Everybody is different, so weight loss diets that work well for some women might not be right for you – and that’s entirely okay!
Finding the best diet for me involves food preferences, lifestyle habits, and what you’re most comfortable with long term.
Weight Loss Diets for Women: An Overview
Break weight loss down into several key components to simplify it, before answering the question “what is the best diet for me?”
Knowing the basics helps you get started so you can choose a weight loss plan that best matches your individual needs.
Weight Loss Foods
Knowing which foods aid in weight loss is the key to success, regardless of your food preferences.
Chances are you’ll enjoy at least some of the most common weight loss foods for women.
- Fruits: blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, mangoes, apples, pears, oranges, grapefruit, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, bananas, grapes, kiwi fruit, pineapple, and cherries.
- Non-starchy vegetables: lettuce, spinach, other leafy greens, asparagus, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, and celery.
- Fiber-rich starches: corn, green peas, lentils, black beans, chickpeas, other legumes, sweet potatoes, quinoa, oatmeal, brown rice, wild rice, whole grain pasta, and whole-grain breads and cereals.
- Protein foods: very lean meats, chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, eggs, tofu, and seitan.
- Dairy foods/calcium-rich substitutes: low-fat milk, plain Greek yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, reduced-fat cheese, plain kefir, soy milk, soy yogurt, protein-fortified almond milk, other plant milks, and protein powder shakes.
- Nutritious fats: olives, olive oil, other plant oils, avocados, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pistachios, almond butter, other nut butters, and hummus.
- Very low-calorie drinks: water, black coffee, and unsweetened tea
Weight Loss Snacks
- Protein powder mixed with fruit or nut butter and plant milk
- Fruit with nut butter
- Nuts and seeds
- Plain Greek yogurt topped with fruit or nuts
- Raw veggies or pita chips dipped in hummus
- Reduced-fat cheese with fruit
- Canned light tuna on whole-grain crackers or cucumbers with diced avocado
- Low-fat cottage cheese with sunflower seeds or fruit
- Air popped popcorn and nuts
- Celery dipped in peanut butter
- Low-sugar meal replacement protein bars
Weight Loss Breakfasts
- Vegetable omelet with oatmeal and plant milk
- Protein powder blended with oatmeal, fruit, or nut butter and plant milk
- Whole-grain English muffin topped with eggs and tomatoes
- Cottage cheese, fruit, and nuts
- Whole-grain Ezekiel toast topped with uncured turkey bacon and avocado slices
- A low-sugar protein bar
Weight Loss Lunches/Dinners
- Leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, sunflower seeds, grilled chicken, and hard-boiled eggs topped with oil-based dressing
- A lean turkey burger or veggie burger topped with tomatoes and avocados (wrapped in lettuce or between a whole-grain bun)
- Tuna mixed with avocado oil mayonnaise and diced celery, on top of whole-grain bread or leafy greens
- Taco salad made with very lean ground turkey, taco seasonings, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, and avocados
- Baked or grilled tofu with vegetables
- Shrimp and veggie kabobs
- Zucchini noodles topped with grilled chicken, garlic olive oil sauce, and parmesan
- Cauliflower crust pizza topped with oil-based sauce, veggies, and grilled chicken
- Salmon, cod, tuna, shrimp, or other fish/seafood plus quinoa and grilled veggies
- Grilled chicken or turkey plus brown rice and vegetables
- Turkey chili made with tomatoes, olives, pinto beans, and diced avocados
- Low-sodium chicken broth with seasonings, diced chicken, carrots, and celery
Change up weight loss meals and snacks regularly based on your food preferences.
Aim to fill about half of each plate with non-starchy vegetables, one-fourth of your plate with protein-rich foods, and one-fourth of each plate with fiber-rich starches.
Weight Loss Supplements to Consider
Certain supplements can make shedding pounds easier, but ask your doctor which ones are right for you.
Examples of weight loss supplements for women backed by research include:
- Fiber supplements
- Green coffee bean extract
- Green tea extract
- Protein supplements
- Multivitamin supplements
During your next checkup, ask your doctor about prescription appetite suppressants, hormone replacement therapy, or thyroid medications if your levels are outside of a normal range.
Effective Weight Loss Diets for Women
Numerous weight loss diets for women have been effective in research studies.
- Well-balanced, reduced-calorie diets
- Low-carb diets
- Ketogenic diets
- Vegetarian diets
- Vegan diets
- Low-fat diets
- Raw food diets
- Paleo diets
- Intermittent fasting
All of these diets involve restricting certain foods and reducing your overall calorie intake.
The right weight loss diet for you depends on your preferences and how easy the diet is for you to maintain.
In general, well-balanced diets work best for long-term success.
Nutritious Food Swaps for Weight Loss in Women
Try the following healthy food swaps to cut calories when creating a custom weight loss diet for yourself:
#1 Water, Coffee, and Tea for Alcohol and Sugary Drinks
Sugary and alcoholic drinks can pack in extra calories, but these drinks don’t fill you up very long and can increase cravings for other high-calorie foods and drinks.
When weight loss is your goal, choose water, black coffee, or unsweetened tea instead.
If drinking water is difficult for you, enhance the flavor of it with ice, cucumbers, or fruit chunks.
Aim for a least 12 cups of fluids daily for women.
#2 Fruit and Nut Butter or Dark Chocolate-Flavored Almonds for Sweets
Fruit with nut butter tastes sweet and boosts satiety more than sweet treats.
Choose apples, pears, or bananas dipped in peanut or almond butter.
Or, opt for dark chocolate-flavored almonds in place of cookies, candy bars, and ice cream when shedding pounds is your goal.
#3 Nuts for Potato Chips
If you experience salt cravings, reach for salted nuts or seeds instead of potato chips and other highly-processed foods.
Nut are loaded with essential nutrients and enhance satiety.
Though they are high in calories, studies show that increasing nut consumption is associated with lower body weights.
#4 Whole Grains for Refined Grains
While the calorie content might be similar for whole vs. refined grains, whole grains are higher in protein and fiber and keep you full for longer time periods.
When dropping weight is your goal, choose whole-grain pasta over regular pasta, brown rice or quinoa over white rice, oatmeal or other whole-grain cereals over sugary cereals, and whole-grain bread over white bread.
#5 Fruits and Vegetables with Skin for Juices and Skinless Fruits and Veggies
The reason you should swap fruits and veggies with skin for juices and skinless produce is because the skin is loaded with fiber and fills you up without the extra calories.
Fruit and vegetable skin is also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals.
#6 Poultry, Fish, Seafood, or Eggs for Red and Process Meats
Eating a lot of red and processed meat increases your risk of certain cancers, says the American Institute for Cancer Research.
These meats are often higher in calories as well. So instead of choosing marbled red meat or processed meats, such as ham, sausage, deli meats, bacon, and hot dogs, choose skinless chicken or turkey, fish, seafood, or eggs instead!
#7 Plain Greek Yogurt for Regular Yogurt
Yogurt is packed with protein and calcium, but some regular yogurts are also loaded with added sugar. Instead choose calcium-rich plain Greek yogurt, which provides more protein and less sugar and carbs than regular yogurt.
#8 Low-Sugar Protein Bars for Granola Bars
Choose protein bars over granola bars when weight loss is your goal.
Because many granola bars are highly processed with added sugar and contain little to no protein and fiber.
Many protein bars, on the other hand, are excellent sources of protein and sometimes satiating fiber!
Check food labels for total calorie and added sugar content, even in protein bars, and opt for those containing 5 grams of sugar or less per serving.
How to Choose the Best Diet for Me: A Step-by-Step Guide
The best diet plan for you is subjective, as everybody is different.
Use the following tips below to develop your own custom weight loss plan:
#1 Calculate Your Calorie Needs
Your individual calorie needs vary based on your size, usual intake, weight loss goals, and how active you are.
Aim to reduce your current intake by 500-1,000 calories daily to drop 1-2 pounds per week.
For many women, this means eating just 1,200-1,500 calories daily but you might require up to 1,800 calories per day if you’re very active.
Determine your usual intake using a calorie-counting app and subtract 500-1,000 from that number to determine your weight loss calorie needs.
#2 Make a Meal Plan
The next step in creating the best diet for you is to make a meal plan based on your calorie requirements and weight loss goals.
After you do so, you can plug your favorite foods into the meal plan to create custom weight loss menus.
A sample, 1,200-calorie weight loss meal plan might include:
Breakfast: 1/2 cup of vegetables, 1/2 cup of protein foods, 1/2 cup of whole grains, and 1 teaspoon of oils or other healthy fats
Snack: 1 cup of dairy foods and 1/2 cup of fruit
Lunch: 1/2 cup of protein foods, 1/2 cup of whole grains, 1 cup of vegetables, and 2 teaspoons of oils or other healthy fats
Snack: 1 1/2 cups of dairy foods, 1/2 cup of fruit, and 1 teaspoon of oils or other healthy fats
Dinner: 1/2 cup of protein foods, 1/2 cup of whole grains, 1 cup of vegetables, and 1 teaspoon of oils or other healthy fats
#3 Create a Menu Customized Just for You
Insert your favorite foods into the meal plan above to create custom weight loss menus you can stick with long term.
For example, a 1,200-calorie menu might include:
Breakfast (290 calories): 1/2 cup of cooked eggs, 1/2 cup of cooked mushrooms or bell peppers, and 1/2 cup of cooked oatmeal topped with 1/3 ounce of walnuts
Snack (190 calories): 1 cup plain Greek yogurt plus 1/2 cup of watermelon
Lunch (291 calories): 1/2 cup of grilled chicken, 2 cups of leafy greens and diced tomatoes, 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa, and 2 tablespoons of oil-based salad dressing.
Snack (235 calories): 1 1/2 cups of protein-fortified plant milk blended with 1/2 cup of sliced bananas and 1/2 tablespoon of peanut butter
Dinner (205 calories): 1/2 cup of baked cod, 1/2 cup of cooked sweet potatoes, and 1 cup of zucchini sautéed in 1 teaspoon of olive oil
Total Calories: 1,211
To learn more about portion sizes, check out ChooseMyPlate.gov as a reference.
Use the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Composition Database to track calorie, protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamin, and mineral content of your favorite foods.
Ways to Boost Your Chance of Weight Loss Success
To increase your chance of successful weight loss, try the following tips and tricks:
#1 Take It One Step at a Time
Weight loss can feel overwhelming at times, regardless of which diet you choose.
Make diet and other healthy lifestyle changes one at a time to simplify things and avoid getting discouraged.
#2 Complete Fat-Burning Workouts
Regular fat-burning workouts are just as important as choosing an effective weight loss diet for you.
Aim to exercise 30-60 minutes (or longer) most days of the week and combine aerobic exercise with resistance training to achieve optimal fat-burning results.
Work all major muscle groups at least 2-3 times each week and change up your workout routines often.
#3 Get Enough Sleep
Get plenty of sleep to let your body to recover after workouts and keep your appetite in check for effective weight loss.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adults get at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
#4 Joint Fit Mother Project 30X (FM30X)
Studies show that joining an effective weight loss program is associated with more weight loss than education and behavioral counseling alone.
The Fit Mother Project 30X (FM30X) is a weight loss program for women with proven, research-backed results!
When you join you’ll receive custom meal plans and menus, fat-burning workouts, online weight loss coaching from health experts, recipes, weekly newsletters, and much more!
Sign up for the FREE FM30X 3-day weight loss jump start kit today!
Erin Coleman, R.D.
Writer, The Fit Mother Project
Erin is registered dietitian who earned a nutritional science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she worked as a health educator for the department of internal medicine.
Her published work appears on hundreds of health, fitness, nutrition, and medical websites – including doctors’ offices, rehab centers, urgent care clinics, and hospitals.