When I finally decided it was time to lose weight and get back in shape, I didn't know where to begin or exactly what I should be eating. There are so many fad diets available and I did get sidetracked on the low-carb, Atkins diet, only to quickly discover that it wasn't for me.
A few years ago, I found a website that helped me understand what it takes to lose weight and gave me the motivation to do it. I have looked for it again for my own benefit and that of our readers. Unfortunately, I cannot find it. I did include all that I learned and listed what worked for my diet on our weight loss tips page so hopefully it can help you too.
Taking it from there, it would have been much easier to lose weight if I had known right from the start just what foods were low calorie and low fat, and what to combine for meals. We already know that most fruits and vegetables are beneficial, so this list excludes most of them.
Low Calorie / Diet Food List
I have compiled a list of low-calorie (and mostly low-fat) foods that were easy to prepare and healthy. Sometimes I will make some tasty sandwiches and add them to my list of meals.
You can make your own list of meals and sandwiches and write down the calories that you figured in a weight loss journal. This way you don't have to add them up every time you eat. Keep in mind, these are not foods low in carbohydrates, just low in calories. I found that by reducing the calories per day and adding some exercise was the easiest way for me to lose weight.
Prepackaged, frozen meals - Weight Watchers has "Smart Ones," there's Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice, and now the South Beach diet. I buy whatever looks good and/or is on sale, not because I am following a particular diet. These foods are healthy and offer variety.
Canned soup - Read the labels. Companies usually list more than one serving per can, so the calories and sodium are more that what you see at first glance. Healthy soups are costlier but the cans are larger and they're chunkier. Regular soup is fine as long as you keep track of calories, fat calories, and sodium.
Fat-Free hot dogs or chicken patties - These take some getting used to but they're filling and guilt-free. Some brands are unpalatable and simply not worth the extra money.
Lean lunch meat - A sandwich with lean lunch meat and some mustard or fat-free mayo will get you by until your next meal. It may cost more but there's no denying the difference between lean and regular. Again, read the labels.
Rice cakes - Plain rice cakes are only around 35 calories. Unsalted ones have very little sodium and are healthier. Other flavors are available and quite good. Even though they have a few more calories, they're worth the extra treat.
Bullion cubes - Dieting often makes you feel chilled. Drink bullion cubes dissolved in hot water to warm up and get a little food content. The only downside is that they're packed with salt, so don't get carried away.
Reduced calorie crackers & chips - These are good snacks that satisfy a need for crunchy foods. By keeping this craving under control, you'll reduce the chance of binging later on. Yes, you need to count the crackers and chips if you're counting calories. My favorites are reduced-calorie Cheese Nips, Wheat Thins and fat-free Pringles.
Breakfast and granola bars - Crunchy breakfast bars come in many different flavors and can be eaten as a fast meal if you're eating several times a day or as a satisfying snack.
Lowfat cottage cheese - Add a 1/2 cup of cottage cheese to your diet to balance it out. You'll get dairy benefits and only about 80 calories.
Cherry tomatoes - Besides the other fruits and vegetables that I like, a medium cherry tomato is packed with flavor. There are only about ten calories in four medium (2 oz.) cherry tomatoes.
Light yogurt - Light yogurt has more calories than what I'd like, but it's a treat. Pick your favorite flavor and reward yourself when your sweet tooth kicks in.
Popcorn - Surprised? I don't mean the prepackaged popcorn that you pop in the microwave, most of it is packed with calories and sodium. What's healthy is the old-fashioned, natural kernels that you need to pop in a hot-air popper. This gives you control of what is added. Still, you need to eat in moderation.
Currently, you can find healthy mini-bags such as Orville Redenbacher's Smart Pop® that you just pop in the microwave. This will add only 100 calories to your diet and quench your desire for munchies. A perfect snack.
Pickles - Load up on dill pickles and dill slices. This makes a nice "side dish" or snack and helps fill you up without giving you calories. Other pickles, such as "bread and butter" give you calories, so make sure you read the label.
Cool Whip Light - Are you an ice cream addict? Next time you have a craving, eat some frozen Cool Whip Light instead.
Sugar-Free Jello - Available in a large variety of flavors, you're in for a refreshing treat. Prefer pudding? look for Jello pudding cups that contain a mere 60 calories per cup.
Light Bread - Wonder light bread has only 40 calories per slice. Regular bread is around 60 per slice. That means eating a sandwich with light bread will save you 40 calories -- another slice of light bread!
Condiments and spreads - Did you know that most plain mustards have zero calories? The calorie content of ketchup varies by the brand. Either way, you need to count and add them to your daily list. Mayo is packed with calories so it's best to stick with the fat-free version (Kraft is my favorite brand.)
Butter or margarine is another no-no but you can find brands that offer fat-free spread although they sacrifice taste. Look for low-cal sprays for tasty veggies and grilled-cheese sandwiches. For a welcome change, spruce up a salad with healthy salsa sauce instead of salad dressing.
Do you love barbeque sauce but don't want to add the extra calories to your meal? Depending on how much you need, you can reduce the amount of sauce used by mixing in equal or more parts of ketchup (regular, carb-free or sugar-free.) You will soon get used to it and straight BBQ will taste too tangy. The same concept can be used for nacho and cheese dips by adding salsa to the cheese.
Beverages - Water is very beneficial to feeling full and satisfied. Drink liberally. Add some to your prepackaged meals and soup to add content and help you feel full, quicker. Your body needs extra water when it's eliminating fat, so stay hydrated. Tea, diet sodas and sugar-free drink mixes add variety. Fat-free hot chocolate is perfect for chocolate cravings and warms you up on a cold winter day.
Turkey BLT Recipe - Two slices of toast, two slices of turkey bacon, one slice of tomato, lettuce and 1/2 tbsp. of fat-free mayo makes a sandwich that's only about 220 calories, less than a prepackaged, frozen meal. Alternatively, you can use real bacon slices, which will only add a few extra calories.
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