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How do I lose weight while still eating my delicious Nigerian foods? This is a common question I get nearly every day because a lot of us believe that it is impossible to lose weight while eating our local foods. Well, good news to you today, Nigerian foods are not the problem, our major issue is how we eat it day in and out.

There’s a simple way to start losing weight right now while eating Nigerian foods you love.

In this lose weight on a Nigerian diet guide, you will learn:

  • The NUMBER ONE factor that causes weight gain
  • How to calculate your daily calorie requirement
  • Calorie deficit to lose weight
  • Why weight loss is not just about cutting Carbohydrates or Fats
  • How to lose weight while eating carbohydrates
  • The role of proteins in weight loss
  • How to lose weight while eating fats
  • My personal tip to help you lose weight while eating Nigerian foods

Without further ado, let’s dig in.


While there are lots of factors that cause weight gain,  the number one cause is excess caloric intake (1). I totally agree that there are other factors that contribute to weight gain such as genetics, hormone imbalance, gut health, drugs such as steroids etc, the simple truth is that 99% of weight gain is caused by excess caloric intake(2). Everything we eat and drink on a daily basis contains calories. Whether you don’t eat breakfast, you eat once a day or you just walk past the food (**winks**),  you can exceed your daily caloric recommendation. I remember when I will sit down a big loaf of hot fresh agege bread, fried egg and chilled Pepsi yet I was wondering why I was gaining weight despite eating just once a day! Hahaha, Trust me, you can exceed your recommended caloric intake with just 1 meal.

This then begs the question: What is a calorie and how many should you eat in a day to lose weight?

calorie is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius. Calories in food provide energy in the form of heat so that our organs can function. Our bodies store and burn calories as fuel. Storing more calories than you burn will result in weight gain and vice versa for weight loss.

Calorie vs. Kilocalorie

When the word “calorie” is used in nutrition settings, by dieters or simply by consumers who are talking about food, they are usually using a casual definition of a calorie. But they are actually referring to kilocalories, which is what you see on nutrition labels. This is how the two terms are different:

  • The definition of calorie (cal), or small calorie, is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celcius.
  •  kilocalories (kcal), or large calorie, however, is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celcius. A kilocalorie is equivalent to 1000 small calories. Kilocalories are sometimes called “food calories” or simply shortened to “calories” when referring to the energy in food.

Another unit of measurement used to quantify energy is called the “joule.”  One small calorie is equivalent to just under 4.2 joules. A kilocalorie (kcal) is equivalent to approximately 4.2  kilojoules.

Our body needs calories to function on a daily basis and this is what we call Basal Metabolic Rate(BMR). It has nothing to do with exercise. Just by eating, breathing, moving your bowel etc you’re burning calories. The number of calories to eat in a day, therefore, depends on your goal which can be:

  • Lose weight
  • Maintain weight
  • Gain weight

There are different ways to determine your caloric needs. You can get a quick estimate online or a more specific (and expensive) test performed in a lab. The best method for you depends on your goals, how much money you want to spend, and your access to various health services.

1. Easy to use Online Caloric needs calculators

Easy-to-use online caloric needs calculators provide a quick and easy estimate of the number of calories you need to eat to lose weight. To get the most accurate number, you need to know your current weight, height, goal weight and your daily activity level.

The number generated from these calculators is usually based on the Harris-Benedict Equation for determining BMR. recognized by experts as a “reasonable estimate” for daily caloric need. However, it is only as accurate as the information you provide and the answer is based on general guidelines. Daily activity level, for example, varies widely from person to person and there is no way for a single formula to accurately predict the metabolic impact of your specific activity level. This rough estimate has helped a lot of people make more progress in their weight loss journey simply by eliminating the guesswork. Skip the boring further maths and use this simple calculator here.

2. Apps

One other simple way to calculate your daily caloric needs is by using apps. The app interprets a wide variety of data provided by you on signing up. Like the caloric calculator, all you have to do is type in your stats and your weight loss goals to get a rough estimate of the amounts of calories you should eat in a day. When you log your meals, it also calculates your intake of calories, fat grams, carbohydrate grams and protein. The cool thing about these apps is that you can also log in your exercise for the day and it subtracts the calorie burned from your total caloric intake. There are many apps that can do this but my favorite is Myfitnesspal. Just download from your app store. It is totally free.

3. Perform Metabolic Testing

Many gyms and other health centers now provide metabolic testing for a fee. Metabolic testing measures the number of calories that your body burns at rest (RMR) and the number of fat and carbohydrate calories your body burns while exercising at various exercise intensities. As part of your metabolic assessment, many trainers will also provide a metabolic training plan that will help you to burn more fat calories during exercise so that you lose weight more effectively.

While this seems like the most accurate way to find out how many calories you need, there has been some criticism of this testing process. The accuracy of your test may depend on the quality of equipment used, and the skill level of the person doing the testing. The service can be expensive and may require a gym membership.

4. Wear an Activity Monitor

Activity monitors are essentially high-tech food and activity journals. The devices collect and interpret a wide variety of data on your smartphone or computer. The popular Fitbit Flex measures steps per day and exercise activity. When you log your meals, it also calculates your intake of calories, fat grams, carbohydrate grams and protein. To set up the plan, the program estimates the number of calories you need.

Most tracking devices are worn on the wrist — but there are several brands that now provide more versatile options. This is important because you need to wear the monitors consistently if you want to get an accurate estimate of your calorie needs. If you choose to invest in a monitor, learn more about all of the popular models to you can find that device that works best for you.

Any of the methods above can be used to calculate your daily caloric needs.

Now that you know the number of calories your body needs in a day to lose weight you have to consume less than your body needs so that your body can utilize stored fat for its energy needs.

Calorie deficit to lose weight

If your daily caloric need is 1800 calories, eating

  • Exactly 1800 = weight maintenance
  • Above 1800 = weight gain
  • Below 1800 = weight loss

The secret behind all weightloss diets out there is the calorie deficit. Whether low carb, atkins, paleo, keto, egg fast, soup diet, indomie diet, low fat, Intermittent fasting, Clean 9, Slim teas etc. The ultimate goal is to help you achieve a caloric deficit and that is the number one secret to weight loss. You can cut out one class of food, the major culprit being carbs or fats but if you’re not in a caloric deficit, you will not lose weight. Therefore,

Overeating any food whether healthy or unhealthy results in weight gain.

Why weight loss is not just about cutting Carbohydrates or Fats

While reducing your intake of simple and processed carbs is a smart move, cutting out carbs totally from your diet especially when you have no reason to might not be sustainable in the long run. All classes of foods are important in our daily diet even if you are diabetic. Yes! that’s not a typo. Feel free to take me up on it in the comment section below.

Let’s take a quick look at macronutrients.

The three macronutrients are carbohydrates (carbs), fats and protein.

Our body needs macronutrients in large amounts. They provide calories and have various functions in your body.

How to lose weight while eating carbohydrates

Dietary carbohydrates can be split into three main categories:

  • Sugars: Sweet, short-chain carbohydrates found in foods. Examples are glucose, fructose, galactose, and sucrose.
  • Starches: Long chains of glucose molecules, which eventually get broken down into glucose in the digestive system.
  • Fiber: Humans cannot digest fiber, although the bacteria in the digestive system can make use of some of them as probiotics.

The main purpose of carbohydrates in the diet is to provide energy for daily living. Most carbs get broken into glucose, which can be used as energy. When in excess, carbs are turned into fat which makes you gain weight rather than lose weight.

Fiber is the carbs exception. It does not provide energy directly, but it does feed the friendly bacteria in the digestive system. These bacteria can use the fiber to produce fatty acids that some of our cells can use as energy.

A more practical way to look at carbs is to group it into whole carbs and refined carbs.

Whole carbs VS Refined carbs

Whole carbs are unprocessed and contain the fiber found naturally in the food, while refined carbs have been processed and stripped of its natural fiber.

Examples of whole carbs include vegetables, fruits, oats, brown rice, plantain, potatoes, yam, garri, beans(Yup! For every one gram of protein in beans, you have approximately 3g of carbs).

However, it makes no sense to demonize all carbohydrate-containing foods because of the health effects of their processed counterparts.

Lots of studies on high-fiber carbohydrates show that eating them is linked to improved metabolic health and a lower risk of disease.

On the other hand, refined carbs include sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices, pastries, white bread, white pasta, white rice and others.

Numerous studies show that refined carbohydrate consumption is associated with health problems like obesity and type 2 diabetes (34,).

Because they have been stripped of their fiber content, they tend to cause major spikes in blood sugar levels, which leads to a subsequent crash that can trigger hunger and cravings for more high-carb foods (5)

Most traditional Nigerian meals are very high in carbohydrates, particularly simple sugars. We typically eat white rice for breakfast, bread for lunch, Eba for dinner in excessive portions. To lose weight on a Nigerian diet, reduce your intake of carbohydrates.

The role of Proteins in weight loss

Protein is the single most important nutrient for weight loss and a bikini body.

A high protein intake reduces appetite, boost metabolism and changes several weight-regulating hormones (67,).

Protein can help you lose weight and belly fat, and it works via the following mechanisms

Proteins change the levels of several weight-regulating hormones

A higher protein intake actually increases levels of the satiety (appetite-reducing) hormones GLP-1, peptide YY and cholecystokinin, while reducing your levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin ( 89,).

By replacing carbs and fat with protein, you reduce the hunger hormone and boost several satiety hormones.

This leads to a major reduction in the number of calories you consume resulting in weight loss. Another benefit of balancing your weight regulatory hormone is that it helps to curb cravings and late-night snacking which is one of the reason while most diet fails.

It boosts metabolism

About 20-30% of protein calories are burned while the body is digesting and metabolizing the protein.

Due to the high thermic effect and several other factors, a high protein intake tends to boost metabolism.

It makes you burn more calories around the clock, even while sleeping (1011).

It prevents muscle loss

Weight loss tends to reduce muscle mass especially when drastic measures are used.

However, you want to lose weight in the right places, you get what I’m saying? what you really want to lose is body fat, both subcutaneous fat (under the skin) and visceral fat (around organs).

Losing muscle is a common side effect of weight loss. In order to minimize that, adequate protein intake is essential.

Common sources of proteins include:

  • Meats: Chicken, turkey, goat, lean beef, pork, etc.
  • Fish: Salmon, Herring, Mackerel,  Crocker, Stockfish, sardines, haddock, trout, etc.
  • Eggs: All types.
  • Dairy: Milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.
  • Legumes: Kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, etc
  • Seafood: Shrimp, Prawns etc
  • Nuts: All types

A lot of Nigerian meals are deficient in proteins because quality protein can be expensive depending on your socioeconomic status. Most people eat a big bowl of rice with a very tiny piece of meat but if you want to lose weight, you need to increase your intake of protein. Click here to learn how to lose weight on a budget.

How to lose weight while eating fats?

From a caloric perspective, that does not seem to make sense. Dietary fat contains nine calories per gram, versus the four calories per gram for carbs and protein. So if you eat less fat, you’ll eat fewer calories and you’ll lose weight, right? that was the basis behind the low-fat diet and the theory of eating oil-less everything on a weight loss diet. Unfortunately, you need fat to burn fat.

What are the healthiest kinds of fats to eat?

Fats help to control our sugar cravings and avoid carbohydrate overload. There are three types of fats. Saturated fats, Unsaturated fats, and trans fats.

The good fats are the unsaturated fats. Specifically, monounsaturated fats, or MUFAs, and polyunsaturated fats, or PUFAs, which are easier for our bodies to process and use for energy. They have also been shown to help with achieving a slimmer waistline. Both of these unsaturated fats are healthy fats found in plants. They are found in avocados, coconut, olives, peanuts, and sunflower seeds.

Another healthy fat is omega-3 fatty acids found in fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines etc. They are also found in plants such as walnuts, flax, and chia seeds.

Fats to limit or avoid?

Limit animal fats and avoid trans fats, which are fats that are processed by hydrogenation, such as old-fashioned margarine. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than five to six percent of total calories from saturated fats.

So, here’s the bottom line on fats: according to nutritional experts, you’ll want to avoid trans fats found in chemically processed foods, limit saturated fats mostly found in animal foods, and go for unsaturated fats found in plant foods.

Most Nigerian soups contain too much oil particularly hydrogenated oils. If weight loss is your goal, reduce your intake of oil and choose healthy oils such as olive oil, coconut oil etc.

Nigerian foods that support weight loss

From all the foods listed in the macronutrients above, we will realize that the list is endless. If you really want to lose weight and eat healthy, all you need to do is explore any of the options above based on personal preference. Most of us are addicted to simple sugars. My tip for you is to never eat simple sugars alone. Always pair with protein, vegetables or healthy fats. Rather than you feeding on a mountain of white rice, with a mosquito-size protein, it’s best to use a flat plate. Half of your plate should be filled with vegetable sauteed in healthy fat, the remaining half should contain your white rice, spaghetti or any other simple carbs plus protein in equal portion.

In summary; all you need to lose weight is to be in caloric deficit while eating a balance of protein,  good carbs and healthy fats. Remember that 300 calories of oatmeal will always be better than 300 calories of carbonated drinks because all calories are not equal.

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