Noom has earned a mixed reputation within the wellness industry over the last few years, with some users purporting that its services lead to a fractured relationship with food — while other nutritional experts recognize its efforts to prioritize better eating habits. Colloquially referred to as “Noomers” by the program’s officials, dieters who turn to Noom Weight (as opposed to its mental health-related service, Noom Mood) are educated to recognize nutritional value through a proprietary system that categorizes grocery staples into a traffic-esque system. Foods are categorized into green, yellow and red categories, which are designed to help make counting calories a bit more intuitive.
First developed by a team of psychologists, the Noom diet prioritizes long-term lifestyle shifts rather than short-term fasts or cutting out entire food groups (a la Keto). Noom connects users to live coaches and allows them to receive many forms of 1-on-1 coaching during business hours. A Noom representative tells Good Housekeeping that it also encourages users to track holistic health measurements like blood pressure and blood glucose through in-app tools, “to help them assess how their nutrition choices are impacting their goals.”
“We consider both Noom and Noom Weight to be more than a diet, [both] because they encompass more than these diet elements,” a brand statement shared. The program does also include an assessment portion for new users to help establish broader health goals, including potential diabetes management plans; Noom Weight users usually opt-in for a 4-month auto-renewing subscription at $139, or just about $34 monthly.
But how exactly does Noom enable you to lose weight if it doesn’t restrict you? It all has to do with a color-coded system that may be slightly altered for each user based on instructions from their coaches and any personal health assessments.
Editor’s note: Weight loss, health and body image are complex subjects — before deciding to go on a diet, we invite you to gain a broader perspective by reading our exploration into the hazards of diet culture.
What can you eat on the Noom Diet?
Like Weight Watchers and other popular paid weight loss services, the Noom app helps you lose weight by asking you to track your meals. It measures the caloric value of every item you input while comparing it to exercise and other physical movements you’ve completed during the day, as well as weighing both those factors against your personal goals. While Noom aims to keep your body fueled with sufficient calories, it doesn’t technically restrict you from eating any ingredients or food groups.
But as Stefani Sassos, MS, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian within the Good Housekeeping Institute, points out in her formal review of the service, dieters only get the best results if they enjoy highly caloric, sugary or processed snacks in light moderation. Noom doesn’t push a strict regiment by any means, but the app rewards you for eating wholesome, nutrient-dense foods through its color-coding system. Even when you do eat an indulgent meal, the app will try to help you reduce caloric blowback by encouraging portion control for certain ingredients that come up red. It may also reward you for indulging in foods that are categorized as green, while expecting that you incorporate many yellow-coded items into most of your meals.
It’s color system is meant to act as a general guide for Noom dieters who may be new to the program, as an updated take on calorie targeting. Users are encouraged to consume a bulk of their calories from the program’s yellow category, about 45%; up to 30% of more from it’s green category, and a smaller 25% from its red catgeory.
It’s important to remember that red foods aren’t “bad” and green foods can also be considered unhealthy in copious amounts. If you’re stuck trying to decide what to buy or eat, using Noom’s color-coded list may help you make the best decision in the spur of the moment.
Noom’s Green Foods List:
What you should double down on:
- Non-Fat Dairy: Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, milk, sour cream
- Hearty Vegetables: Carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, cucumbers, lettuce, mushrooms, bell peppers, asparagus, green beans, onions, peas, Brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes
- Fruits: Apples, strawberries, oranges, blueberries, apples, bananas, tomatoes, watermelon, grapes, raspberries, pineapple, pears, cherries, peaches, mango, figs
- Whole Grains: Wheat bread, whole grain pasta, pita, and rice; quinoa, grits, brown rice, and barley, among others
- Healthy Protein: Egg whites, shrimp, lean white fish, mahi-mahi, lobster, tofu
- Condiments: Salsa, apple cider vinegar, sauerkraut, citrus juice, tomato sauce
Of course, the best foods to eat while on the Noom diet are designated in a bright green color — these items are fresh vegetables, nourishing fruits, wholesome grains, and supercharged dairy items that work in tandem to regulate your digestive system. You’ll find that you can enjoy bigger portions of these nutritional powerhouses throughout the day, and the more that you incorporate into your meals, the closer you’ll get to your daily, weekly, and monthly weight loss goals.
Noom’s Yellow Foods List:
What you should enjoy in moderation:
- Lean Protein: Steak, fish, turkey, chicken breast, pork, lamb, canned tuna, sushi
- Fruits: Olives, dried apricots, prunes, canned pineapples, avocado, plantain
- Dairy: Low-fat yogurt, 2% low-fat milk, low-fat cottage cheese, low-fat cheese
- Snacks: Hummus, fruit cup, banana pancake, rice pudding, acai bowl
- Beverages: Diet sodas, ginger beer, vodka soda, grapefruit juice, light beer, orange juice, fruit smoothie, unsweetened cranberry juice
- Legumes: Lentils, edamame, baked and refried beans, tempeh, chickpeas
- Condiments: Gravy, oyster sauce, cacao powder, balsamic vinegar, mustard, soy sauce, pizza sauce
While the app encourages you to eat less foods that are coded yellow, you may notice that these ingredients are healthy in their own right. Noom has designated these items as second tier to foods on the green list only because they’re denser in calories. This doesn’t mean you should totally abstain from them, however; the app encourages you to incorporate lean proteins and other nutrient-rich items like tempeh into your meals, albeit in smaller amounts.
If you find yourself frequently reaching for items that are on the yellow list, Noom’s app is designed to help find a green-list item that you can easily swap for instead. For example, you may swap chicken breast out for tofu in a meal every once in a while because Noom rewards tofu more than it does chicken breast.
Noom’s Red Foods List
What you should limit:
- Fruits: Dates, raisins, dried cranberries
- Grains: White bread, biscuits, pita bread, hot dog buns, flour tortillas, croissants, bagels, granola, saltines, waffles, muffins
- Dairy: Butter, margarine, full-fat cheese, whole milk, half and half, cream cheese, cottage cheese, full fat yogurt
- Condiments: Olive oil, ranch dressing, sour cream, mayonnaise, ketchup, barbecue sauce, pesto, coconut milk, maple syrup, honey
- Snacks: Nuts, tortilla chips, potato chips, crackers, popcorn, pretzels
- Desserts: Sugar, dark chocolate, ice cream, cookies, cake, brownies, apple pie, candy, cheesecake, whipped cream
- Beverages: Red wine, white wine, champagne, coffee creamers, hot chocolate, vodka, margarita, apple cider, mixed coffee drinks
As you’ve probably guessed, the foods that are tagged on Noom’s red list are things that are high in calories, saturated fats, sodium, sugar, and processed carbohydrates. While you’re not restricted from enjoying these items once in a blue moon, they should be avoided as much as possible on a routine daily basis. If you do enjoy a cheat snack, you may want to double up on foods found on Noom’s green list throughout the rest of the day, or spend a few more minutes in the gym, in order to stay on par with any weight loss goals.
None of these items should be too shocking; highly-processed meats, like bacon are often restricted on most diets. Some of these items may be surprising, however, such as peanut butter, which can be quite high in calories and (depending on the brand) added sugars or sodium. While each of the items on Noom’s red list varies in their degrees of nutritional value, you can always make them better for your own diet by choosing the healthiest variety possible: Stick to dark chocolate, natural peanut butter or enjoying a sandwich made with low-sodium ham.
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