Spry editor Lisa Delaney is one of the rare souls who know what it’s like to be an “after.” This journalist and author of Secrets of a Former Fat Girl shed 70 pounds—and six dress sizes–and has kept it off for 20 years. She answers your questions here each week.
DEAR FORMER FAT GIRL: I’m 63 and want to lose 25 lbs. What foods can I eat to help me lose weight and keep it off?—Mrs. Morton
DEAR MRS. MORTON: If your email inbox is anything like mine, you’re bombarded daily with info about magical berries, seeds and other edibles out there with a high ratio of consonants to vowels in their names that magically “melt away” extra pounds. But if you buy that, I can introduce you to a guy who says he didn’t think he was cheating when he doped his way to seven straight Tour de France titles—he’s in need of a new fan club president. (Ouch.)
We can hold out hope, of course, but as far as we know now, there really is no weight loss superfood. There are tried-and-true strategies, though, for eating your way to a healthier weight, and even some specific foods that will help you along the way. I can’t promise that they’ll have the same wow factor as those Facebook ads touting miraculous results from some plant foraged from rain forests by pygmies, but they’re legit.
Green veggies. I’ll start with the boring-est of the boring—because frankly, greens should be your very best friend when you’re trying to lose weight. I’m talking deep green lettuces, spinach, kale (yes, kale!), onto cruciferous veggies like broccoli and celery, beans, peas, sugar snap peas. Green veggies aren’t just nutritious—they have a high fiber and water content, so they can keep you fuller on fewer calories. Focus on getting as many servings as possible—you can’t go wrong. Make it a point to start at breakfast—have a green smoothie (see our recipe here), or a handful of spinach with your eggs, etc.
Breakfast. You’ve probably heard it before, but breakfast IS the most important meal a day. A healthy mix of protein, whole grains and a bit of fat will jump-start your metabolism as well as keep you from overeating later in the day. If you opt for cereal, watch the sugar—choose 100 percent whole-grain cereals with no more than 6g of sugar per serving. An egg sandwich on a 100-calorie whole grain English muffin, or oatmeal with unsweetened almond milk and just a bit of honey are good choices. If you don’t like breakfast food, who says you can’t have half a turkey sandwich, last night’s grilled chicken with veggies, or even a salad? The important thing is to start your day off with a nutritious meal.
Whole grains. If you’re going to eat carbs (and there’s no real evidence that you shouldn’t when you’re trying to lose weight) go for slower-digesting, high-fiber brown rice, sprouted grain bread, bulgur and the like. Quinoa is often spoken of as a wonder grain because in addition to fiber it’s packed with appetite-satisfying, slow-burning protein, the kind of stuff that sticks with you so you stay fuller longer.
Lean protein. Turkey and chicken breast (and even thighs) without the skin, leaner cuts of beef (Eye of round, sirloin tips, top round, bottom round and top sirloin are your best bets) fish and shellfish and pork tenderloin (trimmed) can give you energy and stave off hunger.
Spices. Certain spices like turmeric can give your metabolism a bit of a boost—just don’t expect miracles. Read more about them here.
Grilled, baked, roasted, broiled, steamed and (maybe) sautéed foods. Preparation method is important especially when you’re trying to keep fat content down. These methods are the leanest when it comes to preparing entrees and side dishes. One caution: When sautéing, be super-conscious of the amount of fat you use, and opt for healthier oils like olive oil rather than butter, which contains saturated fat. Fried foods should be eaten very rarely—fewer than once a week.
Legumes. Legumes like dried beans, lentils and chickpeas are another source of high-fiber protein that can keep you fuller longer. Toss them into salads, stews and soups or eat as side dishes.
Soups and salads. People who start a meal with a broth-based soup or salad course has been shown to take in fewer calories over the entire meal, so it’s a good strategy to employ whether you’re eating out or at home.
Apples, berries, watermelon. These nonstarchy, high-fiber fruits get much of their bulk from water, so they’re filling on few calories.
No or low-cal liquids (a.k.a. water). I have always preferred to chew my calories rather than sip them (except for the occasional glass of wine)—that’s just me. But now there’s scientific proof that liquid calories don’t satisfy your appetite as well as calories from solid food. Stick with water, unsweetened tea, seltzer if you like bubbles. Newer studies also suggest limiting artificially sweetened beverages, which could inadvertently stimulate your sweet tooth and up your cravings for the real thing.
Lisa Delaney is editor of Spry magazine and Spryliving.com. Ask her your question here.