Companies have begun to market “calorie-free” products to take advantage of the increasing attention to calories. However, calories are measurements of energy; without their energy, we cannot fuel and energize our bodies. Most individuals are concerned with reducing calories to lose weight, and while reducing energy intake is a consideration, studies show that the quality of your calories may matter more. In particular, the types of calories you consume can influence energy metabolism, which is at the core of weight loss and fat distribution.
Calorie-empty foods may hold off hunger for a period of time, but they are not satiating in the long run. In contrast, higher-quality meals will regulate your energy usage and reduce your likelihood to overeat. In other words, learning to compose your diet properly will increase satiety, reducing your likelihood to overeat—an approach that’s much more effective and worthwhile than counting calories.
Here are seven guidelines to help you increase satiety and make your diet healthier.
1. Increase fiber intake
Here are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber promotes colonic health, while soluble fiber binds to water in the small intestine, producing a viscous, slow-moving gel solution that slows your rate of digestion. When digestion is slowed, you feel full for longer. High-fiber foods include legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
2. Increase protein intake
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that moderate increase satiety in protein intake and a slight decrease in fat and carbohydrate intake may promote satiety while reducing caloric intake. High protein and low-fat options include eggs, legumes, soy, and poultry.
3. Quality over quantity; whole over refined
Compared to caloric quantity, caloric quality is a much more reliable and healthy reference. Compare 100 calories of steel-cut oatmeal to a 100 calorie muffin—not only does the oatmeal offer more nutrients, but it is also less refined than a muffin. Steel-cut oatmeal contains all three edible parts of the original grain: the endosperm, bran, and germ, while the flour used to make the muffin will most likely only be made of the endosperm. Refined goods lack the fiber and protein that slow digestion, making you more likely to feel hungry after eating—which indirectly promotes overeating.
4. Allow yourself to indulge
Health and nutrition are not religions, so allow yourself to indulge and break the rules every now and then. Keeping yourself under the torturous pressure of craving will only lead to over-indulgence at your breaking point. However, abide by the saying, “do it right, or don’t do it all” when satiating cravings. Moderate indulgence, done properly, will satisfy a craving sufficiently and effectively; this means that you do not need to buy into the “reduced-fat” or “low sugar” products.
These products commonly contain filler ingredients and substitutes that make them even more harmful than the original recipe. Worst of all, they are less likely to satisfy your craving and will increase your likelihood to overindulge. Choosing to invest in higher quality goodwill also attach a financial value to the food, making you value it more and potentially enhancing your self-control.
5. Plan to eat regular meals
We all have busy lives, but irregular eating habits can alter your metabolism. On the other hand, being aware of the time difference between meals will encourage you to eat moderate and appropriate portions, rather than eating excessively during one meal to make up for a missed meal. This approach will also regulate your metabolism, which influences increase satiety hormones.
6. Practice mindful eating
Pay attention to your food, and take time to eat. While your stomach muscles and hormones sense fullness, it may take 10-20 minutes to increase satiety signals in your brain to trigger a physical sense of fullness. That being said, eating too quickly encourages overeating, because insufficient time is allotted for messages to be transmitted to the brain.
7. Eat a moderate percentage of low energy-dense foods
According to the British Nutrition Foundation, “energy density is the amount of energy (or calories) per gram of food.” Energy-dense foods are high in calories—so, eating 100g of a fatty cut of meat will provide more calories than a 100g banana. Foods that are less energy-dense also tend to be higher in nutrients, fiber, and water, which promote and increase satiety and overall health. Unlike calorie-free foods that provide no energy, low-energy-dense foods make up for the modest amount of energy they provide by being nutrient-dense.
This does not mean that you should compose your diet of only low energy-dense foods; rather, this suggestion merely offers a healthier alternative for those who prefer large portions. You can certainly enjoy a piece of steak—but rather than pairing it with buttery potatoes and rolls, pair it with a large bowl of roasted zucchini and broccoli.