How You Can Eat More — and Still Lose Weight

Shift focus away from cutting unhealthy foods

How You Can Eat More — and Still Lose Weight

What if you concentrated on eating more foods that are good for you rather than trying desperately to completely avoid the bad ones? Can you actually eat more and still lose weight? Registered dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, says you can. Here’s how it works.

Advertising Policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Most trendy diets include some sort of restriction — such as cutting out carbohydrates, gluten or dairy products — which makes them hard to sustain. Typically, once you stop following the diet’s restrictions, the weight comes right back.

However, if you focus on adding more nutritious foods to your meals, as opposed to restricting foods, you’ll be more likely to lose weight and keep it off. You won’t feel like you’re depriving yourself, so you’ll be more likely to maintain the healthy eating habits.

And, if you concentrate on incorporating a certain amount of healthy food into your meals every day — like aiming for between five and seven servings of fresh fruits and vegetables — you may find that you’ll naturally limit the not-so-healthy choices. You honestly won’t feel as hungry for them.

Which healthy foods are best to add?

For weight loss and improved health in general, Ms. Zumpano recommends adding these nutrition-rich foods to your diet:

Advertising Policy
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • A variety of beans
  • Oils
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Lean sources of protein: dried beans/legumes, fish, white meat, eggs or egg whites
  • Avocados

When adding fruits and vegetables to your meals, try to eat those first. They’ll help you feel fuller so you can cut back on your main-course portions to accommodate the extra calories.

Keep in mind that healthy foods tend to have a lot fewer calories than other foods, so you can eat the same amount of food overall and still lose weight.

4 quick tips for easily adding nutritious foods

  1. Add something good to every meal: Start by adding a piece of fruit to your breakfast and a salad or other vegetable to your lunch and dinner.
  2. Be prepared: Rinse and cut up fruits and vegetables during the weekend or at the beginning of the week. Then store them in containers in the refrigerator for easy use throughout the week.
  3. Make it easy on yourself: If it helps you stay on track, you can buy fruits and vegetables that are already cut up and salad that is pre-washed and bagged.
  4. Go for easy add-ins: Boost the nutrition in your salads by adding diced vegetables, seeds and nuts and using an oil-and-vinegar dressing. (Try balsamic vinegar for extra flavor.)

Swap bad foods for healthier options

After you start working more healthy foods in, take a look at the unhealthy foods you eat and see if you can come up with healthier alternatives. Here are a few examples:

  • If you typically eat hot dogs a few times a week but also like roasted chicken breast, swap out hot dogs in favor of chicken most of the time.
  • Replace ice cream with frozen yogurt or sorbet.
  • Replace milkshakes with fruit-and-yogurt smoothies.
  • Snack on a handful of nuts or seeds instead of potato chips.
  • Try whole grain toast or cereal instead of pastries.
  • Commit to changing your dinner entrée from red meats to fish once or twice a week.
  • Opt for beans instead of potatoes in several meals each week.

Health benefits of adding nutritious foods to your diet

Eating additional nutritious foods and fewer foods that are unhealthy can do more than help you lose weight. It can also:

Advertising Policy
  • Decrease your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke
  • Help regulate your digestion
  • Lower your cholesterol
  • Help improve your mood and reduce depression

Allow yourself a few treats

“It’s unrealistic to expect people to eat healthy all the time,” Ms. Zumpano says. But if you want to lose weight and keep it off, aim to eat healthy foods at least 75 to 80 percent of the time. “Allowing yourself to have some unhealthy foods will help you stay on track,” she says.

When indulging in an unhealthy treat, try to choose food items that won’t exacerbate any chronic conditions you have, such as high cholesterol or diabetes. If you’re unsure which foods are safe and which you really should avoid, talk to your doctor or meet with a registered dietitian.

Advertising Policy