Whether you are watching your calorie intake because you are actively trying to lose weight, or you just want to maximize the nutritional intake of what you eat each day, it's a good idea to learn how your favorite foods stack up. It's also smart to keep your mind open to ingredients that you haven't tried before! You just never know -- your favorites might very well change.
Many people think that filling foods are always rich, high-calorie choices that will spike your blood sugar. In a lot of cases, they're not wrong! But there are also plenty of delicious things to eat that will satisfy you in every way. Read on to learn about five of our favorite low-calorie foods!
The Importance of Volume
What is it, exactly, that fills you up when you eat a certain food? Before looking at our list of Top 5 filling foods, let's learn how they can help you feel full without packing on the pounds.
There are a couple of factors that contribute to satiety, which is basically just a fancy way of saying "fullness." One straightforward one is volume. It stands to reason that the bigger and bulkier the food you eat, the quicker it's going to stuff your stomach to capacity. Think about watermelon, for example, or a generously sized bowl of air-popped popcorn. The first contains a lot of water, while the second has lots of fiber and volume.
Both of these foods are going to make you feel very satisfied, but it's a much different type of satisfaction than that you get from eating a huge bowl of fettuccine alfredo and a slice of flourless chocolate cake! If you want to get full faster without having to add a lot of calories to your tracker, opt for high-volume foods.
Fiber and Protein Are Also Key
You know that fiber, aka roughage, is what keeps you "regular." But did you also know that fiber can help you feel full for longer? That's because it moves through your digestive system slowly. And that's a good thing!
Another key component of satiety is protein. Again, you probably already know that eating protein is helpful after a workout, necessary in the first few waking hours of the day, and a good tactic for keeping the urge to snack at bay. Knowing how it plays a role in the sensation of fullness means that you will understand protein even better, and be able to use it as a vital nutritional tool.
In addition to being a highly touted building block of muscle, protein is the most filling of all the macronutrients. If you only have enough time to grab one food, say, as you're running out the door to work, make that food a serving of Greek yogurt rather than an apple or a granola bar. It will keep your stomach from grumbling until lunchtime!
Now, let's turn our attention to some low-calorie foods that will keep you satisfied no matter when you eat them.
Learn to Love Legumes
Beans get a bad rap, but legumes and pulses like beans, lentils, peas, and peanuts, are some of the best foods out there. They are high in fiber, protein, folate, iron, and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids including linoleic and oleic acids. All of these nutrients combine to create a food that sticks to your ribs, keeping you full and happy.
Beans and pulses are super versatile, to boot. They play a role in a wide variety of cuisines, and you could cook a different bean dish every evening for many, many weeks without making the same meal twice. Not only that, but they're also incredibly inexpensive, making it easy to incorporate them into your diet.
Go Nuts for Oats
When you think of oats, you probably think of a gummy, gluey, bland bowl of oatmeal -- or maybe you think of a horse's feedbag. In recent years, however, oats have stepped out of the shadows and into the limelight. That's thanks to some exciting new ways to prepare them -- namely, overnight oatmeal and baked oatmeal.
Fix yourself one of these delicious dishes on the regular to benefit from this filling, high-volume food. Make overnight oats with yogurt or almond milk for protein, and add sweetness with fruit and cinnamon. Or try this recipe for peanut butter baked oatmeal! Another option is to go savory rather than sweet. Mix some sharp cheddar cheese into the cooked oats, top with a poached egg, and season to taste for a unique and filling breakfast.
Empty Stomach? Eat Some Eggs
Do you remember the "Incredible, Edible Egg" marketing campaign? Its catchy jingle helped educate lots of people about how nutritious eggs are. In fact, a single large egg provides 7 grams of protein, has only 72 calories and 5 grams of fat, and provides a substantial amount of iron, lutein, choline, and carotenoids.
And if you thought beans were versatile, wait until you start experimenting with eggs. In addition to the usual scrambled, fried, and hard- or soft-boiled preparations, eggs can be whipped into frittatas or quiches, deviled, tucked into sandwiches, used to garnish a green salad, or baked atop a mound of leafy greens for a powerhouse of a meal.
Pass the Potatoes, Please
Does it surprise you to see potatoes on a list of healthy, low-calorie foods? Plenty of people think that white potatoes are a nutritional no-no, but in fact, they are a fantastic source of vitamins C and B6, manganese, phosphorus, niacin, and pantothenic acid. They also are very filling, and a medium-sized one contains only about 100 calories.
Where potatoes tend to go off the rails is in the cooking method and the toppings or dips that are so frequently used with them. To maximize their nutritional value, eat them baked or steamed -- not as french fries or mash that's dripping with butter. Top potatoes with high protein choices like yogurt, cottage cheese, or eggs. Steer clear of the sour cream, cheddar, ketchup, mayo, and other high-fat and -sugar condiments.
Low-Calorie Foods Help You Eat Smarter
It's a myth that in order to lose weight, you need to restrict yourself to tiny portions and go hungry. That approach is actually much more likely to backfire and lead to a regrettable binge or uncomfortable bloating. Instead of depriving yourself, find low-calorie foods that you can pile onto your plate and eat plentiful portions of! When you choose foods that are nutrient-dense, full of fiber, and high in protein, it's hard to go wrong.
Are you struggling to lose weight, improve your health, or learn how to eat smarter? Get in touch today and we'd be happy to help you out!