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These sweet, juicy summer berries are tasty both fresh and dried in trail mix or in a salad, says Lisa Dorfman, a registered dietitian and author of The Reunion Diet. “At just 43 calories per 3.5 oz serving, they contain 61 percent of the RDA for vitamin C, and they’re also chock full of potassium, fiber, and resveratrol, a phytonutrient shown to protect the heart.”
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“Cilantro has numerous health benefits and is packed with nutrients such as fiber, iron, thiamine, zinc, folate, phosphorous, folate, vitamin K, and more,” says Ellis. Plus, it has a great aroma and flavor that screams summer! Cilantro may increase the production of digestive acids, which can help stimulate the gut to move waste out. A healthy digestive tract is key for weight loss, says Ellis.
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“This sweet tropical fruit is the perfect ingredient for summer smoothies and juices,” says Beth Aldrich, a certified holistic health and nutrition counselor, and author of the book Real Moms Love to Eat. “It contains the proteolytic enzyme bromelain, which aids in the digestion of protein and blood clot formation. As an anti-inflammatory super food, pineapple can help reduce swelling and in turn, you'll have a flatter belly.”
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Also known as yam or yambean, this Mexican turnip is a great source of fiber, says Dr. Jaime Schehr, a registered dietitian in New York City. “This plant is great for weight loss due to its high fiber to sugar ratio (a whopping 32g of fiber per medium jimaca—that’s almost an entire day’s worth). They are also a good source of potassium, an essential mineral in maintaining water balance in our body.”
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Ceviche is a wonderful lean protein source found on many Mexican menus throughout the summer months, and it’s easy to make at home, says Sharon Richter, a registered dietitian in New York City. Depending on what type of fish is used, ceviche can range between 120-175 calories per serving. (And word has it that Lady Gaga fuels up on ceviche while on tour).
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This bitter and slightly sweet melon is typically found in Asian markets and helps improve digestion and lower blood sugar. “Keeping blood sugar under control is important if you want to lose weight,” says Nicole Kuhl, a clinical nutritionist and Director of Nutrition at Lifespan Medicine. “Too much sugar in the blood stream sends a signal to the pancreas to release the fat storing hormone insulin. By keeping your blood sugar under control, you will reduce the likelihood of storing calories as fat.” Can’t stomach the bitterness? Try soaking it in chilled saltwater for a few hours prior to eating (raw or cooked).
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“Mangoes are a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth and to help to ward off other cravings,” says Rania Batayneh, MPH, a nutritionist and owner of Essential Nutrition for You. Mangoes are high in fiber, magnesium, antioxidants, and iron (making them a great snack for women who may have iron deficiency or anemia), says Batayneh. “And because mangoes aid in digestion, you want to focus on eating the fruit versus just drinking the juice.”
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You know carrots are good for you, but did you know that purple carrots are even better? “Purple carrots contain all of the phytochemicals found in orange carrots, and they also contain anthocyanins, which are potent antioxidants,” says Dr. Robert Rey, a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, reality TV star of Dr. 90210, and author of Body by Rey.This sweet, crunchy snack is loaded with powerful anti-aging properties and protects against damage caused by oxidation (free radicals).
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This fiber- and potassium-rich fruit makes the perfect summer snack. At around 170 calories for 8 oz, you can eat them alone, in salads, in cereals, or wrapped in prosciutto (just don’t grab a Fig Newton—you’ll get more nutrition and less fat from the actual fruit).
Wild Alaskan Salmon
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“Research published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2006 found that the type of DHA omega-3 oil found in salmon may have an ‘anti-obesity effect’ by preventing an increase in fat cells, causing death of pre-fat cells, and promoting the breakdown of fat in the body,” says Maleeff. Not sure how to prepare it? Try any (or all) of these five tasty salmon recipes.
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“Packed with important nutrients including vitamins A and C, potassium, and iron, one medium peach (only 38 calories) provides nearly 2 grams of fiber,” says Lauren O’Connor, a registered dietitian in Los Angeles, California. “A peach provides gentle laxative and diuretic properties; and thanks to it's beta carotene, it also helps your skin stay fresh and bright.” (They also make the perfect frozen treat! Try this recipe for pomegranate-peach-sicles).
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Peppers are a great weight-loss food since all varieties contain capsaicin, a natural metabolism booster, says Lisa C. Cohn, a registered dietitian and owner of Park Avenue Nutrition in New York. Add them into salsa or eat them fresh, roasted, or stuffed to reap their better-body benefits.
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Full of nutrients and phytochemicals, plums are light in calories but heavy on flavor. And they also make a great dessert! Indulge without ruining your diet with this recipe for Alsatian plum cakes.
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Crab is a light, lean source of protein, says Richter. Just be sure to stay away from breaded, floured, or fried varieties to keep it low fat and bikini friendly!
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These sweet (and fuzz free), low-cal fruits are full of flavonoids, lycopene, and lutein, which help prevent disease and keep your eyes healthy. (We just love this nectarine and hazelnut salad!)
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“Watermelon is my favorite summertime pound-shedding food,” says Jennifer Cassetta, a Clinical Nutritionist and owner of Health and the City in New York City. Watermelon is 92 percent water—it fills you up, is low in calories and yet still contains great amounts of nutrients and cancer-fighting antioxidants like Vitamin C and lycopene.
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“Corn is a starch that resists digestion and as such can aid weight loss by increasing immunity, controlling blood sugar levels, and increasing satiety,” says Marissa Vicario, a certified holistic health coach and founder of Marissa’s Well-Being and Health.
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“Peas have higher protein and iron levels than most vegetables, so they can be a good source of nutrients—and an alternative to non-animal foods which tend to be higher in saturated fat,” explains Vicario.
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This summer veggie staple is a great low cal and fat free source of fiber and iron, says Vicario. Not a fan of green beans? Hide them in this hearty and healthy bean salad (a great lighter alternative to potato salad for picnics).
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Did you know turnips could help you shed belly fat? Their high vitamin C and phytochemical levels help detoxify your body—and too many toxins in the body can lead to fat accumulation around your waist, says Maleeff. At only 34 calories and 8 grams of carbohydrates per cup (vs. a potato’s 113 calories and 26 grams of carbohydrates), try making mashed turnips instead of mashed potatoes for a nutrient-dense, low-calorie alternative, suggests Maleeff.
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Rich in vitamin C and phytochemicals with antioxidant and anti-inﬂammatory properties, grapes may also protect against Type 2 diabetes, says Kara Ellis, a registered dietitian in New York City. “Grapes also have a high water content, making them a refreshing summer snack that helps you feel full and satisfied (1 cup of fresh grapes contain only 100 calories).”
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“Sweet potatoes are a great source of dietary fiber, which helps to reduce blood sugar and insulin spikes, ultimately reducing belly fat,” explains Shana Maleeff a dietitian and fitness professional in New York City. Maleeff suggests substituting a sweet potato for potato salad, potato chips, or mashed potatoes at BBQs to save hundreds of calories. (We also love this recipe for mashed roasted sweet potatoes).
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“Salsa is low in calories and tastes great on all kinds of healthy foods (vegetables, salads, poultry, and fish). It has antioxidants, such as lycopene, which aid in cellular health. Use salsa in place of other high-calorie dips such as hummus, onion dips, and cheese dips and you’re guaranteed to cut calories,” says Ellis. Make your own at home with this easy recipe for spicy corn salsa.
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"For about 150 cal per 3.5 oz serving, arctic char joins the ranks of heart-healthy foods as a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Choosing fish over red meat reduces saturated fats in the diet and may help lower risk of heart disease and cancers,” says O’Connor. High in two types of healthy, mood-enhancing omega-3’s (EPA and DHA) this high-protein, low-calorie fish makes a great main course.
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This extra-lean fish is full of vitamin B12, phosphorous, and selenium, and most farm-raised catfish are very low in mercury. Skip the deep fryer to keep it lean, and try grilling up some catfish with this yummy marinade.
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At only 130 calories for a 3 oz portion, this mild fish is low in fat and packed with protein. It’s a great substitute for high-fat meats like cheeseburgers, sausages, ribs, and hot dogs, says Maleeff. Throw it on the grill for a delicious, low-fat summer BBQ main dish.
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This summer favorite doesn’t have to wreck your waistline! “Using lean ground beef (95 percent lean vs. 80 percent) for your hamburgers will save you 170 calories and 19 grams of fat for a 6-ounce burger,” says Maleeff. Ditch the bun, swap ketchup for tomatoes, and wrap it up in lettuce for a burger that’s full of flavor, not empty calories. Try some of these tasty, slimmed-down burger recipes tonight.
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“A cup of blackberries has only 62 calories and is packed with fiber and phytochemicals, including powerful flavonoids and anthocyanins, which help to speed stool and toxins through your digestive system,” says Maleeff. Their high water and fiber content, plus sweet taste, make them the perfect refreshing summer weight-loss food. (These blackberry yogurt cheesecake parfaits are perfect for dessert!)
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Lima beans are great vegetarian sources of protein (one cup offers 15 grams, or the same as 2 ounces of meat). The fat-free beans are also packed with soluble fiber and iron to provide long-term energy and satisfaction.
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Full of fiber and heart-healthy fats (including omega-3’s, which have shown to have metabolic-boosting benefits), walnuts are great to crunch on instead of “bad” fat-filled and salted potato chips, says Maleeff. Just watch your portion size since nuts are high in calories. (We recommend tossing a handful into a salad to add crunch and flavor).
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A ‘meaty’ vegetarian alternative to burgers, grilled portabella mushrooms are high in fiber and low in calories, says Mindy Hahn, a licensed dietitian based in Chicago. (They are also amazing stuffed! We love this low-fat recipe for stuffed portabellas.)
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Naturally sweet and high in water content, cantaloupe is a great summer alternative to high-calorie and high-fat desserts like ice cream and cakes, says Maleeff. “Enjoy this tasty melon for dessert, and watch the pounds fall off!”
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At only 70 calories and 15 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving, these little lobster-like creatures are low calorie and lower in cholesterol than shrimp, says Richter.
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While they may not be the most appetizing item on the list, if you can stomach them, pop open a can of sardines this summer! Sardines are full of fat-fighting compounds that help stabilize blood sugar. They’re rich sources of CO enzyme Q10, vitamin B12, selenium, omega-3 oils, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D. Plus, sardines are satiating and packed with protein, says Richter.
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Made of mostly vegetables and spices, gazpacho is full of water, fiber, and antioxidants, making it a low-calorie, filling option that can replace more caloric and fattening foods in your diet, says Maleeff. Plus, a recent Penn State study found that eating a low-calorie soup (like Gazpacho) before a meal could help you consume 20 percent fewer calories at mealtimes.
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“Bananas contain a small amount of fiber and resistant starch, which have received recent attention for their potential role in boosting weight loss,” says Ellis. Snacking on bananas is easy, convenient, and low cal. They’re also a great source of potassium, which can be lost in sweat during tough workouts or on hot summer days. Plus they make for nice drinks, like the Jamba Juice Triple Revitalizer with carrot and orange juice.
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“One serving of summer squash (½ cup) is only 10 calories and contains 15 percent of your daily needs of vitamin C,” says Ellis. “Grill it, add it to salads, or puree it and add it to baking. Summer squash is a low-calorie, nutrient-rich food that screams summer—literally!”
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In addition to being nutritious, low-cal and full of fiber, cabbage is also a top source of sulfur, a mineral our bodies use to produce the natural hair-and-nail strengthener keratin, says Rey. To stay slim and enjoy more beautiful hair and nails, whip up some vinegar-based coleslaw. Just stay away from creamy coleslaw; it can contain a whopping 19 grams of fat per cup!
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“At a tiny 20 calories for every 3 cups, arugula provides an excellent source of folate, vitamins A and C, and more than 100 percent of your daily vitamin K needs,” says Rey. Not only is it a great weight-loss food, arugula can also help reduce your risk of bone fractures this summer: A recent Framingham Heart study found that people who consumed approximately 250 micrograms per day of vitamin K had a 35-percent lower risk of hip fractures compared to those who consumed just 50 micrograms per day, says Rey.
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“One cup of shredded Romaine lettuce is a mere 10 calories,” says Victoria Shanta Retelny, author of The Essential Guide to Healthy Healing Foods. It’s also full of vitamins and has more fiber than it’s other leafy counterparts, so if you are hungry, toss up a salad with a drizzle of vinegar and oil for a filling, light meal or snack.
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“High in flavor, vitamin K, manganese, and iron, thyme is an herb with volatile oils, which support cells (especially in the brain) and protect membranes which can suffer when you diet,” says Cohn. “Not to mention, thyme is delicious, and keeping your food tasty is a key to weight loss.” We agree!
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“Turkey is a great source of B vitamins, selenium, and lean protein,” says Ellis. Grill up a turkey burger (be sure to check for 90-percent lean—or more—on the label) instead of a full-fat hamburger for a lighter, leaner option.
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“Although available year–round, celery is best in the summer,” says Ellis. This super low-calorie food is also an excellent source of vitamins K and C, and a good source of many other essential nutrients such as dietary fiber, folate, potassium, and thiamine. “Crunching on celery is one of the oldest diet tricks because it may help decrease overall calorie consumption and aid in healthy digestion.”
Lemons and Limes
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Both lemons and limes are excellent sources of Vitamin C, says Ellis, but it’s their flavor that aids in weight loss the most. “We’ve all been told to drink lots of water, but sometimes water’s lackluster taste causes us to turn to other beverages. Add lemon or lime juice to boost your water’s flavor and can help you drink more—staying hydrated may help suppress appetite, says Ellis.
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Wheat often gets a bad rap when it comes to weight loss, but it can offer vital nutrients that are helpful for dieters, says Cohn. The whole grains found in wheat (such as bulgur) are great sources of energy, as they are high in B vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
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A great energy source and naturally high in soluble fiber (the goopy, gelatinous fiber that promotes good digestion), oats are a great weight-loss food since so many diets cause constipation, says Cohn. Eat them as a nourishing hot breakfast cereal or dry as granola.
RELATED: 16 Savory Oatmeal Recipes
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This flavorful, easy to use herb is rich in vitamin K, antioxidants, minerals, and omega-3 oils, says Cohn. “Plus, the natural aromatherapy of oregano makes you a happy eater—key for long-term success.”
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This lean meat is a good source of protein and minerals, says Cohn. “3 ounces has 2.5 grams of fat and 143 calories (1/3 the fat of beef or pork and 40 percent less calories). Bison is usually much lower in hormones and raised on cleaner feed.”
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Yogurt contains natural probiotics, which can help reduce tummy bloating, gas and constipation (often problematic while dieting). Just choose Greek varieties, which are higher in protein, lower in added sugar, and creamy, recommends Cohn.
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While they don’t need a "season," these sweet little treats are a great weight-loss food. “They’re high in good fiber, which keeps you full and satisfied longer. This way, you won’t be tempted to tap into those greasy potato chips too soon after dinner. Prunes are also high in vitamins and de-bloating potassium (to keep those abs looking fab!),” says Lauren Slayton, a nutritionist in New York City. Since you can easily toss them into your beach bag, prunes make the perfect summer snack!