Persistent hunger is one of the most common barriers to lasting weight loss. Many dedicated dieters will religiously stick to a low-calorie regimen for days or weeks, only to find themselves so overcome with hunger that they fall back into the same habits. This not only blocks weight loss; its yo-yo effect on metabolism can actually cause weight gain.
You may struggle to find low-calorie foods that actually satisfy your appetite. In general, the more filling a food is, the more likely it is to contain a large amount of concentrated calories. However, there are some features that are consistent among filling, low-calorie foods. Here are some traits to look for.
1. Filling foods are high in plant-based fiber. According to satiety index, a measurement of a food’s capacity to make a person feel full, the majority of low-calorie filling foods are rich in fiber. Boiled potatoes are nearly four times as filling as white bread and contain fewer calories. Oranges, oatmeal, whole-grain pasta and popcorn– all high in fiber and low in calories– are among the most filling foods indexed.
2. Low-calorie filling foods contain complex, rather than simple carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are not your enemy when it comes to weight loss. However, simple sugars will pack on the pounds without helping you to feel fuller– so you’ll want to avoid them at all cost. Simple sugars in croissants, cakes, doughnuts and cookies provide little satiety, but the complex carbs in whole grains and vegetables are both filling and relatively low-cal.
3. Foods containing water are more filling and lower in calories. Water adds no calories to food, but it does make it more filling. Soups and stews are great choices for calorie-counters, since they facilitate weight loss by helping you feel fuller, longer. Keep a variety of soup recipes on hand for simple, quick meals that will accelerate your weight loss.
4. Spicy foods can help you feel full. When you eat spicy foods, you reflexively swallow more air and drink more water. As a result, you’re likely to feel more full. Spices such as red pepper, black pepper, wasabi, jalapeno and cinnamon contain essentially 0 calories, but will increase the spiciness of your food. Try sprinkling a little red pepper on your meals to make them more filling without extra calories.
5. Healthy proteins are filling and low-calorie. As animal-based foods demonstrate, “high protein” does not mean “healthy,” and any extra protein calories you ingest will be stored as fat. Protein, in and of itself, does not add muscle pass to your body or accelerate weight loss. However, healthy, plant-based proteins like beans, soy, lentils and peas are ultimately low in calories but high in satiety index. Include plenty of these in your diet to help you feel fuller without packing on too many extra calories.