What I ate to lose 40 pounds on Noom

Despite heavy skepticism of yet another weight loss program, I started Noom in 2021 and lost (and kept off) 40 pounds.

While I credit Noom for aiding my weight loss, it also required prior motivation to better my health. I had surgery in April 2021, and my doctor said my weight could have been the cause of my health issue. If I didn’t lose weight, that issue could recur. That motivated me to lose weight, but I think if I’d started Noom without my doctor’s advice, the program might not have worked as well for me. 

I’ve gone into great detail in previous articles about what Noom is (a weight loss program), the differences between Noom and Weight Watchers, and whether or not I thought Noom was worth it. After all of that, the most common question I get now that I’ve lost weight is, “Well, what did you eat?” That’s an easy segue to talk about Noom’s food categorization: Green, Yellow, and Red.

  • Green foods are the least calorie-dense, which is important terminology in Noom, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Yellow foods are where you’ll find lean proteins, like salmon and ground turkey
  • Red foods include most foods with added sugars or high-saturated fats

Please keep in mind, I’m not a nutritionist or a doctor. Prior to starting Noom, I spoke with my doctor to determine what I should eat (she suggested more protein, as we determined I wasn’t getting enough). For this article, I also spoke with a registered dietician to provide insight and advice for anyone else looking to lose weight.

Is Noom a Diet?

A breakdown of Noom's 3-color food system.

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It’s necessary to reiterate that yes, Noom is a diet. The company markets itself as more than a diet, and I believe there’s more to the program than just a diet, too. But I’d also be remiss to gloss over the fact that foods are color-organized like a stoplight, and that putting foods into boxes like that can be triggering to some people.

When speaking with Forbes on-air nutrition expert and registered dietitian, Mia Syn, MS, RD, she suggested ways to help deal with  diet culture triggers.

“Rather than focusing on food as a means to diet, focus on how food makes you feel and make choices based on pleasure and nourishment,” she said.

Syn suggested tuning in to your cravings and hunger cues, “Rather than relying on calorie counts, meal plans or eating schedules. Ditch food rules and embrace an “all foods fit” mentality rather than categorizing food as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’”

That being said, Noom works hard to not label any food as good or bad. The program is rooted in psychology and the notion that labeling foods as bad and good can be detrimental, because if you eat “bad” food, you’ll feel like you’re failing at your progress, and you’re more likely to fall off the deep end and stop your health journey.

I personally struggled with this when I previously tried to lose weight. I’d swear off french fries, ice cream, and all the other foods I loved because “I was on a diet.” And as soon as I ate them while dieting, I’d yo-yo and go extreme with eating all the foods I’d missed. It was nice to learn it wasn’t just me, and that it’s a common occurrence. 

What to consider before starting a diet program

My most-repeated recipe on Noom was my combination of protein pasta, roasted tomatoes, and zucchini. 

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Many companies market weight loss programs as a “lifestyle change,” and in theory, that can be true. But not everyone can eat at a calorie deficit long term, and sometimes weight-loss programs can make people hyper-focus on calorie counting. 

If you’re looking to lose weight, Syn says that weight loss programs like WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) and Noom can be a good place to start. She said these are ways to learn “about food, nutrition, portion control, and meal planning for weight management. Having this knowledge can help you make informed meal choices for life.”

On Noom, you’re eating in a calorie deficit (fewer calories in than you expend), but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with eating 1,200 calories per day. If you struggle with calorie counting, Syn says that you can achieve weight loss without counting calories. She suggests getting, “the help of a registered dietitian, for example, who can teach you how to build filling meals that meet your nutritional needs.”

Noom Green Foods

One of the healthy breakfasts I enjoyed was banana oatmeal pancakes. I would opt for chocolate chips instead of syrup most days when I ate these.

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Noom suggests making up the bulk of your diet from Green foods, because they are the least calorie-dense. That means they’re low in calories, but typically high in nutrients. You can understand why fruits and vegetables frequently appear here. 

A short and non-exhaustive list of Noom green foods includes:

  • Green beans
  • Asparagus
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Skim milk
  • Almond milk
  • Rolled oats
  • Shrimp
  • Egg whites
  • Tofu

Most meals won’t be 100% green — even a salad will have some Yellow foods (proteins) and red foods (dressing) in it, which is normal.  I created my own favorite green & yellow meal after I tried the TikTok viral feta pasta. I liked how the roasted tomatoes kind of created their own sauce, so I decided to roast tomatoes with my favorite veggie, zucchini. I eat this with protein pasta, either red lentil pasta or chickpea pasta. Red lentils and chickpeas are two easy ways to up protein without much effort ,and I like the texture of both. 

I also found another quick fix to get in veggies and fruit easily: Drink them. After seeing a video about drinking your veggies on TikTok, I tweaked the recipe and now I blend a drink that includes:

  1. 2 cups of water
  2. Half a cucumber
  3. 1 cup of frozen pineapple
  4. A squeeze of lemon juice
  5. 1 Tbsp of ginger

How to eat more fruits and vegetables

The #1 thing I focused on while participating in Noom is eating frutis every single day. Some days I'd eat a huge bowl of fruits, other days I'd simply have an apple.

Ana Suarez for Hearst Newspapers

If you’re anything like me, eating more fruits and vegetables can be hard at first. If you always feel like you’re undereating the recommended daily amount of fruits and veggies, Syn recommends adding mild-tasting veggies (like spinach or riced cauliflower) to a smoothie. 

Sometimes you might need even sneakier ways to inject vegetables, like blending veggies into pasta sauces, macaroni & cheese, or adding them to ground beef for burgers.  Syn says, “Another great way to incorporate them is spiralized into noodles and used as a swap for pasta. If you want to spiralize your own noodles at home, zucchini, sweet potato and carrots work well. You can also use spaghetti squash in traditional pasta dishes like my baked feta pasta recipe.” 

Noom Yellow Foods

Along my Noom journey, my family incorporated my diet and found recipes that were delicious to cook together, but not outside of my calorie budget.

Ana Suarez for Hearst Newspapers

Yellow foods are typically a more calorie-dense than green foods, which means they either have more calories or fewer nutrients per serving. Yellow foods most often include lean proteins, starches, and low-fat cheeses. Yellow foods are going to make up a decent chunk of your diet, especially if you’re looking to up your protein intake. 

Some Noom yellow foods include:

  • Olives
  • Avocado
  • English muffins
  • Hummus
  • Chickpeas
  • Edamame
  • Tuna
  • Turkey
  • Eggs
  • 1-2% milk
  • Low-fat yogurt

Most meals won’t be all green or all yellow (though plenty of meals can be all Red). My favorite breakfast most days was a split between simple avocado toast, made with Dave’s Killer Bread. If I was in the mood, I’d add an egg or just some Everything But the Bagel seasoning.  

I was surprised to learn that most of the “healthy” chip-type snacks I liked, like the Simply Cheeto Puffs, were considered a yellow food. Buying the pre-portioned version of Cheetos was a game-changer for me, as it curbs my craving to munch, and they actually taste good. 

For snack lovers, you can easily get in yellow and green foods with your daily snacks. If you need snack inspiration, Syn recommends “roasted seaweed sheets, roasted chickpeas or air-fried veggie chips. Roasted seaweed sheets are low in calories but high in crunch and savory umami flavor. Roasted chickpeas provide fiber and plant protein so you’ll feel full faster and longer.”

Noom Red Foods

I made my own green smoothie and coffee with cold foam at home, but also indulged in Starbucks and Dunkin trips on days I didn't feel like making coffee at home.

Ana Suarez for Hearst Newspapers

Red foods are the most calorie-dense and offer the fewest nutrients. You’re not banned from eating any foods while on Noom, but red foods have a stricter calorie budget allotment than green and yellow. The idea is to enjoy these foods in moderation. While a lot of red foods have added sugars and fats, red meat is also considered a red food. This isn’t surprising, since frequent red meat consumption has been linked to the raised risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers, especially colorectal cancer.

Some Noom red foods include:

  • Steak
  • Bacon
  • Butter
  • Full-fat cheese
  • Cookies
  • Cake
  • Olive oil
  • White bread
  • Coffee creamer

I have had ice cream every single day of dieting on Noom. Is it always a big bowl of Oreo ice cream with sprinkles and cookie dough pieces? No. I got really into Yasso bars (fudge brownie is my No. 1 diet snack), which are actually a yellow food, not a red one. But I’ve also indulged in plenty of red-labeled ice creams, like Jeni’s ice cream (Middle West Whiskey & Pecans is to die for).

After a few months on Noom, I started to have more coffee with added sugar, a few times a week. I tried to keep those coffees to under 250 calories and I just considered that one of my three snacks. But sometimes I also had my beloved sweet cream cold foam drink, plus an actual food snack and still managed to fit everything into my daily calorie budget.

How to stick to a diet

For snacks, I most often ate Yasso frozen yogurt bars to satisfy my ice cream craving daily.

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It can be hard to stay inspired on a weight loss journey, especially when foods become boring over time. While TikTok is not an educational platform at all and should be taken with the plenty of grains of salt, there are professionals on the platform. I follow a lot of registered dieticians, personal trainers, and wellness coaches. While I find inspiration from individuals like this, I’ve also maintained contact with my doctor about what is best for my overall health.

To help stay motivated on a weight loss journey, try rewards that have nothing to do with food. Syn suggests things like, “a spa day at home or buying yourself flowers, or something bigger like taking a weekend trip.”

When trying to lose weight, it’s also important to know you can make healthy and good choices without having to shop at expensive grocery stores. Syn especially warns that “pricey ‘superfood’ ingredients are not the answer to health or longevity.” In fact, she recommends Walmart as a great option for affordable healthy food choices, especially since you can order online for delivery or pickup. 

When it comes down to picking foods for your diet, you want to focus balance. Syn recommends focusing on “whole food ingredients: Vegetables, fruit, low-fat dairy, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and lean protein. All these items can be purchased at any grocery store including more affordable options like Walmart and ALDI.”    

Before and After Noom

Before and After Noom: On the left, what I looked like in March 2021; on right, what I look like now, 40 pounds lighter.

Ana Suarez for Hearst Newspapers

My biggest takeaway from Noom was learning portion control. I also learned how to eat fruits and vegetables and actually enjoy them instead of viewing them as a chore. Even better, in my opinion, is that I learned how to stop overeating foods and found balance in my daily diet. I still eat ice cream and chips, but I also eat whole grains, healthy fats, high amounts of protein, and I drink a lot of water. 

Because Noom doesn’t restrict foods or label any foods as bad, I found the setup I needed to succeed. After losing 40 pounds, I kept it off for five months – even when traveling. I went to Nashville, New Orleans, and Chicago — all places I planned to eat and indulge — and I didn’t panic or spiral while enjoying myself. I didn’t freak out, because I knew when to stop eating (when I was full, not when my plate was empty) and I knew what portion sizes to order (small or medium, instead of the biggest portions they offered). I could have beignets and deep-dish pizza without blowing my calorie budget. 

It probably sounds silly, but being able to fit ice cream into my everyday diet, whether it was a big bowl of Oreo ice cream or an 80-calorie Yasso bar, is what I attribute to sticking to a diet. I can still eat my favorite foods and lose weight, and if you told me that 10 years ago, I’d have called you a liar. Now I know better and I tell everyone who will listen to me talk about Noom and portion control.