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How to Eat More and Still Lose Weight
Posted: Thursday, October 30, 2003
This information comes from a study presented at the annual meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity, Penn State researchers studied how eating salad before a meal could affect total calories a diner ends up consuming.
A food has a low energy density if it has few calories relative to its weight. An easy way to choose these low-energy-dense foods is to choose "big" foods -- those that are bulked up by fiber and water. Chicken and rice soup, for instance, has a low energy density, with just 0.5 calorie per gram. And it will be just as filling and less fattening as a similar amount of cheese ravioli, which has 3.2 calories per gram.
Food labels don't tell you about energy density, so you have to do the math yourself to calculate calories per gram. Foods that have up to 1.5 calories per gram are low energy dense. Foods with 1.5 to four calories per gram are considered medium, while high-energy-dense foods have four or more.
It might seem obvious that low-energy-dense foods such as chicken soup are less fattening than the same amount of, say, potatoes au gratin. But there are some surprises. Even a decadent-sounding cream of broccoli soup with cheese has an energy density of just 0.8. But graham crackers, though low in fat, have a high energy density, with 4.2 calories per gram.
Here's how to lower the energy density of your diet so you can eat more without increasing your caloric intake:
-Switch to soups: Even creamy soups and rich stews have a lower energy density than many foods.
-Add bulk: Adding vegetables to pasta or casseroles or more veggies to a salad lowers the energy density.
-Beat your food: Smoothies and shakes fill you up longer the longer they are whipped. Substitute: Switch to low-fat dressings, cheeses and cooking oil in recipes
And the energy-density idea works with indulgence foods, as well. M&M's are considered a high-energy-dense food, with 4.9 calories per gram. But for about the same calories of a package of M&M's, you could have a slice of chocolate cake with frosting, at just 3.7 calories per gram, or vanilla pudding made with 2% milk, at just one calorie per gram. And you'd be left feeling far more satisfied.
The push to focus on the energy density of foods is backed by numerous studies that show hunger tends to be satisfied by a certain volume of food, regardless of the calorie content. In one Pennsylvania State University study, researchers found that healthy women instinctively ate about three pounds of food a day. It didn't matter if the foods were high-calorie or low-calorie -- the women were driven by volume, not calories. Because we are accustomed to a certain volume of food, when we try to cut back on the amount we eat, we feel hungry -- which is the main reason diets fail.
All of this runs counter to the notion that people who are overweight are just eating too much food. Often those people are eating normal amounts of food for their size -- they are just choosing energy-dense foods that cause them to continue to gain weight.
To really make an impact on weight, people need to consume far more "big" foods like fruits, vegetables, salads and soups. That can include, for instance, adding more vegetables to bulk up casseroles or other dishes to lower the overall energy density of favorite foods. Dieters should pay attention to basic nutrition and eat a balanced diet, but they should also work to ease high-energy-dense foods out of their diets.
The problem is that our taste buds don't always like low-energy-dense foods as much as small convenience foods like snack chips and brownies. But new research shows there are ways to use low-energy-dense foods to help curb consumption of more fattening foods, without having to give them up altogether.
In the study, diners were allowed to eat as much regular cheese tortellini as they wanted. One group was just given the tortellini, while other groups were told they had to eat a serving of salad first. The salads included both high-calorie and low-calorie dressings and cheeses, and the size varied from a 1˝ cup to three cups.
Researchers found that when diners pigged out on three cups of salad with low-fat dressing, they ate 107 calories less -- or about 12% fewer calories for the meal than when they didn't eat a first-course salad.
The first course had such low energy density that it translated into fewer calories, despite the variety effect. But be warned, the energy density of the salad matters as well. Some diners were given a more energy-dense salad with full-fat dressing and cheese. They ended up eating 145 calories more -- or about 17% more calories for the whole meal --than those who ate no salad at all. ADA 2003-10-20
Pearls for Practice: " The lesson for dieters is to binge on a healthy salad or other very low-energy-dense foods before a meal.
Source: Diabetes In Control.com
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