If you've noticed the dreaded "middle-age spread" creeping up on you, there are changes you can make to your diet to keep your pants from getting any tighter. A recent study by Tufts University's Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy found that while things like red and processed meats, refined sugars, wheats and starches can cause weight gain over time, there are a few foods that can help stop that and actually help with weight loss.
The study found that when subjects increased their intake of yogurt, they either lost weight or experienced less weight gain. Nutritionist Tamara Melton, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told The Huffington Post that this can be a healthy choice, given you watch the sugar content that is in a serving of yogurt. Though yogurt is often touted as a health food, many variations come loaded with added sugars and fat for flavor. Melton says that, as a rule of thumb, no more than 10 percent of your daily caloric intake should come from added sugars -- or from those sugars that are not naturally occurring sugars, such as those found in fruit. Unfortunately, Melton says, natural sugars are included on nutrition labels with added sugars, meaning you should look on the ingredients list for things like sugar, maltose, sucrose and cane juice.
A 2005 study by researchers at the University of Tennessee found that in obese adults, eating a high dairy diet of three servings of low-calorie yogurt a day, lost not only more weight, but more belly fat than those with lower-dairy diets.
Seafood is not only high in protein, it can be a source of healthy fat (so long as you eschew fried, battered varieties). Melton says tuna, mackerel, salmon and sardines are great due to their combination of filling protein and omega-3s.
A 2008 study found that dieters on a low-calorie diet lost more weight (around two pounds) when eating three servings of salmon a week compared with the group that didn't eat seafood. Those who ate lean white fish also experienced greater weight loss than the non-seafood group.
Chicken is a great source of lean protein as long as it isn't fried and you have it without the skin. It's also a convenient choice for people on the go due to its versatility in salads, sandwiches, soups and more. Chicken is a lower-calorie but more dense food, making it more filling.
A 2012 study found that protein helps increase lean body mass. Participants in the study were all fed an excess of calories, but with varying amounts of protein. While all groups gained weight, the high protein group had a higher resting metabolic rate and lean body mass than the low-protein group.
The good news, Melton says, is that you can take your pick when it comes to nuts. Whether they are pistachios, walnuts, almonds or peanuts, nuts are a source of protein and healthy fats and mostly have a similar nutrient profile. But since they're so easy to snack on, it's important to make sure you watch your portion sizes and don't get carried away as you nosh. A serving size is one ounce, Melton says.
While nuts sometimes get a bad rap due to their high fat content, studies have shown that nuts don't actually cause weight gain or impede weight loss (so long as you don't overreach your caloric intake) and can even have modest weight loss benefits when added into your diet as a replacement for another snack.