Let me guess: you’re here because you’re either starting a weight loss journey or you’ve already begun but aren’t getting any significant results.
In any case, knowing what to eat when trying to lose weight is one of the most crucial factors to successfully shedding all those pounds — and, perhaps more importantly, keep them off for good.
Foods that are high in fiber, packed with protein, high water content, low calorie, or suppress your hunger hormones in some shape or form are what you’re going to want to focus on.
It’s these types of food that can quickly fill you up and make you feel satisfied for longer, helping you eat less calories per day and, of course, lose weight.
Having said that, I’ve prepared a list of food and recipes that you can get ideas from. However, I urge you not to be limited by them as I will also be highlighting the ingredients that make them great for weight loss so you can use them to craft your own slimming meals.
Moreover, I’ll be categorizing them into either breakfast, lunch, or dinner. So, just pick and choose which ones you want to try. Let’s get to it!
What to eat for breakfast when trying to lose weight
Several experts have said that breakfast should be your largest meal of the day — and for weight loss, I agree! Per the MayoClinic, breakfast can help make you feel less hungry the whole day which, in turn, also helps you stick to healthier food choices.
Here’s what I recommend:
Banana protein pancakes
Pancakes are a lot of people’s go-to breakfasts. After all, they’re easy, quick, and delicious! That combination is as close to perfect as it gets if you ask me.
However, pancakes are also packed with both carbs and calories. The solution? Make them lighter and add a heck of a lot of protein.
That’s exactly what The Creative Bite did with her protein pancake recipe. She took out the flour to reduce the calories and carb count and added a ripe banana and 2 scoops of vanilla protein powder. There’s 2 large eggs in there, too, for good measure and a bit of cinnamon for flavor
Per research, the protein you get from both the eggs and the powder will help keep your appetite in check which, in turn, may lead to you eating less calories on your next meals.
Of course, the macronutrients will vary depending on what protein powder you use but here’s what’s listed in the recipe:
Macros: 168 calories | 16g carbs (2g fiber) | 16g protein | 5g fat
Fiber and protein packed oatmeal
Unlike regular pancakes, oatmeal is one of the healthiest foods around. Even the everyday, run-of-the-mill oatmeal recipe is going to get you a bunch of vitamins and minerals and, perhaps more importantly to this topic, a lot — and I mean a lot — of fiber.
According to research, a specific fiber in oatmeal called beta-glucan makes both instant and old-fashioned oatmeal far better than ready-to-eat cereal in regulating hunger and appetite.
That alone makes it a great option for whenever you’re contemplating what you eat for breakfast when trying to lose weight.
Not only that, oatmeal is incredibly versatile in the kitchen.
One good example of this is how Skinny Fitalicious mixes in powdered peanut butter, vanilla protein powder, chia seeds, flax, cinnamon, and almond milk to her oatmeals to add a butt-load of protein to her breakfast while also tremendously increasing the flavor.
Macros: 368 calories | 46g carbs (14.4g fiber) | 30.7g protein | 10.8g fat
Whether its fruit or green smoothies, these drinks are an easy and quick way to get a weight loss breakfast. The best thing about them, in my opinion, is that you can add literally whatever fruit, grains, or vegetable you want. As an extension, how your smoothies taste depend on what you put in them, too.
To make them even better for weight loss, try adding ingredients with more protein.
Macros: 286 calories | 27.9g carbs (6g fiber) | 16.8g protein | 11.6g fat
Egg breakfasts are great for weight loss!
Research shows that when you’re trying to get a slimmer figure, eating egg breakfasts showed better improvements in BMI, weight loss, and fat loss compared to bagels — even when both of them are served in equal calories!
Oh, and speaking of calories, 1 large egg has roughly 70 calories (per the USDA) and 6 grams of protein. This high protein-low calorie combination is largely what makes eggs so great for weight loss.
Even better is that there are nearly endless ways to prepare eggs and make them even better for weight loss.
From time to time, I find myself making this version of tomato omelettes from HurryTheFoodUp because it’s easy and delicious. With 2 eggs, cherry tomatoes, basil, cheese, and olive oil, you get a sweet, salty, and absolutely weight-friendly omelette that goes well with toast.
Macros: 342 calories | 11.2g carbs (3.2 fiber) | 20.2g protein | 25.3g fat
With all these talk about high protein breakfasts being great for weight loss, it’s only right that protein shakes make the list. After all, a lot of recipes you’ll see here have this as an ingredient.
There’s a bunch of choices out there, too. Personally, I’m all for old-school Gold Standard double rich chocolate. It’s what I used when I first started fitness and it’s still what I use now that I’m somewhat of a veteran.
There are a bunch of awesome plant-based protein powders around, too. I think Vega’s Sport Premium Protein is a good example but it’s also just among the best plant-based protein powders out there.
What to eat for lunch when trying to lose weight
It’s different for everyone but I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that lunch is typically lighter than dinner. After all, you’re probably going to be at school or at work when noon time rolls over, so you won’t have time to prepare a lot of food. You won’t have a lot of time to eat either as lunch breaks are usually just an hour long.
In this case, I think meal-prepping is key. These don’t have to be elaborate meals but, in my opinion, they do need to taste good enough that you don’t get tempted to eat elsewhere but they also need to be filling and weight loss-friendly. Here are a few foods you might want to have for lunch:
Chicken salad with avocado and cucumber
Chicken, avocados, and cucumbers — they all scream weight loss!
Chicken, as you might already know, is loaded with lean protein. That’s why a lot of fitness enthusiasts, models, and bodybuilders have chicken as one of their staple ingredients, be it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Avocados, on the other hand, are packed full of healthy fat. You need this for a healthy hormonal balance when trying to lose weight.
Jayne Rain has a simple recipe using these ingredients that I think you’ll enjoy.
Macros: 372 calories | 19g carbs (8g fiber) | 18g protein | 27g fat
Shrimp and asparagus stir fry
Shrimp and asparagus are other staples that you’d find in almost every fitness buff’s meal plan.
Specifically for weight loss, 100g of shrimp will get you 20g of protein and only 85 calories. The fat and carbs are both negligible at almost 0 (per the USDA). Of course, how you cook your shrimps will change these values but as a base ingredient, it’s one of the best sources of low-calorie, lean protein.
Asparagus is also another low-calorie food you can add to your diet (only 20 calories every 100g, per the USDA), not to mention its high fiber (2g) and water (93%) content. It adds a bit of protein, too. All these qualities are positively associated with weight loss.
That being said, Tasty has a simple but delicious recipe based on these 2. They’re cooked with olive oil, red pepper, garlic, ginger, lemon juice, and a bit of soy sauce.
Macros: 270 calories | 6g carbs (2g fiber) | 26g protein | 15g fat
Salmon curry and zucchini noodles (with coconut milk)
Of course, the stars of this recipe are salmon and zucchini.
Salmon is rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids which multiple studies have shown beneficial for weight loss. The fish is also packed with protein with relatively few calories. The exact numbers vary depending on where you get your salmon from just so you have an idea, the USDA says 100g of wild Atlantic salmon gets you about 20g of protein at only 142 calories.
On the other hand, zucchini has fiber and is about 95% water (per the USDA), making it a great addition to your list of what to eat when trying to lose weight.
Plus, the salmon is flavored with curry. Curry has turmeric as one of its staple ingredients and, according to research, the curcumin in turmeric is associated with reduced BMI, weight, and hunger.
Check out this recipe from Food Faith Fitness.
Macros: 408 calories | 17.8g carbs (5g fiber) | 27.2g protein | 26g fat
Tuna and avocado sandwich
I don’t know about you but very few things are better for pre-made lunches than sandwiches. And, to make them weight loss friendly, tuna and avocado sandwiches work great.
As previously mentioned, avocados have healthy fat that you want to have regardless if you’re trying to gain or lose weight.
Tuna has these same healthy fats, too. Also, they’re high in protein no matter the brand or flavor you get.
Here’s a simple tuna and avocado sandwich recipe from Weight Loss Resources. You can do this in about 10 minutes in the morning and brown bag it for lunch later.
Macros: 340 calories | 27.4g carbs (6.5g fiber) | 33.1g protein | 10.5g fat
Low calorie tuna wraps
Sandwiches aren’t the only thing you can do with canned tuna. Wraps are pretty good for lunch, too!
However, you also have to choose the right wraps to keep it low cal. I think Joseph’s Lavash Bread is a good example of what you should try to look for as each flatbread only has 120 calories but also adds 12g of protein and 4g of fiber.
As for how you should make the wraps, VeryWell Fit has an easy recipe using tuna and wraps (duh) as well as celery, bell peppers, yogurt, and spinach — all very weight-friendly ingredients.
Macros: 248 calories | 23g carbs (5g fiber) | 27g protein | 5g fat
What to eat for dinner when trying to lose weight
First of all, I think dinner and lunch meals are largely interchangeable. Some people just love eating more food at night while others prefer to dig in at noon. So, feel free to consider the recipes below as your lunch, if that’s what you feel works best for you.
Second of all, I think your dinner has to be satiating so you don’t get hungry before you sleep. Otherwise, you’re more likely to grab more food and add even more unnecessary calories to your day.
With that being said, the aim of the food/recipes I listed here is to keep you from going hungry without skimping on nutrients. Take a look:
Balsamic mustard pork chops
Pork chops are another great source of protein that’s great for weight loss.
If you want it extra lean, boneless pork chops are your go-to. Personally though, I go for bone-in pork chops because the added fat between the bones and meat add more flavor. The extra calories I get from this is minimal and I can always adjust my macros on my other meals.
Anyhow, I think these balsamic mustard pork chops from Tastes Lovely is an easy and wonderful recipe you can try. Although it’s advertised for the ketogenic diet, I don’t see why you can’t enjoy it as well.
Serve this with some brown rice, fresh fruit and/or vegetables, and you’ve got added fiber in there, too.
Macros: 402 calories | 6.7g carbs (1.8g fiber) | 52.2g protein | 17.7g fat
Cuban pork tenderloin
From what I know, cuban pork recipes tend to use pork shoulders rather than tenderloins. Shoulders are a cheaper cut of meat but tenderloins are said to be the leanest cut of pork which, consequently, may make it better for weight loss.
Plus, shoulders are far more tough than tenderloins, so they generally take more time to prepare.
In any case, this cuban pork recipe from Delicious Little Bites uses pork tenderloins and just 1 serving has ridiculously high amounts of protein, so it’s going to keep you full for longer. Not only that, it’s delicious and easy to do, too. And, if you use a kitchen thermometer, you take the guesswork out of the cooking process.
Macros: 480 calories | 12g carbs (1g fiber) | 48g protein | 26g fat
Zesty quinoa salad
The star of this recipe, of course, is quinoa. Many people, including myself, consider it a superfood because it’s packed full of vitamins and minerals. It’s high in fiber, too, and a great source of plant-based protein which is largely why you find it in many weight loss meals.
Specifically, the USDA says that a cup of quinoa holds about 8g of protein and 5g of fiber. Pair quinoa with chicken, beef, pork, or any other high protein food source and you’ve got yourself a hearty yet weight friendly meal.
You could also serve quinoa as a salad to keep it light. One good example is this zesty quinoa salad from scrumdiddly on AllRecipes(.com). It’s got other weight-loss friendly ingredients such as black beans, cilantro, onions, and cherry tomatoes to help make you satisfied faster and for a longer period of time.
The result is a low calorie meal with nearly equal parts protein and fiber.
Macros: 297 calories | 33.8g carbs (8.4g fiber) | 8.9g protein | 11.5g fat
Roasted eggplant and tomato orzo pasta
Pasta, in general, is loaded with calories so a lot of people cut them off of their diets whenever they’re trying to lose weight. However, research suggests that choosing whole wheat or whole grain pasta can keep your weight loss goals going. This is in large part because of the higher fiber content.
Case in point, this particular recipe from Cookie and Kate uses whole wheat pasta to up the fiber content.
Another notable ingredient is eggplant. Eggplants add even more fiber to the meal but they’re also about 92% water (per the USDA), making it great for shedding all those extra pounds.
Macros: 444 calories | 53.5g carbs (11g fiber) | 10.2g protein | 22.5g fat
Cheesy ground turkey casserole with eggplant
Turkey is another great source of lean protein — one of the best ones, if I might add. And, if you buy it ground, it’s cheaper than even ground beef. Plus, if you use ground turkey breasts instead of other parts, like thighs for example, you get an even leaner product.
The protein content and price alone should put it near the top of your choices if you’re still deciding what to eat when trying to lose weight.
There’s plenty of weight loss-friendly recipes to choose from, too. There are all sorts of meatballs, burgers, and pasta recipes. Personally though, I like using ground meat for casseroles.
This ground turkey and eggplant casserole recipe from Eating Bird Food looks a lot like lasagna, to be honest, but no matter the aesthetics, it still remains low calorie while holding a lot of protein, fiber, and water.
Macros: 210 calories | 10g carbs (3g fiber) | 19g protein | 10g fat
Here are other foods that can help you lose weight
Tea and coffee
Both of these have been among the most popular drinks in the whole world. They both also have caffeine in them which, according to research, amplifies the amount of calories you burn while keeping your appetite at bay.
However, be careful not to overload your drinks with sugar. Doing so will only be counterproductive.
It’s not just food with high water content that helps you lose weight. It’s drinking actual water, too.
In particular, you’re going to want to drink a couple glasses of water before your meals. Per research, this helps you consume less calories which then leads to weight loss.
Capsaicin is the compound that gives chilli peppers their heat. As shown in research, it also suppresses your appetite and makes you feel full, boosts fat breakdown while preventing fat from being formed, and amplifies your metabolism. That’s incredible, eh?
So, whenever you’re cooking something up, maybe sprinkle a teaspoon or two of cayenne in there.
Oh, it’s not just cayenne either. We’ve got a whole list of the best spices and herbs for weight loss that you can add to your pantry.
And there you have it — ideas for what to eat when trying to lose weight. But, before I end this, I have to reiterate something:
Don’t box yourself in with these recipes.
Instead, focus on the food that makes them great for weight loss. These include anything that’s high in fiber, protein, and water, as well as herbs, spices, and other foods with properties that help keep your appetite down and those that help you burn more calories.
If you know anyone struggling with their weight loss journey, share this with them, will ya? The more people we help, the better!