Hunger is every dieter’s worst enemy. As an award-winning bariatric medicine physician, Dr. Jan McBarron believes one key component to effectively shedding pounds is altering your diet to focus on low-energy-density foods.
Low-energy-density diets employ the consumption of foods that allow you to feel full on fewer calories. When consumed, they help you shed pounds without going hungry. Generally, food items that fit the bill will be high in protein, high in fiber, and sometimes high in heart-healthy fats. With their help, it’s easier to stay full and fight the urge to reach for unhealthy, fattening snacks.
Soup isn’t just a side dish, it’s also a highly filling, low-calorie
meal option. In fact, many researchers argue that soup may be more filling than
solid foods, even if those solid foods contain the exact same ingredients.
The reason for this, as explained by Dr. Jan McBarron, is that when a solid is mixed with water, its properties change slightly. These slight changes, in turn, impact how the stomach digests its nutrients. That’s why soups stay in the stomach longer, working to diminish hunger and reduce snacking.
If you’re looking for a quick and incredibly filling breakfast, oatmeal (whether instant or old-fashioned) is the perfect fix. At 148 calories per ½ cup, oats are super effective at diminishing appetite without maxing out your caloric intake. Plus, Dr. Jan McBarron notes that the regular consumption of oats is linked closely to a myriad of other health benefits, including lowered blood sugar levels and decreased risk of heart disease.
In past years, eggs have been demonized for their supposed high cholesterol. As food scientists learn more about their properties and how the human body operates, their name has been cleared. In fact, it is now known that eggs aren’t just healthy, they’re also great for weight loss.
In a study conducted by Saint Louis University, researchers found that those who choose eggs for breakfast consumed considerably less calories throughout the day— and less calories means more weight loss. Jan McBarron highlights this is likely due to the food’s satiation properties. “Eggs have amino acids that trigger a series of hormone releases in the gut,” McBarron notes, “and those hormones help to suppress appetite, keeping you feeling fuller for longer.”
In comparison to regular yogurt, Greek yogurt has a thicker consistency and higher protein content. “Its filling properties make it a protein-rich breakfast food,” notes Dr. McBarron. The foods thicker, heavier consistency is also a factor that works in its favor. Because of its weight, it likely creates a more satisfying feeling of satiation than many other breakfast foods, including other types of yogurt. While exact caloric content varies depending on brand and flavors, most Greek yogurt contains around 130 calories per 2⁄3 cup serving.
If you’re craving a salty snack, put down the potato chips and instead reach for some air-popped, unbuttered popcorn. Because this food is low calorie and high fiber, it’s one of the best snacks for dieters. Why? The fiber in popcorn works to slow your body’s digestive process, meaning it stays in your system longer.
According to Dr. Jan McBarron, this salty snack can help reduce your appetite, squash unhealthy cravings, and keep you full for longer. Plus, popcorn is proven to be considerably healthier (and more satisfying) than potato chips.
As an expert in bariatric medicine, Jan McBarron knows there’s really no such thing as a miracle weight loss food—that said, chia seeds are about as close as they come. A measly 1-ounce serving of chia seeds will cost you only 137 calories but delivers an astounding 10.6 grams of fiber into your system.
Because of its high soluble fiber content, chia seeds swell in the stomach, filling empty space and promoting extended fullness. Adding just a single serving a day is shown to curb appetites and promote successful, long term weight loss.
As far as health foods go, fish is close to the top of the list. While not all fish are created equal, variations such as trout, sardines, and salmon are all proven to improve brain functions, slow aging, and increase learning and memory capacity. Outside of its brain benefits, Dr. Jan McBarron notes that fish is also incredibly useful for weight loss.
Fish is rich in protein as well as heart-healthy fats which can help you shed pounds. While calorie counts vary depending on the fish types and how it’s cooked, the average serving of cod will provide your body with 15 filling grams of protein while costing only 70 calories. A few other low-calorie fish options include flounder, halibut, and sole.
You were probably told as a child to always eat your vegetables, and if you’re looking to lose weight in your adult life, the same is true. Most vegetables, especially dark green vegetables such as asparagus, green beans, zucchini, broccoli, and spinach deliver a high volume for very few calories.
Consuming vegetables, especially in place of fatty meats or heavy cheeses, will help you drop weight and stay full for longer. This is partially due to their high-water content, which works to fill your stomach and slow the digestive process without the setback of empty calories.
In recent years, potatoes have gathered a bad (and largely undeserved) reputation, likely due to their prominence in many high-fat, unhealthy foods. Chips and French fries, which are both obviously potato-based, are perhaps two of the biggest culprits when it comes to empty calorie consumption and unhealthy cravings. But potatoes themselves are not inherently unhealthy. In fact, when cooked correctly, they can be both low-calorie and ultra-filling.
For a healthy potato alternative, go with a medium-sized baked potato—ideally with the skin on. At 161 calories, 4 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber, it’s guaranteed to smash cravings and quell your appetite.