Try these delicious spring foods that will boost your metabolism and help you lose weight quickly.
Diet Food: Sauerkraut
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Turn your spring cabbage into a super diet food by making it into sauerkraut. "Sauerkraut helps to reestablish healthy populations of bacteria in the gut," says Stella Metsovas, clinical nutritionist and owner of W8less Nutrition. New research suggests that those who are overweight and struggle to lose weight may have unhealthy populations of bacteria in their gut, so adding as many pro-bacteria foods (like sauerkraut) to your diet is essential to long-term weight loss, she adds. Sauerkraut too strong to eat solo? Throw it on a Reuben sandwich.
Diet Food: Sea Bass
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"When it comes to boosting your metabolism, it's important to include a good amount of protein in your diet," says Margaux J. Rathbun, founder of Authentic Self Wellness. If you are a fan of fish, try eating sea bass. It's an excellent source of protein, iron, and other minerals. We love this hearty, healthy recipe for poached Chilean sea bass.
Diet Food: Grapefruit
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"Studies show that the chemical properties in grapefruit can reduce insulin levels, which promote weight loss and boosts metabolism, plus it's an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber," says Rathbun. Make a satisfying spring lunch with this warm grapefruit and quinoa salad recipe.
Diet Food: Nettles
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Nettles offer a lot of nutrition for very little calories, says Los Angeles based Registered Dietitian Lauren O'Connor. "Rich in potassium, calcium, vitamins A, B, C and iron, nettles offer appetite-suppressing qualities as they release neurotransmitters serotonin and acetylcholine. They also possess diuretic properties alleviating water weight, releasing toxins and purifying the blood," says O'Connor. Not sure how to eat them? Substitute nettles in recipes that call for spinach (in dips, soups or spinach pie).
Diet Food: Apricots
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Apricots come into season toward the end of spring in the warmer areas where they grow and offer 60 percent of your daily-recommended dose of vitamin A, says Registered Dietitian Christen Cooper. They are also a good source of fiber, making them a sweet but satisfying snack.
Diet Food: Cherries
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"Cherries make a great low-calorie snack for dieters," Rathbun says. Loaded with nutrients that help promote detoxification and powerful antioxidants that help boost immunity, cherries can help fight off damaging free radicals. Free radicals can slow us down and can make weight-loss programs challenging, Rathburn says.
Diet Food: Mint
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Arriving in early spring, mint makes a super, nearly calorie-free replacement for sugar or flavored syrup in drinks, says Cooper. "Add it to tea, lemonade and other drinks for a no-cal kick," Cooper recommends. Another added bonus? It may help curb your appetite. One study by Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia found that just smelling mint on a regular basis helped subjects eat 2800 calories less per week than those who weren't exposed to the scent. So buy a mint plant and whiff away!
Diet Food: Radishes
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"With a mere 19 calories per cup, radishes are a stellar diet food," Cooper says. Rich in potassium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C, radishes' high water and fiber content help fill you up. Slice them into a salad, grill them or add them into dishes with other veggies like corn and cucumbers.
Diet Food: Lamb
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"Lamb is a clean-burning protein, full of nutrients like B12, which are critical if you'd like to maintain your weight once you've reached your weight loss goal," says Stella Metsovas, clinical nutritionist and owner of W8less Nutrition. Make it for dinner with this recipe for ginger braised lamb.
Diet Food: Rye
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"Rye contains a component of fiber that absorbs water effectively, providing you with a feeling of fullness longer than other fibers," Metsovas says.
Diet Food: Clams
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Clams contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and zinc. Omega-3s support healthy metabolism and prevent inflammation (a contributor to insulin malfunction in conditions such as insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome), says Sarah Reilly, a certified holistic nutritionist. And zinc helps keep blood glucose levels normal, which is critical with weight management. Help break you sugar addiction with this recipe for spicy linguine with clams and mussels.
Diet Food: Cherry Tomatoes
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These low-calorie, water-rich, bite-sized tomatoes are great in salads, recipes or anytime you need a snack. Or, cut these candy-like veggies in half and add them to your next pasta dish, Cooper recommends. Adding ‘high volume', lower-calorie and nutrient-rich foods like cherry tomatoes means you can still enjoy foods like pasta without sabotaging your weight loss efforts.
Diet Food: Rhubarb
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Often the first fruit of spring, rhubarb is high in nutrition and low in calories. Rhubarb is a low-glycemic fruit, high in vitamin C, fiber and potassium. "A good source of fiber (which aids in blood-sugar regulation and ultimately helps in managing hunger by preventing peaks and valleys in glucose levels), rhubarb may also speed up metabolism and aid weight loss," says Dr. Sean Bourke and Registered Dietician Christine Struble of Jumpstartmd.com. Turn it into dessert with this yummy strawberry rhubarb crisp.
Diet Food: Basil
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"Basil is the perfect seasoning herb to make your foods taste fabulous—especially when you're trying to keep your diet clean. I especially like adding basil on top a fresh fruit salad," Metsovas says. We love this recipe for watermelon, feta and basil salad.
Diet Food: Blueberries
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Not only are they full of vitamins and antioxidants like leutin and vitamin K, but blueberries may also help reduce belly fat! "Recent studies suggest that blueberries play a role in reducing waist size and risk factors associated with those extra pounds known as metabolic syndrome," says Connie Guttersen, R.D., author of The New Sonoma Diet. Eat them by the handful alone, or sprinkle them into your favorite yogurt or cereal.
Diet Food: Onions
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Sweeter in spring, onions contain chromium, which some studies show may help reduce body fat and improve cholesterol levels. Onions also "contain oils and minerals that help break down fat deposits and speed up your metabolism," Reilly says. "They have thermogenic activity, which helps create heat in your body, which in turns helps burn calories."
Diet Food: Mussels
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"Mussels are low in saturated fat and high in good-quality protein making them the perfect food for people watching their weight," says Rathbun. Mussels are good sources of zinc and magnesium, both of which have been shown to help speed up weight loss. Just skip the butter and oil and grill them instead.
Diet Food: Cucumbers
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In season late spring, cucumbers are the perfect diet food. Low in calorie and full of water, they contain sulfur and silicon, which can act as natural diuretics. They are also extremely versatile, Cooper says. Try them in sandwiches, in salads or filled with light tuna salad. "Cucumbers are good for making into homemade pickles, which are also healthy, low cal and add zing to meals," Cooper says.
Diet Food: Millet
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Although growing season varies, some types of millet are harvested in late spring. "Millet is a grain that contains optimal amounts of magnesium—a mineral deficient in most women's diets," Metsovas says. "Magnesium is essential to almost every physiological reaction in the body—it's one of the most overlooked nutrients in our diets," says Metsovas. And emerging research shows a connection between healthy magnesium levels and preventing metabolic syndrome. We love this chicken, millet, and mushroom recipe.
Diet Food: Asparagus
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"Asparagus are a good low-calorie source of folate and vitamin A," says Jackie Keller, nutritionist and founder of NutriFit. At less than four calories per spear, you can eat a lot of this nutritious spring vegetable. Just skip the heavy, high fat sauces or butter and add it into stir-fry, pasta or grill it as a side dish for a more filling meal.
Diet Food: Sugar Snap Peas
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Heart healthy, high in fiber, low in calories and good for your immune system, spring sugar snap peas make a great on-the-go snack, says nutritionist Rania Batayneh, owner of Essential Nutrition For You. Eat them alone, or toss them into salads or stir-fry for a more sustaining meal.
Diet Food: Rabbit
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Rabbit meat contains high protein equivalents to other meats, and is very low in calories. "I know it might sound cruel to many, but rabbit is easily digestible and should be considered if you'd like to experiment with something other than chicken," Metsovas says.
Diet Food: Carrots
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Spring carrots offer a lot of sweet juicy flavor, without a lot of calories. And sweet root vegetables like carrots can help curb sugar cravings, says Marissa Vicario, a Holistic Health and Nutrition Counselor in New York. Crunch and munch on them, or turn them into a delicious cold carrot soup.
Diet Food: Ramps
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Ramps (also known as "wild leeks") are pungent, scallion-like onions that are only available for a few weeks during the spring. A fabulous way to add lots of flavor for only about 50 calories per cup, ramps taste great in everything from soups to frittatas. If you enjoy them, buy them locally and freeze to make them last longer.
Diet Food: Fava Beans
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A Mediterranean favorite available from early spring through summer, fava beans are low fat and filling, and may also help slim your waist, says Timothy Harlan, M.D., Medical Director of Tulane University and creator of DrGourmet.com. A cup of fava beans is around 185 calories and are packed with nutrients and fiber. High fiber foods like fava beans can help control hunger, diabetes and may even reduce your risk of heart disease, says Harlan. Add some protein and fiber to dinner with this
Diet Food: Okra
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The fiber found in okra acts as a "fuel" for the good bacteria in your gut that are associated with good fat metabolism, Reilly says. These fibers also help transport fat-soluble toxins and fat out of the body, and can help maintain blood sugar regulation—which is critical for weight loss. Just be sure to bake, not fry, to keep your okra diet friendly.
Diet Food: Spinach
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Spring greens like spinach have a very rich flavor due to cool, crisp air and relatively shorter growing days, says Registered Dietitian Katherine Isacks, consulting dietitian for MyNetDiary. For only about 10 calories per cup, you get a flavorful veggie that satisfies your hunger with fiber, water, antioxidants, vitamins (vitamins K and A), and minerals (magnesium, potassium, and iron), she adds. For a treat, try this gluten-free spinach artichoke ricotta pizza.
Diet Food: Morel Mushrooms
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Morels (and select wild mushrooms) are a nutrient rich, low-calorie food that provides high-volume and low-energy density deliciously, says Jackie Newgent, Registered Dietitian, culinary nutritionist and author of Big Green Cookbook. Newgent recommends reducing your daily calorie intake (without deprivation) by replacing high-energy dense foods (like ground beef) with low-energy dense foods (like mushrooms). Another fungus bonus? Mushrooms are the only natural food source of vitamin D in the produce aisle (vitamin D not only helps to build and maintain healthy bones, but it has also been shown to speed up weight loss), and one cup of morel mushrooms provides 136 IU vitamin D, Newgent says.
Diet Food: Beets
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"Beets are one of the super foods of the Mediterranean diet," Metsovas says. "One cup of beets contains over 30 percent of the recommended daily intake of folate, a B vitamin lacking in most diets. B vitamins provide energy to the body, which is especially important if you're keeping on track with your workout regiment," says Metsovas. Try them in this springtime roasted beet, fennel and arugula salad.
Diet Food: Sprouts
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"Sprouts are considered a living, raw food full of antioxidants and vitamins like A, B, C, D, E and K," Metsovas says. "And the more nutrient-rich foods you consume, the less cravings you'll have throughout the day". Don't like sprouts? You won't even taste them in this BLT with avocado and sprouts.
Diet Food: Dandelion Greens
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A natural diuretic, dandelion greens are especially tender when young (in the early spring). Good sources of antioxidants and bioflavonoids (plant chemicals that help protect against disease), and low in calories, dandelion greens can be eaten raw or in soups," Keller says. Sautee them with some olive oil and salt and pepper for an easy side dish.
Diet Food: Scallops
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"Scallops contain high amounts of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that has been shown to regulate your appetite. They are also high in B12—a nutrient critical for overall energy," Metsovas says. We love this light and healthy recipe for seared scallops with orange sauce.
Diet Food: Collard Greens
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High in nutritional value, these leafy greens are abundant in the spring. The enzymes found in these types of greens help with digestion and increase metabolism, says Registered Dietitian Keren Gilbert, creator of the Hydrophilic Diet. Add some nutrition and fiber (sans salad) with this goat cheese and three-greens lasagna recipe.
Diet Food: Northern Halibut
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This lean white fish is in season in spring, and offers a whole lot of protein (30g per 4 oz) for relatively little calories and fat (158 cals, 3g fat). Keep it lean by grilling or poaching it, and try a light marinade or rub to flavor your fish.
Diet Food: Broccoli
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"This vegetable is rich in vitamin B complex, which is important for the release of energy from carbohydrates, and magnesium, which aids with sugar cravings," Gilbert says. "Plus, it's a good source of Coenzyme Q10, which increases your metabolism". Dress it up with some pine nuts and garlic.
Diet Food: Artichokes
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"Artichokes are another spring vegetable that can really help you trim down," Keller says. "Served either hot or cold, artichokes are very low in calories. A large artichoke provides 15 percent of the daily requirements of folate and vitamin C, 300mg of potassium and about 2g of fiber. And since they take so long to eat, artichokes also help stretch a meal out, which is also helpful for weight loss. The key, of course, is to dip the leaves in a simple lemon juice based vinaigrette – not butter or mayonnaise," says Keller. We love this recipe for skinny stuffed artichokes.
Diet Food: New Potatoes
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A recent study done by researchers at the University of California at Davis found that people who ate between five to seven servings of potatoes a week lost as much as five pounds over three months. New potatoes in particular are even more effective for weight loss because these "baby spuds" are harvested before converting all of their sugar into starch. A great side dish is potato double-bean salad.
Diet Food: Zucchini
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Part of the squash family, zucchini is another high nutrient, low-cal food that doesn't require too much effort or flavoring to eat. Zucchini is full of nutrients like vitamins A, C, potassium, folate and fiber — all of which support a healthy metabolism, Reilly says. Grill, roast or bake with it, zucchini can add extra nutrition and fiber to bread and muffin recipes. Or, turn them into black bean protein pancakes!
Diet Food: Eggplant
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Eggplants are high in dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, copper and thiamin (vitamin B1), and are also a good source of vitamin B6, folate, magnesium and niacin, Reilly says. "These vitamins are essential for your energy-burning furnace in your body called the Krebs cycle which is where you burn proteins, fats and carbs for energy". Love eggplant Parmesan? Enjoy it sans guilt with this lightened up recipe.
Diet Food: Strawberries
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In season during late spring and early summer, strawberries make a great naturally sweet, low-calorie snack. 1 cup of sliced strawberries is about 50 calories. And their high vitamin C level (105 mg per cup) may help you burn fat. According to a study done by researchers at Arizona State University's Polytechnic campus in Mesa, exercisers with low blood concentrations of vitamin C burned 25 percent less fat during a treadmill test. "Select strawberries that are a deep red color, with a shiny surface and bright green tops," Guttersen recommends. "If you are trying to eat locally and don't live in an area of the country where strawberries grow year-round, try freezing them or buy frozen berries so you can enjoy them every month."
Diet Food: Kiwi
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According to a 2010 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, women who ate two vitamin C rich kiwi fruits with a serving of iron-fortified cereal improved their iron stores more than the group who enjoyed their cereal with a banana. This is especially important for women, who are at a higher risk for anemia due to menstruation and dieting. (Plus, low iron levels cause fatigue, which can make getting to the gym much more difficult).
Diet Food: Valencia Oranges
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Oranges contain a good dose of vitamin C, which boosts your immune system and decreases risks associated with cardiovascular disease, cancer and stroke. And their anti-inflammatory benefits may even decrease high blood pressure, Guttersen says. Oranges' naturally sweet flavor, fiber and low-calorie content helped to make them one of the twelve Sonoma Diet "power foods."
Diet Food: Kumquats
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"Kumquats are pretty little fruits that make excellent dessert replacements," says Rathbun. Full of vitamins A and C and fiber, this low cal fruit can help you avoid overeating and stay regular.
Diet Food: Coconuts
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Coconuts contain "medium chain fatty acids that help speed up metabolism and burn off stored fats," Reilly says. "Fats help trigger a hormone called CCK, which gives the message to your brain that you are full, which also slows down digestion of food (to increase feelings of satiety) and slows the release of sugars into your system."
Diet Food: Parsley
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A natural diuretic, parsley is rich in antioxidants and vitamin K. Women who restrict calories are at a higher risk of missing out on essential nutrients like vitamin K (recent studies have linked low vitamin K levels with an increased risk of osteoporosis), Metsovas says. Keep your calories in a low, healthy range without missing out on necessary vitamins by consuming nutrient-dense foods like the ones mentioned here. Spruce up your noodles with herb pasta primavera.
Diet Food: Chicory
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Known for its mild laxative properties, "chicory contains a good amount of fiber, which helps promote healthy digestion. The more that we are able to digest our food, the easier it is to lose weight," says Rathbun.
Diet Food: Fennel
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"Fennel is known for helping to break down fat and releasing the water stored in fat cells of the body, and has been shown to help stimulate our metabolism, helping promote healthy weight loss," says Rathbun. Instead of a boring salad, try sauteed artichokes with peas and fennel.
Diet Food: Barley
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A nutritious whole grain that is often harvested in spring, barley contains over 50 percent of your daily fiber in just one cup. And consuming at least 25 grams of fiber a day can help make you feel full longer, which may aid in weight loss, Metsovas says. "Barley is an unrefined grain that keeps blood sugar imbalances in check so you don't have sugar cravings or moods swings and it can prevent the pounds from piling on," Gilbert adds. Try this mushroom and barley soup.
Diet Food: Quinoa
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This little grain is high in both protein and fiber, which will help you stay fuller longer, says Registered Dietitian Sharon Richter. Quinoa is also a great source of protein for vegetarians and those with gluten intolerance, she adds. Substitute quinoa for rice in your favorite recipe to add more substance and staying power to your meal.
Diet Food: Black Cod
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Black Cod (also known as butter fish or sable fish) season starts in early March. Cod is a good source of omega 3s and vitamin D (both of which have been linked to weight loss), says Bourke and Struble. Turn it into fish soup with this super recipe.