Need to lose a few pounds? These simple tips will make it easy to cut back without feeling deprived.
Tip #1: Eat Foods with a High Water Content
Water has no calories but it takes up a lot of space in your stomach, and that—thanks to your proprioceptors—creates a feeling of fullness or satiation. Just recently, a study found that people who drank two glasses of water before meals got full sooner, ate fewer calories, and lost more weight. You can put the same strategy to work by choosing foods that have a higher water content over those with less water.
For example, the only difference between grapes and raisins is that grapes have about 6 times as much water in them. That water makes a big difference in how much they fill you up. You’ll feel a greater degree of satiation after eating 100 calories worth of grapes—which is a small bowlful—than you would after eating a hundred calories worth of raisins, which is only a quarter cup.
Salad vegetables like lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes also have a very high water content, as do broth-based soups. If you start your meals with a salad or bowl of soup, you’ll probably consume fewer calories at those meals. And if you’re looking for a between-meal snack, whole fruit will probably fill you up for fewer calories than dried fruit.
Tip #2: Eat Foods with More Fiber
Another way to feel full on fewer calories is to choose foods that are higher in fiber. Like water, fiber adds volume to foods without adding calories and that extra bulk helps to fill up your stomach and tickle those proprioceptors. That’s especially true when you consume fiber and fluids together, because the fiber soaks up water and gets even fluffier. (See also my episode on soluble and insoluble fiber.)
Fiber has a couple of other tricks up its sleeve that are helpful when you’re trying to eat a little 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 travels into the small intestine for digestion, fiber stimulates the release of a hormone called cholecystokinin, which sends another signal back to the brain to say, “That’s enough!”
Foods that are high in fiber include dried beans, bran, vegetables, and whole grains. So for example, a high fiber cereal will keep you full longer than a low fiber cereal. At lunch, a cup of black bean or split pea soup will go further than a cup of cream of mushroom, and so on.