The math just doesn’t add up: You eat more food, consume fewer calories and actually feel full. It sounds impossible, right? But it’s not when you eat what’s called a low-energy-dense diet. To follow this type of eating plan, you need to choose foods low in calories and high in volume, meaning water and fiber content.
Grapefruit, for example, has only 40 calories in each half-fruit and is about 90 percent water, so it’s a low-energy-dense food. Likewise, high-fiber foods, such as whole-grain cereal, take up a lot of space in your tummy and can help you feel fuller longer but spare the calories.
Compare these foods with the opposite end of the spectrum: high-energy-dense foods, which are high in calories and low in volume (think chocolate cake and candy). They can leave you feeling hungry a short time later.
So, what foods can you bank on to fill you up without tipping the bathroom scale? Try these suggestions:
- Viva the vegetables! Broccoli, zucchini, salad greens and asparagus are just some of the vegetables low in calories and high in volume, letting you consume a larger portion (about one cup raw or ½ cup cooked). But watch the starchier vegetables. Although good for you, potatoes, corn and other starchy vegetables contain almost three times as many calories as the same serving size of broccoli.
Tip: Adding more to your diet: Cut back on the amount of meat on your plate and fill the void with a variety of vegetables; sauté fresh vegetables to top off your pasta. Vow to try a new vegetable every week.
- Factor in fruits. Pick whole, fresh, frozen or canned-in-its-own-juice fruit to meet your nutritional needs. For fruits with edible skins, like apples, leave the skin on to maximize your fiber intake. Be careful of fruit juices and dried fruit, which are naturally packed with extra sugar and calories.
Tip: Adding more to your diet: Opt for a fruit salad for dessert when dining out; toss some blueberries or strawberries into your hot or cold cereal in the morning. Or try creative snacking. Sprinkle sliced peaches with a little bit of cinnamon, drizzle some honey over them, then top it all off with a dollop of low-fat yogurt.
- Count on carbs. Carbohydrates have gotten somewhat of a bad rap, but the key is choosing the good stuff: whole-grain cereals, breads, pastas and rice. They’re high in fiber and other essential nutrients. Look for the word “whole” on the ingredients list (such as “whole-wheat flour”) to be sure you’re getting whole grains.
Tip: Adding more to your diet: Make that tuna sandwich with whole-wheat bread instead of white bread; replace the white rice you get with your Chinese food with brown rice.
- Pick your protein. Go the low-fat route with fish, skinless chicken or turkey, and fat-free milk and yogurt. Beans, peas and lentils—also known as legumes—are not only good sources of protein, but also excellent sources of fiber.
Tip: Adding more to your diet: Start dinner with a cup of lentil soup; add slices of cooked chicken breast or salmon to a salad to make a heartier entrée.