- You don’t have to focus on restriction or cutting out food groups to lose weight, dietitians say.
- Instead, try adding nutritious foods like protein sources, fiber-rich vegetables, and other whole foods.
- Focusing on what you can eat instead of depriving yourself can help make a diet sustainable.
Losing weight doesn’t have to feel restrictive — adding healthy options to your diet can be a more effective way to see results than cutting out certain foods, according to dietitians.
To reduce body fat, you need to be in a calorie deficit, eating fewer calories than you burn off in the form of exercise and activity. But you don’t have to cut out treats, eliminate carbs, or fast for long hours.
Instead, focus on getting enough protein, fiber, and whole foods, so you can enjoy meals while still lowering overall calorie intake to lose weight and keep it off long-term, dietitians say.
Eating more protein can keep you full and support your metabolism
One way to make your diet more satisfying and support weight loss is to include variety of protein sources to help you feel full, sports dietitian Angie Asche previously told Insider.
“Satiety is a big factor,” Asche said. “If your goal is muscle strength and you want to decrease fat, than upping your intake might be helpful.”
Protein is an essential macronutrient for maintaining tissues like muscles. Evidence suggests getting enough of it can help you lose weight by preserving muscle mass, keeping your metabolism strong as you burn fat.
The right amount of protein for most people is between 0.5 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, sports dietitian Nancy Clark previously told Insider.
However, it is possible to eat too much protein, which can cause you to overdo it on calories and won’t lead to additional weight-loss or muscle-building benefits, according to Asche.
“Anything in excess, if you’re not wanting to gain weight, may not be helpful,” she said.
Fiber-rich foods help control appetite and keep your digestion healthy
Another strategy for eating more food and fewer calories is to load up on fiber, a type of carbohydrate found in foods such as legumes, fruit, veggies, and whole grains.
Fiber slows digestion, which can keep you full after a meal to support healthy weight loss. It also feeds the beneficial bacteria in the digestive system known as the gut microbiome, which is linked to benefits such as a healthy weight and lower risk of disease.
High-fiber meals and snacks include oatmeal, black bean wraps, nuts, and rice bowls, according to dietitian Bianca Tamburello. The FDA recommends adults consume 28 grams of fiber per day.
Fill your plate with whole foods like veggies to cut calories without feeling deprived
A common dieting mistake is focusing on restricting foods to lose weight, which can leave you cranky, hungry, and less likely to stick to your plan, dietitian Jaclyn London previously told Insider.
Instead, prioritizing adding healthy foods to make sure you’re meeting your nutritional needs, she said.
“Think about ‘more’ — more produce, more fruit,” London said. “The more you can think about including, the more satisfying your meals can be.”
A good starting point is to make the majority of your plate non-starchy veggies like leafy greens, according to Dr. Mark Hyman, a family physician who specializes in a food-as-medicine approach to health.
He said eating more whole foods can help you cut out processed foods, which are less nutritious and linked to a wide range of health issues such as heart disease and cancer. Evidence also shows processed foods are “hyperpalatable,” causing you to eat more than intended.
Structuring your meals around nutrient-dense whole foods for about 90% of your diet leaves the remaining space in your calorie budget to treat yourself, dietitian Georgie Fear previously told Insider.
“Think about what foods you enjoy the most and find a frequency that works for you. That’s still a healthy diet,” he said.