Beef has a rep as a diet buster, but eating it may help you peel off pounds. In a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women on a diet that included red meat lost more weight than those eating equal calories but little beef. "The protein in steak helps you retain muscle mass during weight loss," says study author Manny Noakes, Ph.D. Try to consume local organic beef; it's healthier for you and the environment.
Dig in to eggs, yolks and all: They won't harm your heart, but they can help you trim inches. Women on a low-calorie diet who ate an egg with toast and jelly each morning lost twice as many pounds as those who had a bagel breakfast with the same number of calories but no eggs, a study from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge reports. "Egg protein is filling, so you eat less later in the day," says David Grotto, R.D., author of 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life (Bantam).
Long sidelined as a lowly garnish, this green belongs center stage on your plate. One raw chopped cup contains 34 calories and about 1.3 grams of fiber, as well as a hearty helping of iron and calcium. But kale's earthy flavor might take some getting used to. Spinach, another nutrient powerhouse, is a milder-tasting option.
"Oatmeal has the highest satiety ranking of any food," Grotto says. "Unlike many other carbohydrates, oats—even the instant kind—digest slowly, so they have little impact on your blood sugar." All oats are healthful, but the steel-cut and rolled varieties (which are minimally processed) have up to 5 grams of fiber per serving, making them the most filling choice. Instant oats contain 3 to 4 grams per serving.
Lentils are a bona fide belly flattener. "They're high in protein and soluble fiber, two nutrients that stabilize blood sugar levels," says Tanya Zuckerbrot, R.D., author of The F-Factor Diet (Putnam Adult). "Eating them helps prevent insulin spikes that cause your body to create excess fat, especially in the abdominal area."
These chewy, tart berries have a hunger-curbing edge over other fruit: 18 amino acids, which make them a surprising source of protein, says chef Sarah Krieger, R.D., spokeswoman in St. Petersburg, Florida, for the American Dietetic Association. (They also have more beta-carotene than carrots.) Snack on them midafternoon to stay satisfied until dinner. The calorie cost? Only 35 per tablespoon.
Not only do fish fats keep your heart healthy, but they shrink your waist, too. "Omega-3 fatty acids improve insulin sensitivity—which helps build muscle and decrease belly fat," Grotto explains. And the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns. Opt for wild salmon; it may contain fewer pollutants.
An apple a day can keep weight gain at bay, finds a study from Penn State University at University Park. People who chomped an apple before a pasta meal ate fewer calories overall than those who had a different snack. "Apples are high in fiber—4 to 5 grams each—which makes them filling," says Susan Kraus, R.D., a clinical dietitian at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Plus, the antioxidants in apples may help prevent metabolic syndrome, a condition marked by excess belly fat or an "apple shape."
Swap plain noodles for this hearty variety; you'll slip into your skinny jeans in no time. "Buckwheat is high in fiber and, unlike most carbs, contains protein," Zuckerbrot says. "Those two nutrients make it very satiating, so it's harder to overeat buckwheat pasta than the regular stuff."
All berries are good for you, but those with a blue hue are among the best of the bunch. They have the highest antioxidant level of all commonly consumed fruit, according to research from the USDA Agriculture Research Service in Little Rock, Arkansas. They also deliver 3.6 grams of fiber per cup. "Fiber may actually prevent some of the fat you eat from being absorbed because fiber pulls fat through the digestive tract," Zuckerbrot says.
Adding this spread may lower bread's glycemic index (a measure of a food's effect on blood sugar). A study from the University of Toronto found that people who ate almonds with white bread didn't experience the same blood sugar surges as those who ate only the slice. "The higher blood sugar levels rise, the lower they fall; that dip leads to hunger, causing people to overeat," says study author Cyril Kendall, Ph.D. "Furthermore, blood sugar changes cause the body to make insulin, which can increase abdominal fat."
The juice gets all the hype for being healthy, but pomegranate seeds deserve their own spotlight. In addition to being loaded with folate and disease-fighting antioxidants, they're low in calories and high in fiber, so they satisfy your sweet tooth without blowing your diet, Krieger says.
One reason to spice up your meals: You'll crank up your metabolism. "A compound in chiles called capsaicin has a thermogenic effect, meaning it causes the body to burn extra calories for 20 minutes after you eat the chiles," Zuckerbrot explains. Plus, "you can't gulp down spicy food," she adds. "Eating slowly gives your brain time to register that your stomach is full, so you won't overeat."
Dietitians often refer to plain yogurt as the perfect food, and for good reason: With its trifecta of carbs, protein and fat, it can stave off hunger by keeping blood sugar levels steady. In a study from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, people on a low-calorie diet that included yogurt lost 61 percent more fat overall and 81 percent more belly fat than those on a similar plan but without yogurt.
Curbing hunger is as easy as piling your plate with this whole grain. It packs both fiber (2.6 grams per 1/2 cup) and protein, a stellar nutrient combo that can keep you satisfied for hours, Krieger says.
These tiny fish are the unsung stars of the sea. They are high in protein and loaded with omega-3s, which also help the body maintain muscle. And they're low in mercury and high in calcium, making them a smart fish pick for pregnant women. If the flavor doesn't appeal to you, "soak them in milk for an hour; it will remove any trace of fishiness," Iserloh says.
You can use this herb, a staple in French cooking, in place of salt in marinades and salad dressings. Excess sodium causes your body to retain water, so using less salt can keep bloating at bay. Plus, tarragon lends a sweet, licoricelike flavor to bland foods. (Use the French version of the herb when possible; it's sweeter than other varieties.)
Drop that rubbery lowfat cheese and pick up the real stuff. Women who had one serving of whole milk or cheese daily were less likely to gain weight over time, a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition finds. Lowfat-dairy fans didn't experience the same benefit. Whole dairy may have more conjugated linoleic acid, which might help your body burn fat. "Parmesan is so flavorful, it's easy to stick to one serving," Buchanan says.
Don't let the fat content of an avocado (29 grams) scare you—that's what makes it a top weight loss food, Kraus says. "The heart-healthy monounsaturated fat it contains increases satiety," she says. And it's terrific summer party food.
Like avocados, olive oil has healthy fat that increases satiety, taming your appetite. But that's hardly its only slimming feature. "Research shows it has anti-inflammatory properties," Kraus says. Chronic inflammation in the body is linked to metabolic syndrome.