How to Eat More but Lose Weight
Picking foods that fill you up with fewer calories
There are plenty of reasons why diets fail, but for many people it comes down to this: They're not satisfied and they're not full. Most people who drop a size (or three) on a restrictive plan gain it all back once they realize that they do, in fact, enjoy bread. Or that they simply can't live another day without a bite of chocolate.
Instead of giving up entire food groups, there's a smarter way to lose weight. And, believe it or not, it involves eating more. According to Barbara Rolls, PhD, professor of nutritional sciences at Pennsylvania State University and author of two books on the subject, including The Volumetrics Eating Plan: Techniques and Recipes for Feeling Full on Fewer Calories, there are two major elements to this concept. The first is satiety: feeling full and satisfied. The second is energy density (more about that later). If you consider both when creating a meal, you can eat more food but take in fewer calories and still lose weight.
Remember, the bottom line on dieting is that the only way to cut pounds is to consume fewer calories than you burn. But that doesn't mean that restricting your food choices is the best—or only—option. Anyone who has ever eaten, say, a frozen diet dinner understands the feeling of deprivation: Too often, you're left looking for a snack to fill your still-grumbling stomach and satisfy your original craving. The key to maintaining weight loss is to eat foods that will satisfy you and keep hunger at bay. The reason satiety is so important is that once you control your hunger, you can maintain weight loss over the long term.
Pop quiz: What will keep you full longer: 2 cups of grapes or 1/4 cup of raisins? If you picked the grapes, you're right. Since they have a high water content, they'll fill you up more than the raisins—even though both servings have 100 calories. The difference is in the food's energy density (also called calorie density), or the number of calories in a given weight of food.
Foods with a high energy density have a lot of calories per ounce. Less energy-dense foods have fewer calories for the same weight. So, a cup of pasta with alfredo sauce (high energy density) may have the same number of calories as 2 cups of pasta with vegetables, a side salad, and a piece of chicken (low energy density). "Calories per bite affect the portion size you get to eat," says Rolls. "[The vegetables] are lowering the calorie density." Energy density plays a major role in satiety. Because you get a larger portion size, foods that have a low energy density are more filling and satisfying than those with a high energy density.
There's another reason energy density is so important to weight loss: "People tend to eat the same weight or volume of food," says Rolls. Dilute the calories and "they'll eat the same amount." In other words, if you're going to eat 10 cups of food daily, it's better to pick low-energy-density foods and consume 2,000 calories instead of high-energy-density foods that will bring your daily total to 5,000 calories.
|FOR 480 CALORIES|
|You can eat this . . .||. . . or this|
|Veggie egg white omelet,* 1 medium pear,
2 slices of toast, and 2 slices of bacon
|*Omelet includes three egg whites, 1 cup of chopped red peppers, 1 cup of spinach, and 1/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese.|
Reducing Energy Density
There are a few ways to drop the energy density of your meals. For starters, look to foods with high water content. Soups, salads, vegetables, and fruits are all filled with water, so you can eat more for fewer calories. "If you [reduce] the calories by adding water, you're going to get a higher volume of food," says Rolls. In a study she conducted, participants who had soup for an appetizer ate 20 percent fewer calories during their meal than those who ate a casserole with the same ingredients. (Interestingly, drinking a glass of water with the casserole didn't have the same effect; the water must be a component of the food to make a difference.)
Another trick is to pack low-energy-density foods into a dish in order to boost the portion size, nutrient content, and satiety factor. Add broccoli, peppers, and asparagus to a slice of cheese pizza for a more filling, nutritious meal. Or double the size of your sandwich by filling it with lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, zucchini, and radishes instead of just meat.
You can also decrease a food's energy density by reducing fat. Of all the components of food, fat packs the most calories per ounce. By cutting fat from a dish, you make room for calories that are more nutritious and will keep you full longer. Take, for instance, chips with cheese dip: It's high in fat and won't keep you very full. If you swap that for a low-energy-density snack like fresh fruit and yogurt dip, you'll be able to eat more for fewer calories. Cut fat by picking lower-fat cheese on sandwiches, using mustard instead of mayonnaise, and replacing bottled salad dressing with a low-fat homemade one.
Fiber, on the other hand, causes foods to move through the digestive system at a slower pace, which boosts satiety. Plus, it has fewer calories per ounce than fat, so you can eat more of it. You can use veggies, fruits, whole grains, and beans to add more fiber to meals.
As with all diets, what matters most is sticking with the program. That's why eating high-volume foods is so important: If you don't feel restricted or hungry, you'll be less likely to revert to old eating habits. "People who are eating a low-calorie-density diet end up eating more food per day," says Rolls. "The upside of that is they're feeling full and . . . eating a healthier diet."