You're probably familiar with the idea that you need to eat fewer calories than you burn if you want to lose weight. However, you may not realize that some foods are more filling than others, and eating more of these foods will help fill you up so you can more easily stay on track with your diet. Examples include high-fiber foods, foods low in energy density, dairy foods and foods containing protein.
Foods that contain a lot of fiber, including whole grains and many fruits and vegetables, help weight loss in a number of ways. Fiber is bulky, so it takes up space in your stomach, but it doesn't contain any calories since you can't digest it. It also slows down the emptying of your stomach, so you feel full for longer. A study published in "The Journal of Nutrition" in March 2009 found that people who consumed the most fiber lost more weight than those who consumed the least. Over the course of the 20-month study, each 1 gram of extra fiber per 1,000 calories in the diet helped people lose an extra half pound.
Foods Low in Energy Density
Foods that don't have many calories per gram, which includes foods that have a lot of water or fiber in them but don't contain a lot of fat or sugar, are low in energy density. Low energy-density foods help you fill up without having to eat a lot of calories, since it is the amount of food rather than the amount of calories in the food that makes a difference in how full you feel, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Replace foods that are high in energy density, such as sweets and fatty foods, with those lower in energy density, such as fruits and vegetables, and you'll find it easier to lose weight without feeling hungry all the time.
Dairy Products and Protein Foods
While fruits, vegetables and whole grains should make up the main part of your diet, don't leave out dairy foods or protein. A study published in "The Journal of Nutrition" in September 2011 found that people who followed a reduced-calorie diet that was high in both protein and dairy products lost more fat and improved their body composition more than people who followed a diet that was low in dairy products and only contained the necessary amount of protein.
Even if you choose only nutritious foods that are low in calories, you still need to watch your portion sizes and the total amount of calories you eat if you want to lose weight. Choose low-fat dairy products and lean protein sources and don't add sauces that are high in sugar or fat to your fruits and vegetables. Limit sweets and processed snack foods, since these are often high in calories but low in nutrients.
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.