it is important to focus on the quality of your diet. Opting for nutritious, low-calorie foods can help prevent your weight loss results from slowing down.

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Why do plateaus happen?

Despite exercising and focusing on learning what foods to eat to help you lose weight, many people will still hit a plateau at some point in their weight loss journey. Why does it happen, and how can you overcome it?

Hitting a plateau means that you stop losing weight. There are many theories for this, including the following¹:

  • Your body adapts. As you lose weight, you weigh less, requiring fewer calories than before to do your daily activities.

  • Many people see the results of their weight loss journey and then "splurge" more often to celebrate.

It may be disheartening when you hit a plateau, but try to push forward. You can help yourself get over it by increasing your daily exercise or further lowering the daily calories you consume.

Why do you need to focus on eating nutritious foods?

Some say that a calorie is a calorie no matter the source. Unfortunately, this is not true. Calories from foods that contain lots of nutrients such as fruits and vegetables are always better² for your health than the calories you get from processed foods such as potato chips and candies.

Fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, low-fat dairy, lean meats, and nuts and seeds contain all the essential vitamins and minerals required for your overall health and wellbeing.  However, understanding adequate portion sizes can be tricky.

A great method to try at your next mealtime is MyPlate³. It is a meal guide designed to help you portion your plate for effective weight loss. It suggests eating half a plate of fruit and vegetables, a quarter of the plate of whole grains, and the remaining quarter filled with a protein source.

This method will assist you to get:

  • Plenty of nutrients 

  • Sufficient portion sizes, and

  • Adequate calories to give you sustained energy throughout the day. 

Tips for a successful weight loss plan

Before you begin any diet, there are things you can do to set yourself up for success. If you want to get a good start⁴, you will find a variety of tips and tricks. Some of the most important include the following:

Set goals for your weight loss

Before you start a diet, set realistic and achievable expectations for yourself. Avoid setting unrealistic goals such as wanting to lose 50 pounds in two months, as there is a good chance you are setting yourself up to fail. Instead, plan goals that are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound.⁵

Keep a food and weight journal

Maintaining a food journal lets you keep a record of what you are eating, how it makes you feel, what its nutritional values are, and the variety of your menu to ensure you are consuming a range of nutritious foods.

A weight journal, on the other hand, lets you measure your progress. It allows you to look back and see how far you have come.

Eat regularly

It may seem odd, but some say that when dieting, eating more is sometimes less. This does not mean bigger portions, but rather having smaller but more frequent meals throughout the day to help curb your hunger levels. Having up to six small meals per day⁶ instead of three large meals may actually help reduce your overall daily intake, which may help you lose weight.

Focus on vegetables and fiber

A diet that is high in fiber will keep you feeling fuller longer. Therefore, you should make it a priority to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to reach the recommended 25 to 30 grams of fiber⁷ per day.

Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water is crucial when you are trying to lose weight. Drinking a glass of water before eating a meal can help reduce the likelihood of overconsuming at your next meal, keeping you feeling fuller for longer.

Limiting drinks rich in added sugars such as alcohol, soft drinks, and cordials may also help keep your weight loss results progressing.

Have a partner in your journey

Having a partner or a diet buddy⁸ who joins you on your weight loss journey can be helpful in maintaining your accountability and motivation. The two of you can encourage each other to push through it when things get difficult (as it definitely will).

The best foods to eat when trying to lose weight

The best types of food to eat in your weight loss journey are going to be foods richest in nutrients and volume, yet low in calories. Below are some examples:

  • Eggs

  • Salmon, tuna, lean poultry, and meats

  • Vegetables and salad

  • Boiled or steamed potatoes

  • Beans and legumes

  • Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat

  • Fruit

  • Low-fat dairy such as skim milk and natural yogurt

What foods to avoid?

You should limit your intake of foods that are highly processed, calorie-dense, and with minimal nutrients. These include the following:

Sugary beverages

Soft drinks, alcohol, cordial, and energy drinks are all very high in added sugar. They also offer very little nutritional value.

Baked goods, pastries, and desserts

Cookies, cakes, pastries, brownies, and muffins are all high in sugar and fat.

Deep-fried foods

Fish and chips, fries, and fried chicken are all very high in calories, salt content, and unhealthy fats.

Highly refined carbohydrates

 White bread, white pasta, and white rice are less filling and contain less fiber than whole-grain varieties.

Processed meats

Processed meats such as sausages, hot dogs, salami, and jerky contain added salt and saturated fats that will not be helpful for you when you are trying to lose weight, or for your overall health in general.  

Design your meal plan

Now that you know what foods may assist you with weight loss, it is time to plan and put your knowledge to use.

What will your meal plan look like? We’ve come up with some popular examples below:


  • Smoked salmon, avocado, and eggs on whole-grain toast 

  • Berry smoothie with mixed berries, natural yogurt, rolled oats, and milk 

  • Porridge cooked in low-fat milk topped with fresh fruit 

Morning snacks

Rice cakes topped with boiled eggs, low-fat ricotta, or avocado 

Fresh sliced apples with peanut butter 


Soups, salads, sandwiches, or wraps on whole-grain bread packed with plenty of protein, like fish, poultry, lean meat, or legumes.

Afternoon snack

Natural yogurt, fresh fruit 


  • Grilled salmon, steamed potatoes, and green vegetables 

  • Stir fry with lean beef strips, lots of vegetables, and buckwheat noodles 

  • Roast chicken with roasted root vegetables and green salad

There are many recipes⁹ available online that you may check out during your weight loss journey. It is important to ensure you are choosing foods that you like,  rather than forcing yourself to eat the things you don't. Doing so will ensure that your diet is successful and sustainable, and will assist you in reaching your ideal weight.

  1. What to do about a weight loss plateau | Medical News Today

  2. The best diet: Quality counts | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

  3. What is my plate? | USDA MyPlate

  4. 12 tips to help you lose weight | NHS

  5. How to make your goals achievable | MindTools

  6. Is eating 6 meals a day good? | MedicineNet

  7. Fibre | Nutrition Australia

  8. Does the “buddy system” approach to weight loss work? | Science Daily

  9. Dash diet recipes | Mayo Clinic

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