Stop dieting, lose weight with these 33 foods instead

Teresa Tanoos's picture
Lose weight without dieting

Most people diet to lose weight when instead all they really need to do is cut fat.

Researchers who reviewed over three dozen trials involving 73,589 people in America, Europe and New Zealand say the results prove for the first time that people can lose weight without trying to. How, you may ask? By simply cutting fat, not dieting.

According to the researchers, choosing low fat foods helped people lose approximately 3.5 pounds, slim down their waste-lines and cut bad cholesterol - all without dieting.

"The weight reduction…when people ate less fat was remarkably consistent. We saw it in almost every trial, those who cut down more on fat lost more weight," said lead researcher, Lee Hooper, from the University of East Anglia medical school.

"The effect isn't dramatic, like going on a diet," Hooper said, adding that the research specifically looked at people who were cutting down on fat, but didn't aim to lose weight; thus, they were still consuming the same amount of food.

"What surprised us was that they did lose weight, their BMI (body mass index) decreased and their waists became slimmer," Hooper said. Those who ate lower fat foods also kept the weight they lost off for at least seven years.

The researchers study was commissioned by the Nutrition Guidance Expert Advisory Group (NUGAG), which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO). The study was prompted by a request for the organization to update its fat intake guidelines.

According to WHO, being overweight or obese increases the risk of many illnesses, including cancer, heart disease and stroke – which, combined, are the biggest killers worldwide, claiming over 17 million lives a year.

Of the three countries the researchers reviewed, Europe had the highest rate of obesity, with more than half of Europeans being obese or overweight. In America, they found that over 35 percent of adults and nearly 17 percent of children were obese.

For the study, published in the British Medical Journal, researchers analyzed the diets of the 73,500 men, women and children participating in the trials they reviewed. They then compared those who ate less fat than usual with those who ate their usual amount of fat, measuring the effect the two different diets had on each group’s weight and waistline after at least six months.

The results showed that eating less fat reduced body weight by 1.6 kg (3 pounds, 8.4383 ounces), cut BMI by 0.56 kg/m² (1 pound, 3.7534 ounces) and reduced waist circumference by 0.5 cm (0.5 inches).

Researchers also found that reductions in total fat intake were also linked with statistically significant reductions in cholesterol and blood pressure, which suggests that a lower fat diet could potentially reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

One of the co-leaders of the study, Carolyn Summerbell of Durham University, said the trick to slimming down and staying that way was to “find a way to eat what you can stick to” for life.

"Cutting down on fat will help," she said.


When choosing low fat foods, it helps to read food labels, using the following good rule of thumb:

For every 100 calories, if the product has 3 grams of fat or less, it's a low fat product. In other words, choose foods with a fat content of 30% or less. See the following list for some good low-fat foods to choose from:

Dairy and dairy-like products

• Low-fat (1%), or fat-free (skim) yogurt, cottage cheese, or low-fat milk
• Sorbet, sherbet, gelatin ices, and low-fat or fat-free frozen yogurt
• Neufchatel or "light" cream cheese or fat-free cream cheese
• Fat-free American cheese or other types of fat-free cheeses

Fish, meat, and poultry

• Egg whites or egg substitutes
• Crab, white fish, shrimp, and light tuna (packed in water)
• Veal, chicken and turkey breast (without skin), and lean cuts of other meats (look for "loin" in the name) - braise, roast or cook them without added fats
• Extra lean ground beef such as ground round or ground turkey breast (check the labels)
• Garden veggie burgers

Grains, cereals, and pastas

• Hot (oatmeal or grits) and cold cereals (except granola types)
• Rice or noodles (watch out for fat in sauces you may add)
• Bagels, pita bread, or English muffins
• Low-fat crackers
• Soft tortillas--corn or whole wheat
• Toast, English muffins, or bagels with jelly or honey (no butter)
• Pretzels, soda crackers, plain breads

Fruits and vegetables

• Fruits and fruit juices, applesauce
• Vegetables and vegetable juices (again, watch out for fat in sauces you may add)

Snacks and sweets

• Danish pudding and fruit pie fillings
• Vanilla wafers, ginger snap cookies
• Gelatin
• Angel food cake
• Puddings made with skim milk
• Baked chips, tortilla or potato
• Low-fat microwave popcorn
• Hard and jelly candies

Other foods

• Broth type soups with a vegetable base
• Sauces, pudding, or shakes made with skim milk
• Salsa
• Light margarine and mayonnaise
• Mustard
• Reduced-calorie or fat-free salad dressings
• Non-stick cooking spray

Food Suggestion Source: American Cancer Society
Study Reference: BMJ 2012;345:e7666