Originally Published: June 8, 2014 6 a.m.
Going on a diet to lose weight usually involves limiting the amount of food you eat - and dealing with the hunger pangs that result. Unfortunately, as anyone who has followed a restrictive diet knows, hunger eventually trumps our good intentions to eat less. It's easy to fall back into our usual habits and stop dieting when we are fighting hunger every day.
Fortunately, there is a way to eat more food, consume fewer calories, lose weight and avoid chronic hunger. Filling your plate with foods that are naturally low in calories and fat, high in fiber and that also contain a lot of water, will provide that sense of satisfaction after meals that can help you achieve, and maintain a healthy weight.
Many studies have shown that people who eat a diet consisting of an abundance of low-fat, high-fiber and high-water-containing foods, including vegetables, whole grains, fruits and beans lose weight and maintain a healthy weight more easily than those who do not. One of the lead researchers in this area is Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., professor and chair of nutritional sciences at Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Rolls coined the term "volumetrics" to describe the eating pattern that helps most people in her research lose weight without feeling hungry or unsatisfied.
In her research, Dr. Rolls has found that people like to eat about the same weight and volume of food every day, and that these factors play the biggest role in determining how full we feel after eating. In other words, no matter what foods our meals and snacks are made of, we only experience fullness and satisfaction when we eat a certain amount of food.
Some foods are considered "calorie-dense," meaning that they contain a lot of calories per pound. For example, fats and oils contain about 4,000 calories per pound; nuts, potato chips and sweets contain 2,600 to well over 3,000; and high-fat meats weigh in at 1200-1400. Other foods have a low calorie-density, meaning that pound for pound, they contain fewer calories and usually a lot more water. Cooked beans contain around 550 calories per pound; whole grains and potatoes 400-500; fruits 200-300, while vegetables average only about 130.
You may wonder why calorie-density is important because, after all, most of us couldn't eat a pound of olive oil. However, we might be able to put away quite a few calorie-dense nuts, chips or cookies if we were trying to rid ourselves of hunger pangs. In other words, it is easy to over-eat and consume too many calories when we are trying to fill up with a satisfying volume of calorie-dense foods. For example, there are about 450 calories in four ounces of Gummy Bears. By comparison, a whole, one-pound pineapple also contains 450 calories. The pineapple contains an abundance of water, fiber and nutrients whereas candy consists primarily of sugar. If you were hungry, and chose to eat the candy, you would have to eat a lot more than four ounces before you felt satisfied. On the other hand, you probably couldn't eat a whole pineapple. Just a cup or so, involving far fewer calories, would likely fill you up.
To eat more and weight less, fill your plate with vegetables, whole grains and beans; limit the amount of fat you add to foods and choose lower-fat options for meats and cheese. Keep your portions of calorie-dense foods small and consider snacking on fruits, vegetables and just a few nuts instead of munching on a bag of calorie-dense chips. This way of eating will help you maintain a healthy weight, without hunger, for a lifetime.