Diet plans come and diet plans go, yet one thing remains the same. Taste and hunger are powerful forces. They're a desire and they're a need. Attempting to reject that need in an effort to lose fat can only lead to failure and disappointment. Although just about everyone would like to shed some extra flab, at times it seems to be a near impossibility and that lean muscular look continues to elude.

Isn't it funny how once hunger pangs have been quelled, that's the time we realize the need to eat right? That's why you hear so many people say they're going to start their diets tomorrow, or next week, or after the New Year. The intention may be sincere but the days are long and when hunger sets in, there's only so much willpower one can muster before the cravings become too great.

Instead of using denial as a method for staying on track, a more effective and realistic tactic would be to adopt an eating plan that allows you to eat good tasting food and still stay within your bodybuilding goals. This is the premise behind many of the low carb diets. The idea of eating steaks and cheeseburgers and rack of lamb is very appealing, yet it becomes quickly apparent that without carbohydrates, the food choices are very limiting which is exactly the reason why many people lose weight on low carb diets. With less food to choose from, the less you tend to eat -- which leads to eating less overall calories. The problem with this game plan is what causes the downfall. Sooner or later, you just have to eat a piece of bread or a bowl of pasta! And when you do that, the diet is blown.

A more practical approach is to stick to a variety of foods that are filling and offer a high ratio of nutrients with the emphasis on protein. In this way, you can apply and adhere to a more "normal" eating lifestyle. As long as you don't binge or eat total junk food (sweets and snacks with empty calories), it's possible to eat what you enjoy and as much as you need.

The following is a list of 20 foods which fit the bill perfectly. They're nutrient dense and each choice is meant to serve the purpose of either providing maximum energy or muscle building protein. They also taste good. And let's face it, that counts!

1) Salmon

Besides being an excellent source of protein, salmon is abundantly rich in heart healthy omega-3 oils. Omega-3's have been shown to lower LDL levels (the "bad" cholesterol), improve the immune system and help the body utilize body fat for fuel. Salmon is also high in Vitamin B12, which helps in the metabolism of carbohydrates.

2) Oatmeal

The bran found in oatmeal helps eliminate toxins from the digestive tract and assists in the removal of fat before it's digested by clinging to the fat particles and pushing them through the intestines unabsorbed. Oatmeal can be eaten alone or added to a wide variety of foods. Homemade oatmeal cookies with added protein makes a wholesome high protein treat.

3) Eggs

If it were possible to concoct the perfect food, it wouldn't be much different from the good old egg. Eggs are pure high quality protein but their advantages don't stop there. The yolks, which many a health conscious individual discards, contain mono and polyunsaturated fat (the "good" fat) as well as a hefty dose of lecithin which helps to emulsify body fat. Eggs also contain vital lipotropics such as DHA as well as lutein and carotenoids. Many experts believe eggs are also anabolic due to the cholesterol content. (All cell growth requires cholesterol). And one egg contains only 75 calories. They're are also extremely economical, making them a "must have" for anyone interested in growing muscle and losing fat.

4) Broccoli

It may not be on everyone's list of favorites, but broccoli is one mighty nutritious food. High in vitamins C, E and A, it's also rich in sulforaphane which has been shown to inhibit cancer growth. Try cooking it in olive oil and garlic and you may change your mind about the taste of broccoli.

5) Soups

Many soups contain beans and vegetables making it a filling and nutritious adjunct to a meal or as a "light" meal all on its own. Just watch out for canned soups which tend to have an excess of 1000mgs of sodium per serving!

6) Salads

Sufficient roughage is a must for proper digestion when on a reduced calorie diet. A common mistake among dieters is to eat salad without an accompanied side dish. Lettuce is mostly water and digested quickly, leaving you with hunger pangs shortly afterward. Salads are best with a meal because they "take up room" in the stomach and prevent overeating.

7) Chicken

This is a no-brainer. At over ninety percent protein, chicken is the staple of anyone looking to build muscle while keeping fat intake low. Chicken can be prepared in countless ways, making it the most versatile of all protein foods.

8) Whole Grain Cereals

Normally, cereal products are an inferior food -- highly processed and laden with sugar. But whole grain products such as Shredded Wheat and bran flakes head the list of cereals worthy of consideration. It's perfect for a quick, low calorie breakfast.

9) Strawberries

This summer delight is a delicious way to ward off free radical damage due to the abundance of antioxidants. Equally relevant, strawberries are high in quercetin which promotes healing and reduces the chance of infection. They also contain another plant chemical, anthocyanin, which prevents against heart disease.

10) Wheat Germ

Did you know that wheat germ can be used instead of high fat nuts as a garnish and works perfectly as a substitute in recipes that require bread crumbs? Now you do.

11) Beef

That's right -- considered by many to be the bane of most fat-loss programs, beef can be invaluable in helping to take off weight. The slogan "beef satisfies" is more than a clever advertising angle. Beef is slow to digest, leaving you with a feeling of fullness that lasts for hours that can result in eating less overall calories throughout the day.

12) Carrots

Although carrots are a high glycemic food in that they're converted to sugar rather rapidly, they're a tasty source of fiber and beta carotene, an antioxidant which is proving to be an even more powerful free radical scavenger than once believed. Carrots are a great choice when the craving to eat something crunchy comes over you. Pass on the chips and pick up some carrot sticks. When it's time take off your shirt, you'll be glad you did.

13) Lentils

Whether in soups, as a side dish or as a compliment to other whole grain dishes, lentils are a tasty addition to most any meal. They're high in iron, folic acid and magnesium, which is vital to muscle contraction and the maintenance of normal blood pressure.

14) Jerky

This almost falls into the "junk food" category because jerky contains spices and preservatives. Still, with 12 grams of protein, 4 grams of fat and only 2 grams of carbohydrates per serving, jerky is a snack with impressive macro-nutrient stats.

15) Soybeans

Toasted and salted soybeans are similar in taste and texture to nuts. The big difference is the protein to fat ratio. Most nuts are over 75% fat whereas soybeans are about 75% protein. They're also high in vitamin B6 and phytochemicals which have been recognized as beneficial to prostate health.

Don't go overboard with soybeans, though. Although a small amount are fine, excessive soy in its raw state may increase estrogen levels in some people.

16) Tomato Sauce

Tomatoes are rich in lycopene which has been linked to a reduction in prostate cancer. They're also high in vitamins C and A. Does this make pizza health food? That may be pushing it. Nevertheless, tomatoes in the form of sauce, juice or in their raw state, are vital to every man's health.

17) Bananas

Sweet and delicious, bananas are one of the highest sources of potassium which helps regulate water balance. (Without sufficient potassium, it's easy to retain water which looks like fat.) Eating a banana one half hour before a meal can help suppress the appetite.

18) Turkey

This delicious delicacy isn't just for Thanksgiving dinner. The biggest problem with fresh turkey is the time it takes to cook it, so save the undertaking for a day when plan on hanging around the house and watching a few games. Then you can count on having a high protein meal for the next three days! Sliced deli turkey is also an excellent choice.

19) Sugar Free Pudding

Okay, so we cheated on this one. Sugar free pudding offers no nutritional value but it's as close as you can get to a sweet decadent treat without all the fat, sugar and empty calories that go along with such an indulgence. When a craving for dessert hits, sugar free pudding is the perfect choice.

20) Meal Replacements

In many ways, meal replacements are the most obvious choice of all in that they're specifically designed to have a favorable nutrient to calorie ratio. Once again, taste is a factor and that's an area that varies widely among the different products. Since flavor is subjective, it may take some experimenting to find which products you prefer. At any rate, there's no reason to drink something you don't like just because it's "good for you." Many of today's meal replacements taste like ice cream shakes. You can even mix a bland protein powder with different flavorings, chocolate, fruit flavors, etc., and make your own protein drink for a fraction of the cost. Add creatine, colostrum or flax seed for a specialized muscle building meal.

There you have it. Twenty fabulous foods that not only won't blow your diet but help you have more energy and gain more muscle. There's no reason to starve or deny yourself good tasting food. As long as you make the right food choices, you can enjoy eating and still get in great shape. Bon Appetite.

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