Eat More Natural Weight Loss Foods
Eat Less Without Going Hungry
Even a small change in the amount of food you eat each day can make a big difference in your weight over time. For example, eating one hundred calories more than you need each day (a very small soft drink or the mayonnaise on a sandwich) can cause you to gain several pounds each year. You can burn off those hundred calories each day by walking briskly for about a half hour (if you weigh about 150 lbs or 70 kg). Alternatively, you can save yourself the trouble by making some minor changes to your eating habits, such as eating your sandwich with mustard instead of mayonnaise, or drinking ice water instead of a sugary soft drink.
We usually don’t intend to eat too much. We overeat, often without thinking, because of poor food choices, bad habits, and the temptations around us. In this chapter, you will learn how changes in your food choices, habits, and personal environment can help you eat fewer calories without going hungry.
Eat More Natural Weight Loss Foods
Researchers at Harvard University conducted a study in which they monitored the weight and habits of 120,877 adults over a twenty-year period. They found that study participants who increased their consumption of fruits, nuts, vegetables, whole grains, or yogurt tended to lose weight, while those who decreased their consumption of any of these foods tended to gain weight.
Eating more of these natural weight loss foods can help you lose weight also. Unprocessed fruit, nuts, vegetables, and grains digest relatively slowly because of the fiber they contain and because their tissue structure hasn’t already been broken up by processing. Foods that digest slowly reach your blood stream gradually, so you remain satisfied longer after a meal ends. As a result, you are less tempted to snack between meals or overeat during the next one.
It isn’t entirely clear why yogurt is associated with weight loss. It may simply be that adding yogurt to a meal makes it more satisfying so you end up eating less overall. Yogurt may also slow the digestion of the meal so you don’t get hungry again so soon.
As you eat more fruits, nuts, vegetables, whole grains, and yogurt, reduce the amount of less-healthy foods in your diet by eating them less often and in smaller portions.
In the Harvard study, fruits were associated with weight loss while fruit juices were associated with weight gain. Fresh whole or cut-up fruit is preferable to fruit juices or other processed fruit because it usually has more fiber, digests more slowly, and has fewer calories. A 12-ounce (355-mL) glass of orange juice, for example, has about 170 calories. A medium orange has only 60. Here are some ways to eat more fresh fruit:
- Eat a small handful of nuts and a piece of fruit along with a glass of water for a snack.
- Add a piece of fresh fruit to breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
- Buy a variety of whole, cut-up, and frozen fruit. People tend to eat what they have in the house, so keep your house well-stocked with good food.
- Keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the table.
- Keep a container of cut-up fruit in the refrigerator. To keep the fruit from turning brown, add some lemon juice.
- Add fruit to cereal for breakfast.
- Make a yogurt parfait or dip cut-up fruit in low-fat yogurt for breakfast or a snack. Top a bowl of cut-up fruit with yogurt for an easy dessert.
- Make a fruit salad with grapes or berries and cut-up fruit. Add plain or flavored yogurt if you like it creamy. Top it with shredded coconut or chopped nuts.
- Add cut-up fruit, grapes, berries, orange sections, raisins, or dried cranberries to a green salad.
- If oranges and other acidic fruit make your teeth sensitive, try eating them with yogurt.
Although nuts are relatively high in calories, they also contain fiber, fat, and protein, which slow digestion and provide enduring satisfaction. You need only a small handful with a meal or snack to get the weight loss benefits. Because nuts are dry, be sure to eat them with a glass of water to get the full effect. Here are some ways to get more nuts into your diet:
- Buy a large container of nuts and divide them into handful-sized portions. Keep these portions handy to add to packed lunches or snacks.
- Eat a small handful of nuts with breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
- Add nuts to cereal or low-fat yogurt for breakfast.
- Eat a yogurt parfait with nuts as a snack or with a meal.
- Add nuts to green salads, vegetable dishes, and fruit salads.
The US government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommends that half of the food on your plate be fruits and vegetables. Here are some ways to eat more vegetables:
- Stock up on frozen vegetables for simple, fast side dishes.
- Keep a container of baby carrots, celery sticks, sliced green peppers or cucumber, or other ready-to-eat vegetables in a see-through container in the refrigerator for lunches and snacks. Put carrots and celery sticks in a container of water so they stay crisp.
- If you don’t care for vegetables, eat them when you are hungriest so they will taste better, and you will gradually learn to enjoy them more. Add cut-up vegetables to a packed lunch, or take some along to add to a purchased lunch.
- Add vegetables prepared two or three different ways (cut-up raw, steamed, roasted, etc.) to dinner. Sprinkle cooked vegetables with feta, Parmesan, vinegar, or other strong flavors to make them more interesting.
- Include a green salad and low-calorie dressing with dinner every evening.
- Try a large green salad topped with sliced boiled eggs or chicken breast for lunch.
- Try low-fat yogurt seasoned with dill weed, mint, or other herbs as a dip for cut vegetables.
- Top fried or scrambled eggs with tomato salsa, nopales, or fresh avocado.
- Decorate dinner plates with vegetable slices.
- Add grated or chopped vegetables to some of your usual recipes. Zucchini, carrots, tomatoes, and spinach can be added to many dishes.
- Add steamed vegetables to soups. When you eat out, request additional vegetables. For example, ask for extra tomatoes, pickles, or lettuce on a sandwich, or extra vegetable toppings on a pizza.
- Grill vegetables such as onions, mushrooms, and green peppers as part of a barbeque meal.
Yogurt in your meal will make it more satisfying. Yogurt also makes a quick, satisfying snack. Plain low-fat yogurt has relatively few calories.
As with most any habit, the hardest part of adding yogurt to your snacks and meals is just getting started. We tend to eat what we have on hand, so buy a quart or two of plain low-fat yogurt as well as some ready-to-eat portions of your favorite flavored low-fat, low-sugar yogurt, and put them in your refrigerator. Here are some more ideas:
- Make a yogurt parfait for breakfast or a snack by mixing plain yogurt with fruit and granola or whole-grain breakfast cereal.
- Eat plain yogurt as a topping in place of sour cream on just about any hot dish. Try it on vegetables.
- Mix plain yogurt into your favorite salad dressing to make it lower-calorie.
- Use plain Greek yogurt in recipes in place of sour cream or cream cheese. Eat yogurt as a lunch or dinner side dish.
- Enjoy yogurt sweetened with a little jam or honey in place of less healthy desserts.
Whole and Slowly-Digesting Grains
A whole grain is a grain that still has the bran and germ. The bran of a grain is the outer, high-fiber layer. The germ is the high-fat, high-protein embryo of the grain plant. A refined grain has the bran and germ removed. Processing refers to any alteration of a grain, including removal of the bran and germ in the refining process, grinding of grain into flour, bleaching of flour, or treatment of a grain so it cooks more quickly.
Unlike the minimally processed grain eaten by our ancestors, most of the grain in the modern diet is in a highly processed form – much of it as refined flour. The process of converting wheat to refined flour increases its caloric density by over 10 percent, reduces its fiber content by about 80 percent, and reduces its protein content by almost 30 percent.
The less processing a grain goes through before you eat it, the more slowly it digests, so it keeps you satisfied longer and you don’t get hungry so soon. Because flour is ground so finely and is so low in fiber, fat, and protein, it digests very quickly. Whole wheat flour is better, but still digests rather quickly if it is finely ground. Food products made of coarsely ground flour digest more slowly because of the extra time required for breaking down the larger particles. Food products with a high proportion of cracked, sprouted, or intact grains digest even more slowly. Brown rice generally digests more slowly than white rice.
Besides differences in levels of processing, differences in the grains themselves affect the rate of digestion. For example, high-amylose varieties of rice, such as basmati, digest more slowly than low amylose varieties. Low amylose rice tends to be sticky and digests rather quickly, whether it is white or brown. Converted rice digests slowly, even though it’s not brown. Genuine rye bread digests more slowly than wheat bread. Pasta made of semolina digests more slowly than other pasta and most bread. Pasta cooked al dente, meaning that it is still firm, digests more slowly than pasta that is overcooked.
When shopping for whole grain products, check the list of ingredients. Whole grain foods usually have one of the following as the first ingredient: brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, oatmeal, quinoa, rolled oats, whole-grain barley, whole-grain corn, whole-grain sorghum, whole-grain triticale, whole oats, whole rye, whole wheat, or wild rice. The following usually do not indicate wholegrain ingredients: wheat flour, wheat, stone-ground, multigrain, and 100% wheat. Here are some ways to eat more slowly-digesting grains:
- For breakfast, eat hot cereal made of a minimally processed grain such as flaked or cracked wheat, old-fashioned rolled oats, steel-cut oats, bulgur, quinoa, brown basmati rice, or hulled millet. To save time, cook up a large batch and warm a portion in the microwave for breakfast every day.
- Use brown basmati rice, bulgur, hulled millet, or quinoa in a side dish recipe for dinner.
- When you eat out, request whole grain options. For example, request brown rice instead of white rice, or whole wheat bread instead of white bread.
- Buy bread made of whole grains or, even better, of sprouted or cracked grains.
- Buy semolina pasta, and cook it al dente.
- Use whole grain flour or oatmeal for some or all of the flour in pancakes, waffles, cookies, bread, muffins, scones, and other flour-based recipes.
- For baking, try medium-ground whole cornmeal, coarse or medium ground whole wheat flour, whole spelt flour, or whole rye flour. Look for these products in the natural foods section of your grocery store or in a health food store. Buy a portable home mill and grind your own flour, using a coarse setting.