Top 10 Foods for Weight Loss: How I Lost 80 Pounds in One Year

Believe it or not, three years ago I weighed 190 lbs.

I know, it seems unbelievable. But at the time, I had absolutely no motivation to improve myself. My sole goal was to land a spot at one of my dream colleges. Nothing else mattered. I had no idea that my success would be inextricably tied to my image. Let’s be honest with ourselves – despite the strides the body positivity movement has made, to be successful, you are your brand, and the more attractive you are, the more you sell. This was among the factors that shifted the gears in my head and got me thinking: you need to lose weight, and you need to start now!

The other, was the day that I stepped on the scale, and weighed the same as my dad. Whoops!

So, I underwent a rigorous, year-long diet, losing over 80 pounds in the process. Along the way, I made discoveries, tripped up, lost my way, found it again, travailed, triumphed, and finally … succeeded. I made some mistakes – my high schooler’s brain thought it made sense to starve myself during the day and eat 900 calories of McDonald’s hamburgers and strawberry sundaes at 11 o’clock as my only meal. I made some discoveries, too. And the most amazing part?

I walked away from those months of my life, as a new person.

I’m no longer a round butterball whose face morphs into a cherry tomato whenever she jogs a bit. I’m no longer a plump little sugarplum with cheeks pinched by … well, everyone. I’m no longer a portly pufferfish so down in the dumps about her self-image that she couldn’t even make eye contact with a member of the opposite sex. My confidence grew, as I shrunk. And today, I’m going to share 10 of THE best weight loss food hacks so you can shrink down to size, too!

Note: This isn’t one of those list articles based purely on calorie counts and package labels. You’re not going to find some of these foods on those articles … because my list is tried and true. It’s been refined by months upon months of dieting, so you bet this is going to be a list with the best diet-food hacks on the market. Let’s get learning!

Top 10 Foods for Weight Loss

1. Air-Popped Popcorn

Carbs fill you up, acting as appetite suppressants. Many carbs are digested slowly, so you feel full, for longer. And the great thing about popcorn? It’s probably the lowest-calorie carb you can get, meaning you can eat massive quantities of it. Coming in at only 30 calories for 1 cup (make sure it’s air-popped – if it’s regular microwave popcorn with loads of butter and oil, then guess what? It’s not 30 calories!) popcorn was a great snack/lunch food that did the trick of filling me up for hours on end!

2. Sugar-free Jell-O

I used to hate Jello. I’m talking a wouldn’t-eat-it-unless-it’s-the-last-food-on-earth-and-maybe-not-even-then sort of relationship. That’s until I realized what a magnificent diet food it is – coming in at only 5-10 calories per serving, this is the greatest diet hack. It’s voluminous, and it’s nearly calorie-less. Whenever you feel the hunger pains coming on, down a cup of diet Jello, and the volume itself will fill you up. That, plus the sweet kick? Unbeatable!

3. Monkfruit & Erythritol

You’ve probably never heard of either of these, and that’s for good reason – they’re the artificial sweetening industry’s biggest nightmares. Both of these sweeteners are 100% natural, zero calorie, and the best thing? They don’t have addictive artificial chemicals like aspartame and sucralose. Monkfruit, said to have been cultivated by Buddhist monks – yes, it’s an actual fruit! – has an extract that is 250x as sweet as sugar. Erythritol, on the other hand, is a little less spectacular. It’s a completely natural sugar alcohol derived from corn and enzymes/fermentation. The product? Two natural sweeteners that you can use to your heart’s content, without the brain-changing, binge-causing chemicals in artificial sweeteners.

I use these for a range of purposes – I use them to sweeten my coffee, I sprinkle them over sugar-free oatmeal and plain, sugar-free cheerios, I use them to bake sugar-free meringues and muffins. The possibilities are endless; I can’t live without monkfruit especially, these days! And the most magnificent thing? You can find both of them at every grocery store – you just never noticed before!

4. Almond or Cashew Milk

Still want the opportunity to drink milk and eat cereal like a pro, without an added 100 calories from dairy milk? This is the perfect substitute. The unsweetened versions of both almond milk and cashew milk come in at 30 calories and 25 calories per cup, respectively. Compare that to 105 calories in low-fat milk, and 130 calories in oat milk.

I use these incessantly, to color my morning coffee, spruce up my cereal, make a protein smoothie, and even if I just want a nice, cool glass of milk (or chocolate milk). Pro Tip: If you want a glass of sweet, chocolate milk, just add a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder (10 calories), and a few teaspoons of a sweetener like monkfruit. And, voila!

5. Shirataki Noodles

They also call these miracle noodles, and I’m sure you can guess why! Japanese in origin, these noodles are made from the glucomannan in konjac root (a fiber), and water. The result? A low-carb, nearly zero-calorie noodle without much flavor. But what’s so astounding about these noodles, is that they’re only around 10-20 calories, for an entire package! Add some salt and spices, plus a chicken breast or two, and you’ve got the lowest-calorie pasta dish in existence.

Fun facts: “Shirataki” actually means “white waterfall,” owing to the clear, ghostlike appearance of the noodles. Also, beware! If you’re sensitive to smells, these noodles will take you to aroma-town. They have a strong, earthy, dirty-sock smell – until you cook them up, that is!

6. Strawberries

Believe me, I have a sweet tooth. I once ate five donuts in one sitting, and I’m not talking those scrawny little Dunkin Donuts ones – I’m talking the giant, homemade donut shop kind. So, you can imagine, as soon as I started dieting, I was on the look-out for the sweetest foods, with the lowest calories. And the winner by far, happened to be strawberries!

With a high water content, strawberries ring in at 48 calories for 1 cup. Compare that to other fruits, like blueberries, with 84 calories per cup, bananas, at 111 calories per banana, and pineapple, with 82 calories per cup. Strawberries slice the calories in half, no pun intended.

7. Egg Beaters

If you’re looking to build or maintain muscle, egg beaters are a must. They’re jampacked with protein, and so low in calories, you’ll be absolutely amazed. For only 25 calories, you get 5 grams of protein. That means for 100 calories, you’ll be getting 20 grams of protein, a third of the daily needs for an average woman.

Egg beaters are so great, because they taste like eggs and cook like eggs, without the downsides (like all that cholesterol your doctor warns you about!). Make an omelet, bake it into a pizza crust, or just toss together a morning scramble, and you have one of the best weight loss meals on the market.

8. Spices

This is a hack! You’re dieting – you don’t want to be using all of those max-calorie cooking supplements. You don’t want to be frying up your chicken in oil or butter, and you sure as heck don’t want to be pouring dressings and sugar-loaded sauces across your salads and meats. So, what to do? Grab onto the spices instead! You get all of the same intense flavoring as butter and sauce, with nearly zero calories. If you want to avoid bloating and water weight, go for the salt-free spices! If you want to shake it up, go for some international spices – cumin and cardamom are hidden gems!

P.S. You should see my spice cabinet! I have maybe 50+ spices. From lemon pepper to gochugaru to coriander, I have it all, and it’s worth it. Flavor without fat? Yes, please!

9. Sara Lee Bread

Tired of 130-calorie toast? Me too! The marketing geniuses at Sara Lee heard our burning desires and whipped up something awe-inspiring – 35 and 45-calorie slices of bread. This stuff is a treasure trove for all you sandwich & toast lovers out there. It’s expensive, no doubt about that, but is it worth it for some guilt-free French toast? I’d say so, at least.

My favorite recipe: egg beater French toast! Here’s a secret: I used to eat this for dinner, almost every night. I’d whip up some French toast with egg beaters as a substitute for eggs, and top it with anything from strawberries, to a protein powder drizzle, to erythritol & milk frosting, to cocoa powder frosting! It’s delicious, to say the least!

10. Lemon Juice

Fun fact! I was once addicted to lemon juice and flavored vinegars … don’t let that be you! Moderation is key, friends. And lemon juice is a hidden weapon. If you’re wanting to add a bit of a zing and some intense flavor to your meal, spice it up with a few splashes of lemon juice. It’s nearly zero calories, so you get all the tastebud-slinging without all of the fat to your hips.

Plus, lemon juice is the perfect way to cut cravings and fill you up – lemonade is the name of the game! Pour a quarter cup or less of lemon juice into your glass, a few teaspoons of your favorite low-cal sweetener, fill it up with water, and voila! You have a drink that not only satisfies your sweet tooth for around 10 calories, but also an appetite suppressant (drinking a lot fills you up, folks!).

That’s the end of part 1 of my top 10 weight loss foods!

Do you want to see a part two? From apple sauce to cheerios, Greek yogurt to cocoa powder, I’ve got more weight loss food hacks to share, and I’d love to share them!

As always, connect with me on IG, via @faithtwardzik, or Facebook under the same name!

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– Faith Twardzik