Imagine a world in which we could eat a specific food and lose weight instantly. Wouldn't that be fantastic, especially just after Christmas, when many of us have eaten our weight in pudding and mince pies.
Unfortunately there are very few, if any, foods that are proven to actively increase fat loss. There are, though, plenty of foods that are tasty and pack a strong nutritional punch, which also contain very few kilojoules.
And since a degree of energy restriction is ultimately the key to weight loss, these low-kilojoule, nutrient-dense options are the perfect foods to focus on when your goal is weight loss.
So if you are keen to get your diet back on track ASAP, here are the weight-loss superfoods to add to your diet this summer.
Packed full of protein, iodine and zinc, prawns have been associated with cholesterol but are so low in fat overall that the cholesterol they naturally contain is no cause for concern. Of the very small amount of fat found in prawns, a significant proportion is heart healthy omega-3 fat. With four to five large prawns containing as little as 100 calories, prawns are one of the lowest energy, most nutrient-dense sources of protein available. The key is to enjoy your prawns fresh minus any extra heavy sauces and oils.
High in fibre and low in energy. Photo: iStock
A low-carb vegetable that has been consumed in Asian countries for centuries, konjac has been successfully turned into a range of noodle and rice-style products now sold in supermarkets. High in dietary fibre but exceptionally low in energy and carbohydrates, an average serve of konjac noodles contains as little as 85 kilojoules per serve. This means that even when you are dieting you can enjoy a pasta or stir-fry dish using konjac products for a fraction of the energy.
Cottage cheese is perfect for lunchboxes, salads and breakfast dishes. Photo: iStock
Often forgotten, humble cottage cheese is one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can enjoy, with minimal kilojoules, making it the perfect addition to any weight-loss diet. With a serve giving more than 16g of protein per half cup, along with calcium, magnesium and vitamin B12, adding a serve of cottage cheese into your day is a great way to bump your intake of essential nutrients for very few kilojoules. Add to sandwiches or crackers for a protein-rich filling, serve with cereal and fruit for breakfast or even use to help flavour salads and vegetables.
Plain air-popped popcorn is much healthier than the salty, buttery kind. Photo: Melissandra
We're not talking about the hot buttery kind loaded with salt you tuck into at the movies. Instead, plain popcorn is a surprisingly low kilojoule snack. A wholegrain, air-popped popcorn is rich in dietary fibre and relatively low in carbohydrate and energy, with two cups equating to just 230 kilojoules. This makes plain popcorn a tasty, nutrient-rich, low-energy snack to enjoy on any weight-loss program.
Adam Liaw's greens and egg salad is delicious, filling and light. Photo: William Meppem
Eggs are among the most nutrient-dense foods available, not only offering high biological value or readily absorbed protein but also more than 20 other essential nutrients including iron, zinc, selenium, iodine, vitamin A, folate and the brain-boosting nutrient choline. Perhaps the greatest benefit associated with eating eggs, especially when eaten for breakfast, is the direct effect they have on weight control. A couple of eggs contains close to 20g of protein, the amount of animal-based protein that provides the body with plenty of leucine, the amino acid directly involved in regulating insulin levels in the body. The more tightly we control our insulin levels, the better it is for weight control and appetite regulation.
Katrina Meynink's kefir, citrus and fruit salad. Photo: Katrina Meynink
If you lived through the '70s you would already be familiar with many diets that encourage followers to eat more grapefruit based on the theory that the citric acid found in grapefruit (and all citrus fruits) binds fat, helping to maximise weight loss. While this reaction has not been found to be true, there are some studies that have shown individuals who include half a grapefruit in their diet each day appear to lose more weight than non-grapefruit eaters. This may be partially explained by the high fibre and low-energy content of fresh grapefruit, with an entire grapefruit containing just 210 kilojoules, 8g of carbs and 3g of dietary fibre.
Neil Perry's warm lentil salad with pumpkin and chilli. Photo: William Meppem
All vegetables are good for us, and all vegetables are relatively low in kilojoules but the great thing about pumpkin is that it can be made into a hearty base as vegie chips, mash, roasted or even spiralised into noodles for far less carbs and energy than most carbohydrate-based foods we serve with our meals. It contains 210 kilojoules and 8g of carbs per 50g or two heaped tablespoons, whilst offering plenty of dietary fibre, beta carotene and vitamins B, C and E.
Packed with antioxidants that protect our cells as we age. Photo: William Meppem
Green tea is one of the few foods that evidence shows can increase fat metabolism in the body, with studies confirming there are slight increases in weight loss when individuals add green tea extract to their diet. What is not entirely understood is if it is the caffeine also found in green tea that is moderating this effect, or another factor. Whatever the reason, the good news is that adding green tea to your diet is good thing, as it is packed with powerful antioxidants known to help protect our cells from damage as we age.
Susie Burrell is an accredited practising dietitian.