The super 3: Eat these foods to feel full while losing weight
Posted April 24
Updated April 25
If you’re like one of the 45 million Americans who diet each year, you know what makes most diets nearly impossible to stick to: hunger. While dieting can help you lose weight in the short term, most people who go on diets eventually regain most or all of the weight they lost in the first place because they fail to implement the small, lasting habits that keep the weight off once the diet is over.
What if there was a way to feel so satisfied and full while eating well that you were never tempted to quit? The great news is, such a way of eating is entirely possible, and even fairly simple.
Three components in foods promote satiety, a term describing a fullness that lasts between meals, not just for the 30-60 minutes after eating. Those three items are protein, fat and fiber. Each of them acts in a different way that causes the fullness you feel right after eating to last for several hours. Not only does including the super 3 mean you can eat well, lose weight and feel full, but it also often results in more stable energy levels and fewer cravings throughout the day.
Protein is an essential component for every meal. It helps to stabilize blood sugar, slows down how quickly your stomach empties into the intestine, and helps you to feel full for longer. As a bonus, it also takes a lot of energy for your body to absorb. This means that about 20-30 percent of the calories you get from eating protein-rich food like chicken goes towards digesting it, and you only end up absorbing a net amount of about 70-80 percent of the calories in that food. Good protein choices include lean meats, fish, dairy products, eggs, soybeans, nuts and beans or legumes.
While many dieters fear fat, it is actually a critical food to include for overall health. It also has the benefit of slowing digestion, increasing feelings of fullness, and decreasing appetite. Focus on including fats that have proven health benefits, like avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil and fatty fish like salmon. Because fat contains a lot of calories in a small amount of food, you don’t need quite as much to get the benefits. For foods that are straight fat, like olive oil, shoot for about a teaspoon (or the size of the tip of your thumb) with each meal. For foods that are rich in fat, like avocados or nuts, shoot for about two tablespoons (or the size of the length of your thumb) at each meal.
Foods that contain fiber also play a key role in promoting satiety. The best foods to get your fiber from are vegetables, because they provide you with lots of nutrients and fiber with a very low calorie or sugar cost. Whole fresh or frozen fruits are a second best option. These will give you the same benefits as vegetables, but have a slightly higher calorie and sugar content. The third best way to get your fiber is including whole grains, like quinoa or steel-cut oats. These have a higher calorie and sugar content than both fruits and vegetables, but also contain some important nutrients.
When you plan a meal, try to include protein, fat and fiber every time. Each snack should contain at least two of the super 3. About half of each meal should come from non-starchy vegetables, a quarter from protein-rich foods, and the remaining quarter from fiber-rich carbohydrates like fruits, starchy vegetables or whole grains. Don’t forget to add an appropriate amount of healthy fats to each meal too; often a great place for them is with or on the vegetable portion of the plate.
For breakfast, try an egg scramble made with two eggs and a cup of mixed veggies like peppers, onions, mushrooms and spinach sautéed in olive oil. For lunch and dinner, try grilled salmon with roasted garlic, asparagus and a half cup of mashed potatoes or a tossed green salad topped with veggies, seasoned chicken breast and an olive oil-based dressing with a piece of fruit. Get creative, but remember to add protein, fat and fiber in the right amounts and you’ll start to see your weight drop without feeling the hunger pangs.
Shannon Adair is a Registered Dietitian and health coach. She works with individuals to promote simple lifestyle changes that result in lasting health improvements.