As a dietitian, I often have clients who are so strict with their diet that they wind up mowing down the foods they’ve tried so hard to avoid—and ultimately no progress toward their weight-loss goals. I always tell those people that when you’re trying to lose weight, your focus shouldn’t be on cutting out food groups or your favorite treats; it should be about eating more of the stuff your body needs—like nutrient-rich, unprocessed foods—and munching on the indulgent stuff you need to have to stay sane in moderation (you know, when it’s chocolate o’clock). Those two strategies make it possible to feel satisfied and lose weight. Here, five genius ways to actually eat more food while slimming down.
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Fiber and weight loss have been partners in crime since forever. Studies have shown high-fiber foods usually require more chewing, which allows more time for your brain to realize that your belly is getting full. Fiber also helps your body digest food and absorb sugar more slowly, and that helps you feel satiated. Research also shows that people who have a high-fiber diet usually weigh less, which makes sense because those foods are generally low-calorie and unprocessed. So ramp up your fiber intake by adding a piece of fruit to your breakfast, one cup of sliced veggies to your sandwich or soup at lunch, and two veggies to your dinner (like a mixed green salad and roasted asparagus).
In addition to adding fiber-packed foods to every meal, it’s also important to frequently nosh on foods that contain a ton of water, like watermelon, cucumber, zucchini, strawberries, cantaloupe, broccoli, and even yogurt. These fill up your stomach and keep you hydrated for the day. Remember: When you’re hydrated, you’re less likely to mistake thirst for a case of the munchies. On top of all of that, they’re also low in calories. To keep your belly full without consuming a ton of cals, have yogurt or watermelon as a snack or whip up a smoothie with melon, strawberries, and ice for a post-meal or mid-day treat. You can also help curb your pasta cravings by indulging in a giant bowl of zucchini noodlesthat have the same pasta look without the crazy pasta calories. Eat your heart out.
Eating breakfast has been associated with weight loss for quite some time. Eating a morning meal has been shown to keep the hunger hormone ghrelin at bay, which means you won’t be starving before and after lunch. Eating breakfast also fires up your metabolism and tells your body it’s okay to start burning calories at full speed ahead. And finally,some research suggests that eating eggs for breakfast can decrease the amount of calories you eat all day. So if you love breakfast, don’t sacrifice your favorite meal to save extra calories—it might end up backfiring. Set your alarm to make time for Ezekiel toast with a hard boiled egg, a slice of tomato and a drizzle of olive oil—and have a cup of berries on the side.
Research shows that people who eat four meals a day lose more weight—and that might be because eating frequently helps to keep your hunger in check. I like to tell my clients that they shouldn’t bother saving up calories for a big dinner or indulging at a cocktail party. Ruining your appetite a couple of hours before a meal with a snack containing protein and fiber should help you eat less at dinner and fewer calories overall. It sounds counterintuitive, but here’s why eating between meals can actually be a good thing: When you eat a meal while feeling less than famished, you make better food choices and eat more slowly, which gives your body time to realize when you’re satisfied. That enables you to consume fewer calories in the entire day. My favorite snack is fresh turkey rolled up in a romaine leaf topped with a dollop of hummus. Other good options include a hardboiled egg or three pieces of shrimp. No matter what your snack preference, make sure it contains roughly 200 calories, three grams of fiber, seven grams of protein, and six grams of healthy fat.
There’s a nasty rumor going around that nighttime snacking will totally sabotage your weight loss. But if done right, it can actually make you more successful at dropping pounds (and keep you from turning into Cookie Monster). For one, snacking on cherries or nonfat Greek yogurt can help you catch more Zzz’s since they contain snooze-inducing chemicals. And getting more sleep has been linked to eating less the next day and weighing lessin general. Yogurt also contains casein, which can help your muscles recover faster from a tough workout. And when your body is all healed up, you can power through your next sweat session better.