July 2019

Could Nutrient-Rich Foods Be the Key to Long-Term Weight Loss?

Many weight-loss diets focus on calorie-counting, but research indicates that it may be more helpful to concentrate on what you eat instead of just on how much you eat.

Woman shopper talking with vendor at a farmers' market

Can I eat whatever I want?

In a word, no.

But you can enjoy a wide array of nutrient-rich foods—including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, eggs, seafood, lean meats and poultry, beans, and nuts—that will help keep you feeling satisfied. 

Nutrient-rich foods brim with vitamins and minerals, which help many of your body’s systems to run smoothly, including those involving the brain, heart, digestion, and blood sugar.

And—bonus for those watching their figure—nutrient-dense foods are naturally low in saturated fat, with little or no added fat, sugars, refined starches, or salt. 

But many Americans prefer processed items that are low in nutrients and packed with fat and added sugars, the very culprits that contribute to weight gain.

To buck the national trend of poor eating habits that lead to unwanted pounds, here’s a simple formula: Gradually incorporate a variety of nutrient-rich foods into your meals until they become part of your daily routine.

Shopping for nutrient-rich foods

Nutrient-rich foods are everywhere in the grocery store, often on the outer aisles instead of the middle aisles.

Keep your menu interesting with foods such as:

  • Whole-wheat pasta or tortillas; whole-grain crackers or breads; wild or brown rice.

    • TIP: Don’t rely on a product’s brown color because dye or molasses may have been added; instead, look for the words “whole grain.”

  • Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, romaine lettuce, spinach, sweet potatoes, and asparagus.

    • TIP: Select vibrant-colored veggies that taste as good as they look.

  • Apples, plums, blueberries, grapes, citrus fruits, melons, tomatoes, and avocados.

    • TIP: Mix it up and try fruit as snacks, side dishes, or desserts. 

  • Unsalted nuts and seeds and peanut butter.

    • TIP: Ditch the chips and snack on small handfuls of nuts or seeds.

  • Beans, lentils, and chickpeas.

    • TIP: Vary your meals with these nutrient-rich, alternative sources of protein.

  • Lean cuts of meats, including beef, pork, veal, lamb, and chicken breasts.

    • TIP: Look for the words “round,” “loin,” or “leg” in the names of meats to find lower-fat selections and bake, broil, or roast them after removing skin and visible fat.

  • Fresh fish and shellfish (or frozen or low-salt canned fish) including salmon and tuna.

    • TIP: Steaming, baking, poaching, or broiling are the healthiest ways to cook fish.

  • Fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1 percent) dairy products, including milk, cheese, and yogurt. 

    • TIP: Use plain nonfat yogurt in recipes instead of sour cream.

Bottom line: Replacing fat, sugar, and sodium-filled foods with nutritious alternatives can help you lose excess weight and keep it off.

Start today to make nutrient-rich foods a delicious habit—it could become your ticket to healthy weight for a lifetime. 

Start small

To get into the nutrient-rich swing of things, make small but delicious tweaks to your favorite foods. For example, start making your sandwiches on whole-grain bread, such as whole wheat or whole rye. Or top your morning bowl of oatmeal with raisins, dried cranberries, and blueberries.



Online Medical Reviewer: McDonough, Brian, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2019
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