When it comes to the age-old question: Is diet or exercise more important for weight loss? you’ve probably heard that weight loss is 80 percent diet and 20 percent exercise. And while it’s tough to put a number on it, Freshly’s head nutritionist Brooke Scheller, DCN, MS, agrees with this rough breakdown for weight loss. Which likely leaves you wondering how to eat to lose weight.
“What we put in our bodies plays the greatest role in weight management,” she says. “Calorie counting makes sense to many people because it’s a simple math equation, but bodies are extremely complicated, and how they work varies from person to person.”
How to eat to lose weight
Research shows that the number of calories you burn throughout the day has more to do with what you eat than how much, notes Scheller. So what exactly should you eat if you’re trying to lose weight? Keep reading to find out!
Go for foods high in protein, fiber, and fat
Not all calories are created equal: “For example, 100 calories coming from a high-sugar food will cause a big spike to your blood sugar and lead to hunger shortly after,” says Scheller. “On the other hand, 100 calories from fat, protein, or high-fiber foods will help keep you feeling more satisfied and full for longer.”
So rather than worry so much about the number of calories in a food, focus more on what nutrients it has that will fuel your body. (And remember, when in doubt, choose whole foods versus ultra-processed, packaged items.)
Consider limiting carbs
According to a recent study, consuming fewer carbs helps you burn more calories and maintain weight loss: People on a low-carb, high-fat diet burned approximately 250 more calories per day than those on a high-carb, moderate-protein, low-fat diet.
When you do eat carbs, be sure to go for whole grains (like the ones we use in our meals) since they help stabilize blood sugar and curb hunger and cravings, suggests Scheller.
Don’t fear fat
If you do opt for a low-carb diet, be sure to consume more protein and fat so you can still reach your calorie goals, says Scheller. Fats make up a large percentage of your brain and are critical to the body for many reasons, like maintaining healthy cells and hormone production.
Plus, fats are important for healthy joints and bones, making them critical for muscle recovery and repair. Just be sure to focus on healthy types of fat like those found in avocado, nuts, and salmon.
Pair exercise with protein
In addition to helping you stay full throughout the day, protein can help increase your calorie burn and resting metabolic rate (aka, the number of calories you burn at rest), according to research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Plus, if you exercise on a regular basis, a slightly higher protein intake has been linked to improved muscle recovery.
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