5 Simple & Effective Fat Loss Diet Practices

To get or stay lean, use these five best simple fat loss diet practices:

  1. Eat whole foods with awareness of energy density.
  2. Avoid salt
  3. Eat enough lean protein to satisfy
  4. Eat enough carbohydrate to satisfy
  5. Reduce meal frequency

Best Simple Fat Loss Diet Practices #1

Eat mostly whole foods 

The first of the best fat loss diet practices is to eat whole foods with a moderate to low energy density. 

Energy density refers to the number of calories per gram of food.  The table below shows the energy density of some common foods. 

From the table above you can note that fat has the highest energy density (9 kcal/g) and drives up the caloric density of foods dramatically.  For example, if you trim all visible fat from a beef T-bone the caloric density is 2.0, but if you leave the fat on and eat it, the caloric density is 2.9, nearly 50% greater. 

Therefore, moderation of fat intake is one of the best fat loss diet practices because it will help you reduce the energy density of your diet.  Fat-rich foods additionally appear to offer the lowest satiety relative to energy content. This may be at least in part due to the fact that fat is very compact, taking up very little space in the stomach relative to its caloric content.  

Studies indicate that most people eat 3-4 pounds (roughly 1.5-2 kg) of food daily to obtain satiety.  Simply, you have to eat enough food by weight and volume to feel full.  The higher the energy density of the foods you eat, the more energy (calories) you will consume en route to feeling full.

Most people do not want to weigh and measure everything that they eat.  Nor do people want to leave the table feeling hungry.

Looking at the table, you can see that if you want to eat a lot of food but not overeat energy, your best choices are lean meats, eggs, reduced fat dairy products, fresh fruits, tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes), and grains cooked in water (brown or white rice, noodles, oatmeal, etc.).  Make these foods for strength the bulk of your diet.  

You don’t have to avoid the higher energy density foods, you just use them in smaller portions.  Use larger portions of the lower energy density foods.  This way you get the taste satisfaction that comes from eating some higher energy density foods (e.g. beef, chicken with skin, butter, etc), while also getting the bulk satisfaction that comes from eating a large amount of food (fruits, tubers, bulky boiled grains).  This is the traditional way of eating around the world, and is the recommendation of traditional Chinese medicine as well.  

For example, the day I wrote this, I had the following main meal that exemplifies the best fat loss diet practices:

  • 100 g skinless chicken breast in spicy peanut sauce (about a tablespoon of peanut butter)
  • 100 g chicken thigh with skin (marinated in no-salt spicy sweet sauce)
  • 1/3 cup green beans and carrots
  • 1.5 cup sprouted brown rice
  • 1 cup dark grape juice
  • 1 orange
  • 2 dates
  • 2 squares Ghirardelli 72% Intense Dark chocolate

That provided 1239 kcal, 72 g protein, 29 g fat, and 163 g carbohydrate.  I finished eating about 3:30 p.m.  I won't need to eat again until after 7 a.m. the next day.

Best Fat Loss Diet Practices #2

Shake the salt habit

Cutting salt out of your diet is one of the best fat loss diet practices.

Salt stimulates your appetite.  A human study found that adding salt to food increased subjects overall food and energy intakes by 11%, and increased energy intake of high-fat meals by 60%!   

This is well known to chefs and restauranteurs. They give you salty foods as “appetizers” so you will order and eat more food, increasing their profits off of you.    

Fat (or grease) is not very palatable in the absence of salt.  Very few people would enjoy unsalted pork belly without the addition of salt or a salt-containing condiment.  Yet people will eat bacon––salted pork belly––with relish.  Few people would enjoy greasy standing rib roast prepared without salt or sauce.  

Similarly, many people consider starches (potatoes, rice, bread) “bland” and unappetizing without the addition of salt.  Who would eat french fries or potato chips without salt?

Salt is used to make palatable the unpalatable! When you put salt on food you confuse your taste receptors so that they are not able to play their proper role in regulating your food intake.  Instead of tasting the food, you taste the salt. 

You will consume more salted fat than unsalted fat, and more salted carbohydrate than unsalted carbohydrate.  By removing salt from your diet you could spontaneously cut your overall energy intake by up to 60%.  

Dietary salt is not essential, and accumulating evidence indicates that salt causes atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease––not cholesterol, fat, nor sugar.

Best Fat Loss Diet Practices #3

Eat adequate lean protein

Another of the best fat loss diet practices is eating adequate lean protein.

Protein-rich foods appear to be the most satiating, followed by carbohydrate-rich foods and fat-rich foods in that order [study].  

Eating adequate protein––in the range of 1.0-1.6 g/kg––also appears to support lower total energy intake and cardiovascular risk factors, along with higher lean mass and resting energy expenditure [study].

In the interest of objectivity, some studies show that soy protein is just as satisfying as beef protein [here and here].  Similarly, pea protein may be just as satisfying as whey protein [here].

However, the satiating effect of protein is limited.  Beyond some limit, which you need to determine for yourself, you will not get more satiation by pounding down more protein.  

One problem with excessive focus on protein is that most whole foods rich in protein also deliver a significant dose of fat and have a higher energy density.  Consequently an overemphasis on protein-rich food can easily lead to excessive energy intake, particularly in smaller and largely sedentary individuals.

For example, 500 g of ribeye steak (visible fat eaten) provides 133 g protein and 1250 kcal.  That's an amount of protein needed only by people weighing more than 180 pounds.   In comparison, 250 g of ribeye (with fat) plus 250 g of potato provides 67 g protein and only 775 kcal, and 250 g of trimmed ribeye plus 250 g of potato provides 77 g protein and only 660 kcal.  Thus you can cut energy intake in half while consuming the same amount of food (500 g) and still plenty of protein (see table below).  

As a guideline, this review suggests that a protein intake of 1.2-1.6 g/kg bodyweight will likely provide as much protein-induced satiety as is possible to get from dietary protein.  That’s 50-100% more protein than the Recommended Dietary Allowance, but not as much as one might think.  

Since plant foods also provide protein, one does not actually need to eat extraordinary amounts of meat, eggs, and dairy to get 1.2-1.6 g of protein per kg of body weight.  Here's an example of a menu from a day I tracked that provides 142 g of protein while including only 2 eggs, 1 scoop of collagen, 1 cup of Greek yogurt, and 200 g of chicken.

As shown in the table above, that provides enough protein for an active 200+ pound individual.

Actually you can learn rely on your appetite for this, just as all our ancestors did before they even knew there was protein in food (protein was not identified by biochemists until the 18th century).  Let your on-board operating system be your guide.  Eat as much relatively lean, unsalted protein-rich food as actually appeals to you.  Don’t eat more than suits your taste, nor less.  

Best Fat Loss Diet Practices #5 

Eat adequate carbohydrates

Another of the top fat loss diet practices is eating adequate carbohydrate.  

As mentioned above, carbohydrate-rich foods are generally more satiating than fat-rich foods.  This occurs because eating carbohydrate–– like eating protein–– triggers insulin release, which is detected by the central nervous system as a signal for satiety. 

Yes, one of the reasons you feel satiated after high protein meals is their release of insulin, which plays a role in stimulation of protein synthesis after ingestion of amino acids from protein. 

Contrary to what you may have heard from some advocates of low carbohydrate diets, insulin produced in response to ingestion of either protein or carbohydrate does not stimulate appetite.  On the contrary, endogenously produced insulin reduces food intake.  

In fact, insulin regulates bodyweight.  When a person fasts or loses weight, less insulin is secreted and less reaches the brain’s insulin receptors; as a result appetite increases until bodyweight is restored.  On the other hand, when a person becomes overweight, insulin levels rise, more insulin reaches the brain, and this reduces food intake until weight is lost. 

Anyway, this means that eating carbohydrate-rich foods can be one of the best fat loss diet practices because it will contribute to satiety between meals.  Thus eating adequate carbohydrate from low-energy density sources––fruits, tubers, and grains cooked in water–– will help you stay satisfied with less total food energy intake.   

Best Simple Fat Loss Diet Practices #5

Eat less often

As I have mentioned, most people do not want to have to weigh and measure every bite of food they consume in order to calculate energy balance.  Its just cumbersome and time-consuming.  

The bottom line for losing fat is you have to eat and produce less fat than you burn.  

To accomplish that, you just have to eat less!

Yes, you have to eat less.  You can eat less by cutting fat (reduced fat diet), by cutting carbohydrate (reduced carbohydrate diet), or by cutting both fat and carbohydrates (reduced calorie diet). 

If you eat 3-6 times daily, you will need to plan your meals to restrict fat, carbohydrate or calories.  When you combine frequent eating with some form of restriction, you end up with smaller meals.

This can lead to a problem.  Remember that the average person eats 1500-2000 g of food daily.  You need the volume of food to feel full in the stomach, which triggers satiety.  However, as you reduce the size of meals (by cutting out grams of fat, or grams of carbohydrate, or both), meals become less satisfying!

The result can be that you stop eating at meals before you feel satisfied––in order to restrict calories, carbohydrates or fat grams––then soon find yourself unable to stop thinking about the next meal!   

An alternative way to eat less––without having to weigh and measure or count anything––is to reduce your feeding frequency.  That is, eat a fully satisfying amount and variety at meals, but eat fewer meals, less often.

Eating less often may be the best of all the best simple fat loss diet practices.

The more often you eat, the more likely you will eat more food than you actually need.  The less often you eat, the less likely you will eat more than you actually need. 

First, cut out all snacking.  Don’t eat between meals!  

Second, reduce your meal frequency.  Most adults with primarily sedentary lifestyles do not need more than 2 meals daily.  

In fact, if you go back in time, when people were more physically active (due to less mechanization), they actually ate less frequently than we do today.  

Among traditional horticulturalists and agriculturalists, adults didn’t eat much if anything until after spending several hours in the morning and/or before noon doing farm or kitchen chores (including preparing the first meal from scratch). The English word “dinner” comes from the Old French disner which originally meant “breakfast,” that is, the meal that comes after the extended daily fast. In French and English “dinner” traditionally referred to the main meal of the day, which in pre-industrial times was taken sometime between late morning and midday (after morning work). The second, smaller meal was supper, usually taken well before sunset. The word “lunch” originally meant  “hunk of bread” and referred to an afternoon snack – not a full meal – had between the first (midday) meal and supper. Only the wealthy, overfed aristocrats ate more than two main meals daily, and they were most prone to obesity, gout, and other diseases. 

We're less active, but eat more often.  Its upside down world, right?   

If you eat only 2 meals daily (or even only one on some days), you will have a good appetite when it comes time to eat and will naturally prefer to eat nutrient-dense foods at those meals.  Moreover, if you eat whole foods it will be very difficult to eat more substantially food than you actually need in just 2 meals. 

When you eat only 2 meals daily you also can arrange them so that you get at least 16 hours fasting each day.  This allows your body to exit the fed state and enter the fasted state, during which hormonal changes take place which favor the oxidation of body fat as well as excretion of excess fluids.

This approach, called time-restricted eating, has been shown to improve metabolic health markers without specifically restricting either fat or carbohydrate.  

The more I learn about the benefits of time-restricted eating, the more I feel inclined to believe that many of the ills attributed to fat or sugar intake are actually due to eating too often and at the wrong times of the day.  

As discussed in this 2021 paper, research and basic circadian biology indicate that time-restricted feeding produces the best metabolic effects when aligned with circadian rhythms.  

Ideally, food intake begins at about 8 a.m. and ends no later than 6 p.m., because between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. hormones are produced that promote fatty acid oxidation and glycolysis, and inhibit fat accumulation.  One should avoid eating food after 6 p.m. because the hormonal environment during the evening and night time encourages fat storage. 

I personally implement this by eating my first meal between 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and usually having my second and last meal between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.  

Simple Practices for Fat Loss 

To wrap up and review, the five best simple fat loss diet practices are:

  1. Eat whole foods with awareness of energy density.
  2. Avoid salt
  3. Eat enough lean protein to satisfy
  4. Eat enough carbohydrate to satisfy
  5. Reduce meal frequency

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