Eat more protein and whole grains to lose fat, not muscle, nutritionists say

  • A 30-year-old woman submitted her average daily diet to Insider’s Nutrition Clinic.
  • She told Insider that she wants to lose fat, maintain muscle and have more energy.
  • A nutritionist said she should eat more protein during the day and whole grains at night.
  • Fill out this form if you would like a specialist to review your diet.
  • The recommendations in this article are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis or treatment.

Laura, 30, submitted her diet to Insider’s Nutrition Clinic, where qualified dietitians and dietitians advise readers on eating habits.

She told Insider that her goal is to lose fat and maintain muscle. “Every time I used to try to lose fat, I ended up losing a lot of muscle and less fat,” she said. “I also wanted to have more energy, because even after 7 to 8 hours of sleep, I didn’t have a lot of energy. will feel completely rested.”

Laura said she was a cook at the local shelter, so she was standing all day. She also does resistance training or interval running three to four times a week.

Registered dietitian Kimberley Neve reviews what Laura eats throughout the day and tells Insider she should eat more protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

“The main advice for trying to lose fat but maintain muscle is to ensure adequate protein distribution throughout the day,” she says.

According to Neve, resistance training and adequate protein intake will help maintain muscle for fat loss in a calorie deficit.

Laura’s Breakfast with Wheat Cream and Eggs

Laura says her breakfast is always half a cream of wheat made with whole milk and sugar.

She eats her cream of wheat and an omelet consisting of whole eggs, topped with egg whites, vegetables, garlic, onions and mozzarella cheese, all cooked in olive oil and served with avocado.

Neve didn’t make any adjustments to Laura’s breakfast, as it contains a balanced mix of protein, carbohydrates, fats and macronutrients.

Laura has a carb snack in the morning

Around 11am, Laura said she had a milk coffee and a snack, such as a brioche or a butter cookie.

“I’m used to eating small amounts of low-nutrient, high-calorie processed snacks and lots of sugar throughout the day,” she says.

That meant Laura struggled to eat the right amount of healthy meals and was “overwhelmed” with “a lot of whole clean food,” she said.

Neve recommends swapping out her snacks for nuts and dried fruit for hummus and vegetables, which provide more slow-release energy and protein.

Berry Oat Smoothie

Sipping smoothies throughout the day helps maintain energy.


Smoothies made with yogurt, oats, fruits, vegetables and seeds can be sipped throughout the day, Neff says.

According to Neff, who works with clients recovering from eating disorders, Laura’s use of the word “clean” shows that she can improve her relationship with food.

There is no such thing as “clean” food, Neff said, and all foods can be incorporated into a healthy diet.

“If she typically restricts certain foods or feels guilty about eating them, it won’t help her overall balance in terms of mindset and nutrition,” Neff said.

Laura is often busy with lunch

Whether or not Laura gets the right lunch depends on how busy she is, with snacks like cheese sticks, pastries or bananas.

When she has time, she says, she often eats sandwiches on whole-wheat bread with either tuna mayo or peanut butter and jelly.

Neff says tuna provides protein and whole-grain bread provides energy and fiber, but adding fruit or vegetables will provide more nutrients and help her feel full.

If Laura can’t eat normally later in the day, eating a high-protein snack in the morning can help keep blood sugar stable, Neff said.

Laura’s Salad for Dinner

In the evenings, Laura eats a salad made with leafy greens and proteins, such as chicken or ham, hard-boiled eggs, and a dressing.

Laura’s energy levels would benefit from the addition of whole grains, Neff said.

“It’s okay to eat carbs at night,” she says. “They’re vital to overall health, and Laura seems to limit them, probably for fat loss.”

You don’t have to cut carbs to lose weight—they provide essential B vitamins, boost energy levels, and can help reduce fat because their fiber helps you feel full, says Neve.

She recommends whole-grain pasta or rice, lentils or quinoa, among others.

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