When attempting to lose weight, or just maintain your current weight, healthy foods that are also satisfying make the task much easier. Excellent choices include foods that are high in fiber, protein and water, all of which help fill you up. Fiber adds bulk to your diet and makes you feel full faster, while high-protein foods take longer to digest and maintain blood sugar levels to reduce hunger. Water is a critical nutrient, as thirst can often be mistaken for hunger. It also helps fill your belly so you eat less at mealtime.
Whole grains, which are unrefined grains that have not had their bran and germ removed, are rich sources of fiber and water, which help to keep you full. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends making at least half of the grains that you eat whole grains. Whole-grain bread, oatmeal, crackers and pasta are smart options. Choose whole grains over refined grains such as white bread, pasta, biscuits and cake.
Most fruits and vegetables are fairly low in calories and high in nutrients. They also have a high water and fiber content. Choose fresh produce as it is usually lowest in calories, added sugar and salt. The serving size for fresh fruit is much larger than for dried fruit, which allows you to have a greater volume. A healthy option is having soup such as a light vegetable soup before a meal, which may help you eat less throughout the rest of the meal. Choose soups that are low in sodium and fat. High-fiber vegetables include carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes and dark leafy greens. Good choices of fruits include apples, pears, peaches, prunes and berries.
High-protein foods slow the movement of food from the stomach to the intestine. Slower stomach emptying keeps you feeling full for longer. Protein also has a steady effect on blood sugar -- unlike refined carbohydrates which cause a quick rise and drop of blood sugar -- which helps ward off hunger. Foods high in protein include fish, meat, eggs, beans and nuts. Choose lean meats and watch nut portions as they are high in calories. Beans, nuts and seeds also contain fiber which packs a powerful punch in satisfying hunger. The highest fiber choices include lentils, black beans, chickpeas and almonds.
Dairy products are a rich source of calcium, vitamin D and protein. Look for low-fat and fat-free versions of your favorite dairy products. Have a latte with 1 cup of skim milk and coffee. Eat a stick of string cheese with a few low-fat, whole-grain crackers. Greek yogurt is very high in protein and is a great breakfast or snack option to keep you full.
Amanda Hernandez is a registered dietitian who holds a Master of Arts degree in family and consumer sciences with an emphasis in dietetics from Western Michigan University. Her work has been featured in "Women's World" and "Women's Day" magazines. She writes for nutritionistreviews.com and has been a nutrition writer since 2010.