On an energy restricted (low kJ) diet it's important to select top-quality foods to ensure you get everything you need nutritionally. These top 50 diet foods provide you with maximum nutrients and minimal kilojoules.
- Apple cider vinegar It's got negligible kilojoules, is great used in a salad dressing and provided you buy a naturally fermented one, will encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut to aid digestion.
- Apples With only 330 kilojoules they make a great in-between meal snack providing 10 percent of your daily recommended fibre intake. They're a good source of antioxidants, soluble and insoluble fibre and vitamin C. Always wash apples to remove any pesticide residue and leave the skin on — not only does it provide you with fibre, new research has discovered powerful disease-busting phytochemicals in the skin of red apples.
- Arugula (rocket) It's more commonly known as rocket. This dark green peppery tasting salad has only 68kJ in a whole cup so you can go for your life and eat as much as you want. Its bitter taste helps to stimulate the liver for improved bile flow and digestion. It's rich in beta-carotene, fibre, vitamin C, folate, calcium, iron and a whole heap of other nutrients as well.
- Asian greens Plentiful, inexpensive and very low in kilojoules, Asian greens are a great excuse to take a trip to Chinatown to stock up. The more common Asian greens include; Gai lan, choy sum, baby choy, bok choy, moon bok, Chinese chickory, Chinese celery, and Chinese cabbage. Steamed or stir fried in a small amount of oil you can eat large amounts for little extra kJs and a whole lot of nutrients including, betacarotene, vitamins C, K, B6, and folate, calcium, iron, potassium and manganese.
- Asparagus Four steamed spears amount to only 53kJ. Not much when you consider how they enhance a meal. Steamed and served with salad or as a side vegetable to meat or fish, asparagus is a good source of fibre, folate, vitamins C, E, K, B6, and a whole host of other vitamins and minerals. It also contains saponins believed to reduce cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. And it's so easy to prepare — a quick wash, steam for three minutes and it's done.
- Avocado Okay so it has the same number of kilojoules as butter but that's were the similarities end. The monounsaturated fat in avocado appears to metabolise differently to saturated fat which means in simple terms it won't be stored as fat on your body (as long as you don't eat it in excess). Replacing butter with two to three slices of avocado on your sandwich will boost the nutritional benefits significantly, and your sandwich will taste much better too.
- Banana It's a great energy food and one of the best sources of potassium around. With 379kJ it's not a food to overeat when you're trying to lose weight but it does make an excellent mid-afternoon snack to tide you over until dinner. It's important to note that slightly under-ripe bananas have a lower GI than overripe bananas.
- Barley Barley is an ancient grain that's quietly enjoying a revival with more health-conscious individuals. Whole barley, pot or pearly barley are available from the health section of the supermarket or wholefood stores. Barley is included in this list because compared to brown rice, it has almost three times the fibre, fewer kilojoules and half the GI of rice. It will help lower cholesterol, promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut and will keep you feeling full for much longer than rice will ever do.
- Beans Beans are a legume and are one of the best carbohydrates you can eat. With an extremely low GI, beans are high in fibre and have antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties that will help protect us from disease. Best choices include kidney, cannelini, chickpeas, borlotti, broad beans, and edamame (fresh soy). Buy them canned, dried or in the case of edamame, frozen.
- Berries Berries are one of the best anti-aging, antioxidant-rich foods around and like most foods included in this list they are low in kilojoules. Raspberries and blackberries are particularly high in fibre but are expensive so you should take advantage of the frozen varieties available all year round. Watch out for cranberries as these are often coated with sugar.
- Broccoli It's more substantial than the green leafy vegetables, but one cup of steamed broccoli is still only 140kJ, very low considering the many nutrients it contains. Raw, it's said to help reduce the risk of colon cancer, cooked it may help reduce the risk of many other types of cancer. To get the best health benefits from broccoli, cut it into pieces and allow it to sit for 10 minutes before eating raw or cooking. This gives enough time to release myrosinase, an enzyme which activates plant nutrients and maximises their health benefits.
- Buckwheat noodles Available from health food stores, 100 percent buckwheat noodles have more fibre than most other noodles. They're a great source of protein, rich in fibre and have a low GI. They are also completely gluten free. Research indicates a weight loss diet with more protein is more sustainable than one with less, therefore a protein-rich grain that's high in fibre is a good choice to add to your diet list.