17 Best Foods for Dieters

Diet foods that taste great and can help you lose weight.

By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

Dieting can be downright difficult, especially if your diet includes foods you don't particularly enjoy. After all, how much cabbage soup can a person stand? The good news is that there are thousands of diet foods that are healthy, taste great, and can help you stick to your weight loss plan. Visit any grocery store to witness the explosion of lower-calorie, lower-fat, or portion-controlled options.

Here are just a few of the best foods for dieters:

1. Calorie-Controlled Snacks. Plenty of consumers are buying the 100-calorie (more or less) snack packs of everything from chips to cupcakes, but are they really the answer for weight loss?

Carolyn O'Neil, RD, author of The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous, likes calorie-controlled packages because they eliminate the chance for mindless overeating. "Foods packaged in 100-calorie packs do the work and calorie math for you so you can enjoy snacking on foods that need to be enjoyed in limited amounts," she says.

Quaker Mini Delights (90 calories) and Hostess 100-calorie cupcakes are among the more addictive options.

But American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Lona Sandon, MEd, RD, says that though these snacks can satisfy a sweet tooth, "many of them won't fill you up for very long, and can't replace a more nutritious snack."

Sandon suggests checking the ingredient list and nutrition facts on the package. "Look for products that offer some nutritious benefits, such as ones that contain less than 3 grams fat, less than 140 milligrams sodium, 15 grams or less sugar, and are made from whole grain with about 2 to 3 grams fiber and about 7 grams protein," says Sandon, assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

2. Healthier Fast Food. Fast food restaurants don't have to spell disaster for dieters. Try Quiznos' Flatbread Sammies (all less than 250 calories) or a small Honey Bourbon Chicken sub (320 calories); Taco Bell's Fresco-style items (less than 350 calories); McDonald's Southwest salad with grilled chicken (320); or any of Subway's subs with 6 grams of fat or less (230-370 calories).

3. Low-Fat and Fat-Free Dairy Products. Milk, yogurt (solid, frozen, and drinkable), cheese, sour cream, and cream cheese are available in lower-fat varieties that offer both healthy nutrients and great taste. Laughing Cow light cheese has only 35 calories per individually wrapped wedge, and Yoplait Fiber One nonfat yogurt combines yogurt crunchy cereal for a fiber boost and only 80 calories per 4 oz. cup.

Fat-free half-and-half is a suitable substitute for heavy cream with a fraction of the calories. And lower-fat and fat-free cream cheese and sour cream can easily pitch-hit for their fattier counterparts, particularly in recipes.

"You can trim calories effortlessly if you use low-fat and lighter products and if the product is mixed in with other ingredients, no one will ever notice," says Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, and the "Recipe Doctor" for WebMD and the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic.

4. Rotisserie Chicken. It's no wonder that nearly every grocery store sells rotisserie chickens. You can serve one as is, shred it to use for tacos, pasta dishes, or casseroles, or chop it for an entree salad. You can even have it for dinner one night, then debone it and freeze the leftover meat for a quick meal later in the week.

5. Diet-Friendly Desserts. Lower-calorie and portion-controlled sweets mean that desserts can be part of any weight loss diet. Dieters who crave ice cream love Skinny Cow ice cream cones (150 calories), Edy's Slow-Churned ice cream bars (150 calories), and Fudgsicles (100 calories). Cookie lovers can enjoy Hershey's 100-calorie wafer bars, Teddy Grahams, graham crackers, Fig Newtons, vanilla wafers, or gingersnaps. On the road, try chewing on a piece of sugarless gum or suck on a piece of hard candy to satisfy your sweet tooth without sabotaging your diet. If a small piece won't do it for you, try Nabisco 100-calorie candy bites.

6. Flavored Mustards and Vinegars add sizzle to foods, with few calories. Try honey, tarragon, ginger, garlic, wasabi, or Dijon mustards, or balsamic, wine, herb, cider, fruit-flavored or, sherry vinegars. Use them in place of oil, mayonnaise, or butter in recipes.

7. Light Salad Dressings: Nearly half of the salad dressings you'll see on your grocer's shelves are reduced in calories and/or fat. Use Wish-Bone salad spritzers to lightly mist your salads, or try one of the many light or nonfat salad dressings. Another option is to make your own lower-calorie dressing, using more vinegar than oil, as well as a little water.