Favorite Foods for Losing Weight
by Susan Woodward for MSN Health & Fitness

Why does the concept of weight loss conjure up images of, frankly, unappetizing foods? Why do carrot sticks always spring to mind?

The answer seems to lie in the common delusion that to pare pounds you have to barely eat, and the calories you do eat should be no more than required by a mouse. But researchers are repeatedly finding that food quality is more important than quantity when it comes to weight loss. Combined with adequate exercise, your meals can be regular serving sizes. The food just needs to be, well, wholesome.

“We’ve lost sight of that worddiet,” says Kristina Campbell, runner up in a recent weight-loss challenge held in Phoenix, Ariz. “Diet used to mean what your food is for the day, not losing weight.”

Below, Kristina and clinical nutritionist and author of Dare to Lose, Shari Lieberman, Ph.D., pinpoint some essential healthy foods for anyone who wants to lose weight and/or retain good health.

1. Yams and sweet potatoes.
Great diet foods because they’re low on the so-called glycemic index, says Dr. Lieberman. The glycemic index measures the values of various foods based on how quickly they break down and are absorbed into the bloodstream. The slower the digestion, the lower the score, the better the food is for regulating blood sugars, insulin, and overall metabolismall of which affect fat deposition.

2. Oranges, apples and grapefruit.
Dr. Lieberman recommends these particular fruits because they contain high levels of the soluble fiber pectin. Fiber slows digestion, helps eliminate toxins stored in body fat, and gives you a feeling of fullness.

3. Killer sandwiches.
To lose 40 pounds in 21 weeks, Kristina relied on plenty of hearty sandwiches stacked with vegetables, such as tomato, cucumber, sprouts, lettuce and onion, as well as deli meats but always oven-roasted turkey over anything vacuum-packed. For bread choice, Kristina suggests anything brown with lots of seeds and heavy grains you can actually see, because less-milled ingredients contain much more fiber.

4. Cereal
They can be a little hard to find, but low-sugar cereals packed with protein and fiber are hitting the market. The Kashi brand is one of the best, says Kristina. “I eat my cereal with skim milk and blackberries or raspberries, which contain about 8g of fiber per cup. That’s like three or four slices of bread!”

5. Salad
“If you eat a salad, make it valuable,” suggests Kristina, also a former five-star chef from New York City. “Get field or Asian greens and add a yogurt dressing. Plus you need a ton of vegetables and some good lean protein, like grilled salmon.”

6. Quiche
Quiche made with egg whites and just a couple of yolks is one of Kristina’s favorite protein sources. She also tosses in a little low-fat cheese, broccoli and spinach.

7. Yogurt
And other dairy goods that come in great-tasting, low-fat products.
8. Almonds
Nuts are loaded with monounsaturated fatsthe good fats that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, known to lower cholesterol. Fats are as necessary to a healthy diet as protein and carbohydrates. “I recommend that 20 percent of calories come from [healthy] fat,” Dr. Lieberman says. Small amounts of nuts are a good starting point.

9. Peanut butter
Likewise, nut butters are a great source of those healthy, monounsaturated fats. Kristina likes unsalted, all natural brands of peanut butter. But almond or cashew butter is considered an even healthier option (especially if you’re allergic to peanuts!). Enjoy your favorite, but in moderation.

10. Hummus.
AKA pureed chickpeas, garlic, and a little lemon juice. Great with whole-wheat pita bread or organic corn chips.

11. Salsa.
Another favorite for dipping, and a homemade batch is easy to make. Fresh salsa is simply tomato, onion, jalapeno and cilantro. Now, tell me, what could possibly be unhealthy about that?