“It’s the perfect breakfast because it keeps me full until lunch,” says Melody Abedinejad, 22, of Weston, Massachusetts. “I lost 40 pounds in 10 weeks!”
Why it works Cottage cheese has whey protein, which releases hormones that tell your brain when you’ve had enough to eat, says Dave Grotto, R.D., of Chicago. Look for lowfat versions, which have 80 calories and 1 gram of fat per 1/2 cup.
“I eat them every day,” says Jennifer Ruff, 36, of New York City. “I throw in a little cheese for flavor.”
Why they work The amino acids in egg whites help build lean muscle that may in turn help rev metabolism. Lowfat cheese will curb calorie creep.
“I’d often pour a second bowl of cold cereal. So now I cook oatmeal—if I want more, it’s not as easy,” says Ana Mantica, 24, of New York City. “In six months, I lost two dress sizes.”
Why it works Plain oatmeal has no added sugar and keeps blood sugar steady. Make it tastier with a dash of cinnamon and chopped nuts.
“It’s low-calorie, filling and something I can order on a date that doesn’t scream ‘I’m watching my figure,'” says Shira Kallus, 29, of New York City.
Why it works A piece of sushi has 30 to 40 calories and plenty of satiating protein. Skip rolls that are fried or are made with mayo.
“I spread it on light bread, and it sticks with me until dinner,” says Christina Sarracino, 30, of San Francisco. “This lunch helped me lose 90 pounds.”
Why it works “Peanut butter has satisfying healthy fats,” says Kathy McManus, R.D., director of nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Watch portions, though: Two tablespoons have 190 calories.
I started eating beans to replace red meat. They’re great when you’re craving something with substance,” says Amy Balestier, 34, of Hoboken, New Jersey.
Why it works You can’t beat beans—they’re only about 150 calories per 1/2 cup and full of protein, fiber and antioxidants. Toss your faves into soups, salads and chili.
Fat-free plain yogurt
“I stir it into tuna salad instead of mayonnaise. It tastes and feels similar,” says Ashley Liu, 26, of New York City.
Why it works The yogurt has fewer than 10 calories per tablespoon, versus 90 in regular mayo. Mix in mustard to create a spicy Dijonaise.
“Whenever my pants are tight, I use lemon to help me drop a couple of pounds,” says Alonna Friedman, 32, of New York City. “I squeeze it on spinach salad, grilled chicken, fish and veggies.”
Why it works Citrus is so fresh and tangy that you may come to prefer it to fatty butter and dressings that mask foods’ natural flavors.
“I love small energy bars like Pria, which, at around 110 calories, are my chocolate fix,” says Kelly Winter, 33, of New York City. “I snacked on one every afternoon instead of a candy bar, and I lost 5 pounds in four weeks.”
Why it works You get a treat for less than half the fat and calories of a regular candy bar. Other choices we love include Kashi TLC Chewy granola bars (120 to 140 calories) and Barbara’s Puffins Cereal & Milk Bars (130 to 140 calories).
“When I was on Weight Watchers, I ate a ton of baby carrots because you’re allowed to have as many as you want. And they’re sweet enough to eat plain,” says Carol Sciotto, 31, of Wantagh, New York.
Why it works Carrots are a classic diet food because they’re low in calories (52 per 1 cup chopped) and a good source of fiber, Grotto says. They’re the ideal snack if you like to nibble.
“I eat them instead of Doritos,” says Randi Walz, 45, of New York City. “I dropped eight dress sizes!”
Why it works A 1.3-ounce bag of soy chips has about 140 calories, 55 fewer than most regular chips. You also get 9 grams of protein.
Part-skim string cheese
“It’s great for an energy boost before or after the gym,” says Sara Newman, 31, of New York City. “I pull the cheese apart. I lost 17 pounds in 10 months.”
Why it works For only 80 calories per stick, you get a decent dose of protein and some calcium. Adding a few whole-grain crackers would hold off hunger even longer.
“I put hummus on celery, broccoli and mushrooms, and I lost 10 pounds,” says Leigh-Anne Kent, 37, of Golden, Colorado. “It tides me over between meals.”
Why it works Hummus is high in healthy fat and supplies protein as well. Many dieters are fatphobes, but “a little fat can help you feel satisfied, so you end up eating less overall,” McManus says.
“I reach for edamame whenever I want something salty, like pretzels,” says Shira Enstrom, 36, of Vienna, Virginia.
Why it works You get nearly 6 grams of fiber for 190 calories in a 3/4-cup serving, plus protein, says Samantha Heller, R.D., senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center in New York City. “If you buy them in the pod, you also have to shell them, which slows down the eating process.”
“I started snacking on it seven years ago and lost 40 pounds. I’d have it in the afternoon instead of candy,” says Suzanne Reisman, 30, of New York City.
Why it works Dried fruit is loaded with fiber and has barely any fat. But calories are concentrated, so “limit portions to 1/4 cup,” says Dawn Blatner, R.D., a spokeswoman in Chicago for the American Dietetic Association.
“I sauté them with a little olive oil, snow peas, bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots and teriyaki sauce,” says Laura Egbert, 24, of Philadelphia. “In three months, I lost 15 pounds.”
Why it works At 84 calories per 3-ounce serving, shrimp has about two thirds of the calories of chicken and about half that of sirloin.
“I sprinkle a teaspoon of olive oil across a Boboli pizza crust and top it with fresh spinach, mushrooms, black olives, red onions and a little cheese,” says Shannon Reid, 29, of Chandler, Arizona. “I ate it three times a week and lost 12 pounds in six months.”
Why it works Making your own meals is a smart way to trim calories because you control the ingredients. Using lowfat cheese will also cut saturated fat. And the veggies are loaded with fiber. (vixen tip- try to find a yummy whole wheat crust for added fiber!)
“I lost a lot of weight when I made healthier food choices and took up Ashtanga yoga,” says Ruthanne Feinberg, 34, of New York City. She opts for a simple meal of tofu and spinach with soy sauce.
Why it works Tofu has only about 50 calories per 3-ounce slice, and you can barbecue it, stir-fry it, even use it in dishes like lasagna, Blatner says. Not a fan? Freeze slices before defrosting and cooking. That gives it the chewier texture of beef or chicken.
“I put salsa on everything: baked potatoes, omelets, even salmon,” says Kathleen Robinson, 43, of New York City. “After a month, I took off 5 pounds!”
Why it works Use 2 tablespoons of salsa instead of sour cream and you’ll slash about 50 calories and 5 grams of fat. “Even the bottled salsas are usually lean and a rich source of the cancer-fighting substance lycopene,” Heller says.
“It’s my standby speedy, healthy dinner,” says Liz Baker, 27, of Chicago.
Why it works Skip sautéing and you save more than 240 calories. Liven up the taste with fresh herbs and spices.
“I eat them for dinner topped with a little bit of Smart Balance Omega Plus spread, along with a serving of chicken or fish,” says Beth Janes, 28, of New York City. “It helped me lose 3 pounds in a month.”
Why it works A medium sweet potato has about 115 calories and won’t raise your blood sugar as much as eating a white potato will. Try slicing and baking with a brush of olive oil for low-cal “fries.”
“I core a Rome apple, pour diet cherry soda over it, sprinkle on Splenda and cinnamon, and then microwave it for eight minutes. It tastes just like apple pie,” says Amy Levy, 38, of Los Angeles. “I lost 12 pounds eating this!”
Why it works “Apples are rich in fiber, which may aid in weight loss,” Blatner says.
Fat-free Cool Whip
“I freeze it and spread 2 tablespoons between two chocolate graham crackers,” says Joy Rowland, 35, of Atlanta. “It’s helped me shed 40 pounds.”
Why it works At 15 calories per serving, this tasty topping is truly a guiltless goody.
“I microwave a cup of frozen berries for dessert with a little cocoa on top,” says Jennifer Worrell, 34, of Bedford, Texas. “In 15 months, I’ve lost 35 pounds.”
Why it works These nutrient-packed bites are naturally sweet, low in calories and filled with fiber and water to keep you full and satisfied.
“When I was trying to lose 20 pounds after having a baby, I turned to no-sugar-added Fudgesicles,” says Jennifer Weiss, 34, of Napa, California. “They’re only 40 calories each, so even if I want seconds, I’m still eating less than 100 calories.”
Why it works Fudgesicles are creamy, so they feel like a treat. No deprivation!
Fat-free, sugar-free pudding
“I’m a chocolate addict!” says Melissa Aiello, 26, of Rutherford, New Jersey. “But I lost 10 pounds, mainly by eating pudding instead of ice cream.”
Why it works One half cup is a big treat for only 80 calories, Grotto says.
Angel food cake
“I have it with fat-free Cool Whip and fruit,” says Erin O’Leary, 24, of New York City. “It does the trick when I want a sweet.”
Why it works Have your (angel food) cake and eat it, too—it has only 72 calories and no fat per 3/4-inch slice. Fruit makes it more filling.
Fat-free hot chocolate
“I blend a packet with ice and a cup of skim milk for an amazing and filling milk shake,” says Lindsay Bradshaw, 24, of Atlanta.
Why it works Cocoa mix gives the taste of chocolate for only 50 calories. And a whipped drink may feel more indulgent than a thinner beverage.
“When I’m out, I ask the bartender to mix orange juice with diet ginger ale. It has 55 calories, so I get less than half the calories of most mixed drinks,” says Hayley Lattman, 30, of New York City. “I’ve been doing this for four years, and I’ve lost 15 pounds!”
Why it works You save calories (about 125 over a standard juice-and-vodka screwdriver) and bypass alcohol, which can reduce your inhibitions and lead to overeating.
“Sweets are my downfall, so I drink vanilla tea when I’m not really hungry but am craving something sugary,” says Mara Clarke, 33, of London.
Why it works A cup of tea can soothe stress, preventing overeating, McManus says. The flavor makes it more satisfying—and isn’t that the point?