We have compiled a list of the 10 best foods for women looking to get lean and toned. Not to be confused with belly-busting diets for women looking to lose weight, these superfoods are practically designed to help you get super strong. Many of the items on this list are high in protein, iron, fiber, and healthy fats, all of which are necessary for building and healing muscle.
Thinkstock: Wavebreaker Media LTD
An apple a day can keep the stomach fat away, or at least hold off hunger pangs. “Apples are a great source of soluble fiber that help keep you feeling full and your blood sugar balanced,” says Kaye Anne Starosciak, a registered dietician, sports nutritionist, and competitive runner. “The feeling of fullness you get from eating apples comes from more than just the fiber; the process of chewing the apple sends signals to the brain that it is satisfied.”
Some of the most effective complements to a rigorous workout are healthy fats, and avocado is one of the healthiest fats out there. “Avocados are high in fiber and heart-healthy fats,” said Kaye Anne Starosciak. “The fiber and fat help you feel satisfied as they stave off hunger.” Check out The Daily Meal’s healthy avocado recipes here.
For women looking to get lean, it’s important to increase healthy protein intake. Many nutritionists recommend starting off the day with an egg white omelette made with healthy vegetables like spinach or kale. According to Kaye Anne Starosciak, egg whites satiate and energize you while helping you build muscle.
Why Greek yogurt and not regular? Greek yogurt has the whey removed, so you get less sugar and more protein. Greek yogurt is also rich in amino acids, which are imperative for muscle repair for those looking to build a lean body. Let’s not forget the primary nutrient in yogurt: calcium-rich dairy. Remember that it’s just as important to feel good on the inside as it is to look good on the outside, and calcium is particularly important for women’s bone health.
Most nutritionists agree that when searching for a nutritious, filling meal before a workout, oatmeal, made with healthy grains, is the way to go. “Eat breakfast within an hour of waking up and keep it lean,” says nutritionist Alyssa Cellini. “Add protein powder, fresh fruit, and cinnamon for flavor.” Oatmeal, whether it’ steel-cut or not, is one of the healthiest breakfasts you can have. Just be sure to watch what you add on top.
Quinoa is one of the most powerful grains out there. What many people don’t know is that quinoa is actually rich in protein, meaning that it’s a great companion to working out in the gym. “Consuming protein following a weight-training workout will help to repair torn muscle and build new muscle tissue,” says Angela Onsgard, registered dietitian. “Quinoa is a rich source of dietary fiber that will keep you feeling full longer. One cup will also provide 39 grams of carbohydrates to replenish lost glycogen stores following a workout.”
“Staying lean and toned is hard to do when you're bloated,” says Rima Kleiner, registered dietitian of the National Fisheries Institute. “The omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon block prostaglandin production, which can decrease inflammation. Plus, the vitamin D in this fatty fish helps overcome fatigue from bloating.” If that’s not enough, salmon’s abundance of omega-3 can deter heart disease in women. Get some healthy salmon recipes here.
Looking for healthy protein to help build muscle? Look no further than shrimp. “Focusing on a low-calorie, high-protein option like shrimp is key to staying full and fit this summer,” says Rima Kleiner. “In fact, a three-ounce serving of shrimp delivers nearly 20 grams of protein and contains only 85 calories.”
There’s a reason why Popeye’s superfood was spinach. Spinach can make you stronger with its iron (not as much as was once believed, but still significant), essential to getting lean and building muscle; nitrates, which have been found to increase muscle mass; and hefty portion of vitamins C and K. “The amount of iron in spinach is beneficial for women because they are at a higher risk for becoming iron deficient,” says Millie Wilson, a registered dietitian at healthy food purveyor My Fit Foods. “Try throwing some spinach in your morning smoothie or in an egg scramble. Its benefits will not disappoint.”
Think you have to skip pasta forever to get in shape? Think again. “Although most people think they have to avoid pasta to stay toned and fit, that's not the case,” says Rima Kleiner. “Opt for the whole-grain version in small quantities to serve as the foundation of a meal. It boosts energy, satisfies hunger, and pairs well with vegetables and lean proteins to create balanced meals.”