If you’re trying to lose weight, choosing foods that fill you up for fewer calories can make it easier to cut back. Today, we’ll discuss three things to look for! Like what you hear? Help us out by writing a review on iTunes!
Hello everyone and welcome back to Bites Radio, I am your host and registered dietitian, Vanessa Jane. In previous episodes we’ve discussed different topics, everywhere from mental health and nutrition to insulin sensitivity, chronic dieting, and different ways of slowing the aging process. At this point, you might have noticed that one piece of advice keeps popping up over and over again. In order to be and stay healthy, you have to get yourself to a healthy weight. Of course, I realize that this is a lot easier said than done, after all if losing weight were that easy, 2/3 of the American population wouldn’t be overweight. Unfortunately, in order to shed off extra pounds, you have to eat less. And when you eat less you usually start to feel hungry, and most of us (myself included) find that unpleasant. And this is usually the point in the diet where most people fall apart. So today, I have some tips for you on how to eat fewer calories, without feeling hungry.
This isn’t about a diet that you go on, and then fall off of. It’s about getting your bodies appetite regulation mechanisms working for you instead of against you. These strategies can help you lose weight if you need to, but they’re just as useful as an everyday maintenance strategy. Your stomach is a little like a water balloon. When it’s empty, it’s relatively small and has a good amount of slack. And when you fill it up, it stretches and gets tighter. There are special nerve cells in the lining of your stomach called, proprioceptors. They detect this stretching and send a message to your brain that you’re full. Now, the only thing that these proprioceptors can sense is stretching, they can’t tell the difference between what kinds of food are making your stomach stretch. All they know is that something is filling your stomach, and you can use this to your advantage. Water, even no sugar flavored water, takes up a lot of space in your stomach, and with that, thanks to your proprioceptors, can create a feeling of fullness or satiation. I just recently read a study on PubMed, which found that people who drank two glasses of water before a meal, got full sooner, so they ate fewer calories. And as a result, they lost more weight compared to the control group in this study. You can put this same strategy to work by choosing foods that have a higher water content tan those that have less water. For example: the only difference between fresh fruit and dried fruit, is that fresh fruit have about has about 6 times as much water content than their dried fruit counterpart. And this water content plays a big role in how much the fruit will fill you up. You’re going to feel a greater degree of satiation after eating 100 calories worth of fresh fruit, which is about the size of a small bowl, over 100 calories of dried fruit, which is about ¼ of a cup.
Salad vegetables like spinach, cucumber and tomatoes also have a very high-water content, as do broth based soups. So if you were to start your meals with a dense salad or a bowl of broth based soup, you’ll probably consume fewer calories at those meals. This is a great tip for those of you that enjoy going out to restaurants! And if you are looking for a between meal snack, fresh fruit will fill you up for fewer calories than dried fruit will.
Another way to feel fuller on fewer calories is to choose foods that are higher in fiber. Just like water, fiber adds volume to foods, without adding calories, and that extra bulk of fiber helps to fill up your stomach and engage those proprioceptors. It’s especially true when you consume fiber and fluids together, because the fiber soaks up the water, and expands even more. Fiber has a couple of other tricks up it’s sleeve when you’re trying to eat a little bit less. First, it slows down the speed at which food leaves your stomach. So that feeling of fullness lasts a little bit longer. And then when the food does travel into the small intestine for digestion, fiber stimulates the release of a hormone called cholecystokinin, and that sends ANOTHER signal back to the brain to signal you’re full. Foods that are high in fiber include dried beans, legumes, bran, vegetables, and whole grains. So for example, a high fiber cereal or some sprouted grain toast in the morning is going to keep you fuller longer than a cup of yogurt or some fruit. At lunch, a cup of black beans or a broth-based soup is going to go a lot further than a cream based like cream of mushroom, even if it has the same number of calories.
Now another big factor in regulating your appetite is how severely your blood sugar rises and falls after meals. In a nutshell, the more quickly your food is converted into glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream, the more quickly you are going to feel hungry again. Carbohydrates are broke down into glucose much more quickly than proteins and fats because proteins and fats require a lot more digestive steps in order to convert the. Research consistently shows that dieters who eat fewer carbs and more protein are not as hungry, as opposed to those who have a higher percentage of their calories as carbohydrates. So my third tip is to replace some of the starches in your diet with proteins. For example: instead of sandwich consisting of two slices of bread and one slice of turkey, you could have an open faced sandwich with one slice of bread and two slices of turkey. Both sandwiches are going to have about the same number of calories, but the higher protein version is going to keep you fuller for longer. At breakfast, you could have an extra egg and one less piece of toast. And instead of having a handful of pretzels for a snack you could eat a few pretzels and some cheese or almonds. Of course you can always replace starches with an extra serving of vegetables, which are high in both fiber and water.
I’m not saying that you don’t have to pay attention to calories, or that you never have to exercise any restraint. After all, we overeat for lots of reasons. Not just because we’re hungry, and in the next episode we’ll talk about why most people overeat. But choosing foods that are higher in water, fiber and protein, and dialing back the amount of starches and sugars in your diet, can help you feel satisfied with fewer calories, and THAT can make it a lot easier to maintain a healthy weight.
As a bonus, following these strategies tends to steer you towards more whole, nutrient rich foods, and that improves, the overall nutritional quality of your diet.
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