Finding a satisfying food that will control your hunger and not add a calorie wallop is challenging, and can sometimes feel downright impossible. The foods we crave are seldom the foods that will help us control our weight and leave us satisfied. Take sugar, for example. Most of us know the craving for a cookie, a candy bar, or ice cream; but do we usually feel satisfied after? No, we usually want another one. Eating sugar creates a craving for more sugar – it’s a vicious cycle that is hard to escape.
Fat, on the other hand, can fill us up (if not combined with a lot of sugar) — think eggs and bacon or a nice filet mignon. Problem is, it packs a lot of calories – 9 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram for sugar and carbohydrates. No wonder it’s filling! So what are we supposed to eat to control our waistline without that feeling of deprivation that leads to giving into that craving for one (or three) more doughnuts calling our name in the workplace lunchroom?
Researchers have identified several key food ingredients that contribute to feelings of fullness (known in research circles as “satiation”). One key ingredient is fiber, that indigestible plant material that contributes to our digestive health. Another factor is protein content: the higher the protein, the fuller we feel. A third factor is water content, such that higher water-content foods encourage fullness (and often have lower caloric density – think soup). The combination of these factors has led to the creation of a Fullness Factor (FF) to designate the ability of a given food to make you feel more or less satisfied after eating. The Fullness Factor scale uses a 0 to 5 designation, where a higher number indicates a more satiating food; you can find the FF rating for all common foods at the Nutrition Data website.
The list below shows 10 common foods that are the highest rated on the Fullness Factor Index. These foods are, interestingly, also some of the lowest calorie food from their respective food groups.
- Bean sprouts – try them on a salad with reduced fat dressing
- Fish, broiled – try a lean fish like tilapia
- Chicken breast, roasted, no skin
- Popcorn – unbuttered!
So when planning your meals and snacks, you have many useful ingredients on this list to work with: for breakfast, try oatmeal cooked with chopped apples and cinnamon; for lunch, grilled chicken breast sandwich with carrot sticks on the side; for dinner, broiled fish, brown rice, and a salad; for a snack, popcorn or some fruit. This hypothetical day of meals contains just over 1,000 calories, so there is even room for a little treat – if you’re still hungry, that is!
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