Lighten up! That’s what summer is all about, after all. But shedding those clothing layers can be easier than shedding the comfort foods, especially with all the BBQs, picnics, and parties on the horizon.
So we rounded up the best in-season summer foods that fill you up without weighing you down. In other words, you can eat and still lose weight. Here’s how.
Ah, tomatoes—those juicy red orbs of summer aren’t just basil’s best friend, they’re antioxidant-packed powerhouses that can keep you trim, too. Tomatoes are the richest source of lycopene, a potent antioxidant that can reduce inflammation in the body and in turn help control leptin levels, an appetite-regulating hormone that can dial down the cravings. Plus, they’re low-cal (a medium tomato has just 22 calories) and loaded with vitamin C, an antioxidant linked to boosted fat burning, especially during exercise. Opt for organic; one study found organic tomatoes have 55% more vitamin C.
You know it’s summer when farmers’ markets are bursting with berries, but these tangy treats aren’t just a feast for your taste buds. In one study, Harvard researchers found that eating berries can keep you from gaining weight, thanks their lower glycemic load, which means less blood sugar spikes to curb hunger. Berries are also fiber all-stars—raspberries have a whopping 8 g of fiber per cup, which can help you lose weight by making you feel full longer. They could also be the answer to a flatter tummy: An animal study found that eating blueberries can reduce belly fat.
The cool fish dish tastes gourmet (it’s raw fish cured in citrus—no cook!), but it’s a cinch to make and can even cinch your waist. That’s because the Latin American favorite delivers plenty of satiating protein, a micronutrients known to aid weight loss, as well as omega-3 fatty acids that may help you shed pounds. In one study, mice fed fish oil lost more weight and burned more calories. Toss in chopped jalapeños for extra fat-burning power; studies show that spicy foods can crank up your metabolism and suppress appetite.
Three ounces of shrimp contain 101 calories and only 1 g of fat, yet pack in 19 g of protein, which fills you up so you eat less later. They’re also a good source of selenium and energy-boosting B vitamins. Just be sure to skip the butter-soaked and deep-fried kinds in favor of sautéed, roasted, boiled, and grilled. For the cleanest, healthiest shrimp that are also kinder to the environment, opt for farmed US shrimp (hard to find, but the safest) or wild-caught shrimp from Alaska and the Gulf Coast.
Try this ultra-filling Thai Shrimp.
There’s a reason spinach makes it on so many super food lists: The leafy green is loaded with vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and folate—and at just 7 calories per cup, it’s practically calorie free. And it has one more secret weapon up its sleeve: It can cut cravings. A study published in the journal Appetite found that downing a daily drink with spinach extract containing leaf membranes called thylakoids boosted weight loss by 45% and reduced food cravings by 95%. So whip up a green smoothie or add it as a sandwich or burger topper.
Try this creamy Spinach Dip.
Slurping back watermelon on a hot day is a summer rite of passage. The sweet taste can trick your taste buds into thinking you’re downing dessert, yet eating a wedge of watermelon instead of, say, a slice of cake, will save you hundreds of calories. Mega bonus: Since watermelon is 92% water, it can fend off dehydration-related hunger.
Try this refreshing Watermelon Cooler.
Move over pasta salad: Zucchini can pinch-hit for the high-carb stuff for way less calories. Replacing 1 cup of traditional pasta of zucchini noodles (aka saddles) saves you 200 calories, plus the summer squash is packed with bloat-preventing potassium. A box grater, veggie peeler, or spiralizer will turn Zukes into noodles in a flash, and then you can pair them with a tomato, pesto, or lemon sauce—no cooking necessary!
Try this satisfying Zucchini-Linguine Bolognese.
8. Green iced tea (with mint)
Green iced tea, hold the sugar, could be your new best friend. Studies show that a compound in green tea, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), is associated with boosted fat burning, appetite control, and weight loss. Adding fresh mint to your homebrew is a calorie-free way to add flavor, plus research says it can act as a natural appetite suppressant; one study found that a daily whiff of the minty stuff meant consuming 1,800 fewer calories in a week.
Try this invigorating Bottomless Ginger Mint Iced Tea.
9. Greek yogurt
Hunger pangs, be gone! By replacing Maya with Greek yogurt in potato and pasta salad, not only do you save calories—370 calories per ½ cup!—you get a mega dose of satiating protein. Just 1 cup of Greek yogurt has 23 g of protein, which studies say can stave off hunger and make you feel fuller. It can also power up parfaits, smoothies, dips, and even desserts.