Sticking to a low-calorie diet in an effort to lose weight immediately presents one big challenge: hunger. When you’re hungry you’ll grab the quickest food within reach and forget all your good intentions. It’s one reason why only one out of five people can last a month before falling off the diet wagon, according to a British survey.
The foods you choose, however, can make all the difference between feeling hungry again within a half hour and being satisfied for several hours.
“Key components of highly satisfying foods are protein and fiber,” says Rebecca Solomon, director of clinical nutrition at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, in New York City. “My rule is fiber plus protein equals full.” Adding healthy fats also helps by slowing digestion and stabilizing blood sugar, says Amy Goodson, sports dietitian for the Dallas Cowboys.
Ideally, foods or food combinations that include both protein and fiber work best to keep hunger at bay. Include the following nine foods in your meal plans to help you stay on track:
High in fiber and protein, beans offer an excellent example of a protein-fiber combination, Solomon says. Plus, beans, lentils, chickpeas and the like also contain high amounts of B-vitamins, antioxidants and iron. Beans also make a good protein option for vegetarians. Add them to soups, salads or on their own as a side vegetable dish.
Yogurt With Fresh Berries
Low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt (higher in protein than traditional yogurt) with a serving of either berries or sliced apple (with skin) also provides an excellent protein-fiber hunger staller, Solomon says.
A study from the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that people who consumed yogurt felt satisfied longer than study participants who downed fruit drinks alone.
Oatmeal With Milk
Whole grains are also an excellent source of fiber, so oatmeal made with low-fat or fat-free milk will also provide excellent satiety, Solomon says.
In fact, a study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition credits oatmeal’s high-fiber content and protein for its ability to keep you satisfied longer than downing a ready-to-eat cereal.
Salad With Avocado
Avocados not only contain high levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fats, but they can also keep you from mid-afternoon snacking, according to a study in Nutrition Journal. Women who included a half an avocado with their lunch experienced a 24 percent lower desire to snack three hours later than on lunch days without avocado.
Peanut Butter and Whole-Grain Crackers
Almond butter, cashew butter and traditional peanut butter plus a few whole-grain crackers can dampen your appetite between meals, Solomon says.
“Nuts and nut butters increase satiety, but these healthy fats should be consumed in moderation,” she notes. A tablespoon of nut butters typically contains close to 100 calories. Adding nuts to your oatmeal and eating a smear of almond butter on an apple are great ways to increase meal satisfaction, Goodson says.
Nuts and a Few Dried Plums
A simple trail mix combo of nuts along with a few pieces of dried plums provide a good amount of healthy carbs and high protein.
“Always be watchful of serving sizes, since dried fruit and nuts may be healthy, but they’re high-calorie foods to be eaten sparingly,” Solomon says.
Eating a hot, low-calorie soup before your main meal eases your appetite, according to a Penn State study. People who ate a bowl of soup prior to their lunch entrée ate 20 percent fewer calories at their meal. Researchers said the results were the same regardless of whether the soup was chunky or pureed.
Adding eggs to your breakfast meal increases feelings of fullness and reduces hunger pangs between breakfast and lunch, according to a University of Missouri at Columbia study.
“The 2015 Dietary Guidelines (advisory committee) just released a statement that Americans no longer need to watch their egg intake,” Goodson says. “The cholesterol in eggs does not contribute to rising blood levels of cholesterol.” One large egg contains 7 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat, in addition to iron, vitamin B-12 and vitamin D.
Adding whey protein to a fruit smoothie, oatmeal or breads can help keep you full longer, Goodson says. In fact, a study from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition shows whey increases satiety signals and can help regulate body weight.
“Whey protein is a powder that can be mixed into food items that naturally are low in protein (e.g., fruit smoothie) — and it’s also quick-digesting,” Goodson says.
“Including one or two of these at each meal and snack will stabilize your blood sugar, help you feel satisfied and keep you from being as hungry at the next meal or snack,” she says.
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