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If you're trying to lose weight, there are endless programs and apps to choose from.
One app that has become popular with 45 million users and counting is Noom. Although the plan has some seriously solid reviews, the Noom food lists and categories can be confusing. We are here to bring some clarity.
“Noom is an approach to dieting delivered via an app that combines food and calorie tracking with behavior change strategies. Like most diets, it helps consumers lose weight by creating a caloric deficit,” says nutritionist Charlotte Martin, MS, RDN, owner of Shaped by Charlotte. “Unlike most diets, there’s an emphasis on the mental aspects of weight loss, and the app provides regular mindset strategies for helping consumers stay the course.”
Sounds pretty good, huh? Well, before you sign up, you'll want to figure out whether the Noom diet method of food tracking makes sense for you and your lifestyle. Remember, everybody and every body is different. So, here's everything you need to know about what to eat on the Noom diet, plus a comprehensive Noom foods list and some recipes so you know exactly how to grocery shop and craft your meals.
What is the Noom diet—and how does the food logging work?
Noom claims to be the “last weight-loss program you’ll ever need,” according to its website. It’s like having a trainer, nutritionist, and health coach all in one place: the Noom app. The app itself is free and offers a free one-week trial, but there are memberships that cost up to $59 a month. The price can vary, though, depending on your goals and how much weight you want to lose.
Once you download it, the app asks for permission to access your iPhone’s Health app, where it logs your exercise and you input everything you eat during the day (the app has a database of foods).
Noom also uses a color-coding system to categorize foods. “Noom uses a red, green, and yellow color system, instead of categorizing foods purely as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ to help the user gauge what is nutrient-dense and what is not,” says Jonathan Valdez, RDN, owner of Genki Nutrition and media spokesperson for New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
What can you eat on Noom?
No foods are considered off-limits on the Noom diet. (Hooray!) You simply group them using the color system, which is broken down into the following:
“Red signals the most calorically dense and/or least nutrient-dense foods, green are the least calorically dense and/or most nutrient-dense foods, and yellow foods fall somewhere in the middle,” explains Martin. About 30 percent of your intake should come from green foods, 45 percent from yellow foods, and 25 percent from red foods.
With that in mind, here are some of the foods that fall under each category on Noom:
Green foods: Blueberries, apples, carrots, peppers, spinach, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, sweet potatoes, beets, berries, bananas, oats, whole-grain bread, quinoa, non-fat dairy products, egg whites, watermelon, lettuce, pickles
Yellow foods: Avocado, salmon, chicken, turkey, beans, tofu, whole eggs, tempeh, lean ground beef, black beans, chickpeas, low-fat dairy, edamame, lentils, plantains
Red foods: Olive oil and other oils, nuts and seeds, nut butters, dried fruit, beef, pork, full-fat dairy, coconut milk, bacon, French fries, burgers, potato chips, pizza, cake
It's worth noting that the app doesn’t track macros. “You’re only shown what color the food falls under and its calorie content—no macronutrients (i.e., protein, carb, and fat content) or micronutrients (i.e., vitamins and minerals),” says Martin. “For example, both olive oil and nut butter are categorized as ‘red’ foods, and while they’re both fat-rich and calorically dense, one also provides fiber and protein, the other does not.”
Here's what a day of eating on the Noom diet might look like.
Here are three examples of what a day eating on Noom can look like and basic recipes, as crafted by our dietitians.
Breakfast: Egg omelet with spinach, peppers, and mushrooms
Snack: Fat-free Greek yogurt with blueberries or strawberries
Lunch: Whole-grain wrap with hummus, grilled chicken, tomatoes, and cucumber
Dinner: Seared salmon with baked Brussels sprouts and brown rice
Snack: Oven-roasted garlic chickpeas
—Jonathan Valdez, RDN
Breakfast: Coffee with skim milk, ½ whole wheat English muffin, 1 tbsp cream cheese, and a hard-boiled egg
Snack: A small apple and 1 tbsp almond butter
Lunch: Mixed green salad with tomato, cucumber, chicken breast, and 2 tbsp of vinaigrette dressing
Snack: Baby carrots and ¼ cup hummus
Dinner: 1 cup cooked quinoa, ½ cup canned black beans, a bell pepper (sliced), 1/3 avocado, and ¼ cup salsa
Dessert: Yasso mint chocolate chip frozen Greek yogurt bar
—Charlotte Martin, MS, RDN
Breakfast: One egg, two-egg white omelet with spinach, tomato, and 2 tbsp feta cheese, a slice of whole-grain bread, and ¼ avocado (mashed)
Snack: ¾ cup plain Greek yogurt and ½ cup blueberries
Lunch: Pumpkin soup or other vegetable broth-based soup and a large green salad with leafy greens, red pepper, cucumber, ½ cup black beans, and 1 tbsp vinaigrette-based dressing
Snack: A medium apple and 1 tbsp peanut butter
Dinner: Baked chicken, tempeh, or tofu (3-4 oz), a medium baked sweet potato topped with 1 tsp butter, and 1½ cup roasted Brussel sprouts tossed with 1 tsp olive oil
— Allison Koch, MS, RDN
Should you try Noom?
Noom can have some great benefits, especially if you’re trying to stay in a calorie deficit, change your habits, and need support.
The fundamental principle of weight loss is that calories in need to be less than calories out, or creating a caloric deficit, "which Noom tackles well," says Martin. Adds Valdez, “Food tracking oftentimes leads to healthier outcomes because it allows you to see what your current habits are and what needs work. Noom also provides coaching support and social support groups, which encourages positive reinforcement and accountability.”
The eating color system may also be a useful tool to teach and guide you through making food choices with a reason, which is nutrient density, as well as flexibility by not restricting specific foods. “As a nutritionist, I think any little thing that might help a person identify which foods they should eat more of versus less of, while not asking them to avoid any foods, is a step in the right direction,” says Keri Gans, MS, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and author of The Small Change Diet.
However, the color system may instill some unnecessary food guilt. “Although they make it a point in the app to state that red doesn’t mean ‘bad’ and green doesn’t mean ‘good’, it’s hard not to think that,” says Martin. “When something like almond butter is rated as a ‘red’ food, it’s hard not to think you’re doing something wrong when you enjoy a spoonful of it with your snack.”
Registered dietitian Allison Koch, MS, RDN, also sees both pros and cons to the system. “The app has a psychological component and aims to create sustainable lifelong changes by tapping into the user's psychological experience. However, my concerns are the very low calorie levels it sets for users without fully understanding the user’s life experience, body composition, or fitness level.”
Additionally, Noom only tracks calories and doesn’t indicate what the macronutrient breakdown is, Koch says. “This keeps it simple for the user, but I think it’s important to teach balance and moderation, as well as think a focus on calories alone doesn’t show the entire picture of what a balanced diet should look like.”
Ultimately, Noom may not be right for everyone—and it depends on your lifestyle and personal preferences. “Noom might be wrong for individuals with a history of disordered eating. The diet may trigger unhealthy behaviors and worsen their condition,” notes Valdez. (Individuals managing an ED should work with a registered dietitian or psychologist who can provide individualized and proper medical and nutritional therapy.)
And if you have other health conditions, specifically those relating to digestion or food allergies, you might want to check in with your doctor before signing up for Noom. “Noom also may not be suitable for those with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, allergies, food intolerances, or some other medical conditions that require a more suitable health professional,” says Valdez.
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