Simply stepping on a scale doesn’t give the whole picture when it comes to one’s health. Waist circumference, body fat distribution, body fat composition, bone density, and blood work are additional measurements that can provide clarity and realities of what is really going on with one’s body. Even thin individuals go head-to-head with the battle of belly fat or having measurements that don’t seem like they would line up with their body weight. Thin doesn’t necessarily translate into healthy. With that being said, most individuals want to see body fat disappear, the number on the scale to go down and body fat percentage to improve because it is seen in the mirror or felt when doing sit ups during an exercise class. We already know diet contributes to 80% of what is going on from a weight management side of things, but what foods in particular prevent the weight gain in the first place? What foods can be included in a meal plan when the goal is weight loss? Let’s check it out…
- Whole grains. Oats, quinoa, barley, wheat berries, farro, and wild rice are whole grains everyone should have in their grocery cart. In multiple long term studies, the incorporation of whole grains and foods high in dietary fiber has shown to prevent weight gain. For those trying to lose weight, including whole grains may actually show favor in losing more belly fat compared to dieters who exclude whole grains. However, avoid the grains high in added sugar. For example, instead of the brown sugar flavored oatmeal choose plain and add ground cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Leafy greens. Spinach, arugula, kale, swiss chard, collard greens, romaine, watercress and more. These fibrous leafy greens are loaded with water, lutein, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin E, and the ever-so-important dietary fiber. Leafy greens are especially high in insoluble fiber—the type of fiber that can help move things along your digestive track. Adding some “roughage” to your diet, on a consistent basis, can help alleviate irregular GI issues, bloating, constipation and more if consumed with plenty of water.
- Beans and Legumes. These plant based protein sources are very high in soluble fiber. Once cooked, a half-cup portion will actually provide just as much soluble fiber as two cups of cooked oatmeal. Those who increase fiber intake can reduce the risk of added weight gain over time according to Liu and colleagues when evaluating the Nurses’ Health Study which followed over 74,000 females (12-year follow up).
- Nuts and Seeds. Even though nuts and seeds are calorically high and rich in dietary fats, avoiding them because of those reasons is not what you want to do. Consuming 1-2 oz. per day provides a solid source of dietary fiber, unsaturated fats, vitamin E, magnesium, small amounts of protein and beneficial for your heart, brain and muscles. This combination of nutrients will leave you feeling very satisfied. Those who actually consume proper portions of nuts on a daily basis not only improve their diet, but body composition, BMI, and waist circumference does not increase according to a meta-analysis conducted by Flores-Mateo and colleagues published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2012). If you are looking for the mid-afternoon snack then nuts are the perfect thing to satisfy your hunger.
- Avocado. In a recent 2013 Nutrition Journal study, researchers found that those who added half of one avocado at lunch (~112-125 calories) felt more satisfied and less desire to eat over the next three to five hours among overweight individuals. This healthy fruit also showed to help stabilize blood sugars—another reason to include this food in the diet. Use avocado as a creamy sandwich spread or dice and top onto a chicken salad.
To sum this up, it is extremely important to stay on a regular eating cycle by eating every three to four hours no matter what time you wake up. In order to get these foods into your regular day, sit down on a Sunday and plan your weekly meals. Break it down by breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Getting sick of brown rice pilaf? Change up the grain and use wheat berries instead of rice. Can’t think of various ways to use an avocado? Make a salsa and top over a poached egg or grilled salmon filet. Think outside the box and your belly will appreciate it.