If you’ve ever tried to slim down through dieting, then you know how miserable it is to feel hungry all the time.
Obsessively counting calories, surviving on microscopic portions, and dealing with the stress and crankiness of constant food cravings — isn’t there an easier way to lose weight?
Good news: there is!
By eating specific foods that rank high on the “satiety index” you can feel full after every snack and meal without expanding your waistline. In fact, these healthy foods that fill you up will help you feel satiated and support your weight loss efforts simultaneously. In this article, we’ll look at some of the best foods that don’t make you gain weight and why some filling foods are better options than others.
Why Are Some Foods More Filling Than Others?
You already know that eating a cup of Doritos wouldn’t fill you up nearly as much as 8 ounces of a protein shake. This is because different foods function differently to create feelings of fullness in the body.
The satiety index measures how filling a food is compared to its calorie content. Developed in 1995, the satiety index ranks foods based on their ability to satisfy hunger and reduce cravings.
Using the Satiety Index to Choose Filling Foods
The high-ranking foods on the satiety index are healthy foods that fill you up with fewer calories. Eggs, lentils, cheese, grain bread, beef, and fish are just a few examples of such foods.
On the other hand, when you consume foods with low satiety index scores, the very opposite happens: you eat and eat and eat (and then eat some more), never feel full, and watch helplessly while your waistline balloons.
Consider this example: You’re late for work but desperate for breakfast, so you hurry through the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru and order a bagel or donut. Your on-the-go breakfast might taste good in the moment, but what happens an hour or two later?
You’re starving again.
Highly processed foods like white bread, chips, and pastries all have low satiety index scores. They are high in calories from carbohydrates and sugars, not healthy fats or proteins, so they cause you to gain weight without ever helping you feel full.
Eating well and looking good can happen simultaneously. You just need to select meals and snacks that meet at least one of the four qualities of healthy foods that fill you up.
The Four Qualities of Filling Foods That Don’t Make You Gain Weight
Not all foods are filling for the same reasons, but most foods that don’t make you gain weight fall into one of the following four categories.
High Water Content
Foods with high water content don’t just keep you hydrated; they also help you feel fuller longer. Cucumber, tomatoes, cauliflower, watermelon, and spinach are more than 90% water, and they are all packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that boost your health.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and other health publications recommend using these high-water-content sources to accelerate weight loss. Consider the dramatic difference between eating ten pieces of watermelon and ten scoops of ice cream!
Dietary fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. It isn’t digested by the body like fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Instead, fiber passes through the GI system relatively intact.
This trait makes fiber an important weight loss tool since it maintains bowel health and normalizes bowel movements. Fibrous foods also tend to help you feel fuller without so many calories. Soluble fiber even supports the slow absorption of sugar that balances blood sugar levels and prevents the urge to overeat.
Protein is one of the three nutrients, along with fat and carbohydrates, that provide calories to the body. Since protein reduces your body’s level of ghrelin, a hunger hormone, while boosting the hormones responsible for making you feel full, it is a powerful weight loss nutrient.
If you replace a portion of the carbohydrates and fats in your diet with high-protein choices, you will eat fewer calories but feel more satisfied. You’ll burn more fat, boost your metabolism, and beat those late-night snack temptations.
Low Energy Density
Foods that are low in calories relative to their weight are considered low-energy density foods. This means that eating low-energy density foods can fill you up on fewer calories than rich, high-calorie foods.
As you browse the following list of 10 foods that fill you up without making you gain weight, you’ll notice that the best choices are whole foods from natural sources that do not require processing or artificial ingredients.
10 Healthy Foods That Fill You Up But Won’t Make You Fat
1. Boiled Potatoes
Ounce for ounce, no other food is as filling as boiled potatoes. In a study that measured how well 38 different foods satisfy hunger, boiled potatoes came out on top.
Why? Because boiled potatoes are an excellent source of a special kind of starch called resistant starch. This starch acts a lot like soluble fiber in your gut, which helps you feel full.
Just make sure to steer clear of french fries and potato chips! Fried potatoes were found to be three times less filling than their boiled counterparts.
If you’re going to eat breakfast, steel-cut organic oats are a healthy, filling choice. In fact, oatmeal ranks third on the list of most satisfying foods. Oats are a good source of beta-glucan, a form of soluble fiber known to slow down digestion and the absorption of carbs.
Thanks to their high protein levels, eggs are a significantly more satisfying breakfast food than bagels, ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, pastries, and other morning choices. Since eggs are a complete protein and contain all nine amino acids, they increase fullness and help you make better food choices throughout the day.
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Apples contain pectin, a soluble fiber that slows down digestion and contributes to feelings of fullness. The high water content of apples also makes them a satisfying choice compared to carbohydrate-based snacks. Just make sure to take a pass on the apple juice. Whole, solid fruit does a much better job at helping you feel full than apple juice or applesauce.
All citrus fruits — including lemons, oranges, and grapefruits — contain pectin, the soluble fiber that slows down digestion and increases satiety. But grapefruit is especially effective if you’re trying to lose weight.
In a 2006 study, obese participants who ate grapefruit lost considerably more weight than those people who only took a placebo. Participants who ate half a grapefruit with their breakfast, lunch, and dinner for six weeks showed a significant reduction in waist circumference.
6. Cottage Cheese
If you’re looking for an energy-boosting afternoon snack, give cottage cheese some consideration. This unique dairy product offers up B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, and selenium in every bite. Since it is low in calories but high in protein, cottage cheese can satisfy your hunger and help you lose weight.
Beans, beans, the wonderful fruit; the more you eat… the less hungry you feel!
Legumes, like beans, peas, and lentils, are a great source of both fiber and protein. This, combined with their low energy density, means legumes will fill you up and may even promote weight loss.
We all need “cheat” foods every once in a while. But rather than reaching for a bag of salty potato chips or cheese puffs, why not munch on some popcorn instead? Popcorn is a whole grain and contains more fiber than many other popular snacking options. It’s also high-volume, so it fills you up, while still being relatively low in calories.
In fact, popcorn will fill you up more than other guilty indulgences like potato chips and crackers. It’s perfect for a movie night at home with friends and family!
It will come as no surprise that veggies are a near perfect food if you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight. What might surprise you is that eating a salad before meals can reduce your total calorie intake by 7% – 12%!
Just make sure to go easy on the dressing: most salad dressings — even the ones advertised as “fat free” — are loaded with sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and other unhealthy additives. Instead, drizzle your salad with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette. It’s delicious, and olive oil has been shown to increase the body’s absorption of vitamins and minerals when eaten with vegetables.
10. Lean Meats
Grilled chicken, lean beef, and pork are high in protein and incredibly filling. Eating such protein-rich foods can dramatically reduce your total calorie intake throughout the day.
A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that people who consumed a high-protein lunch ate 12% less at dinner, compared with those who ate a carb-rich lunch.
You don’t have to starve yourself to slim down.
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The Bottom Line
Losing weight and staying healthy doesn’t have to be a miserable experience! By choosing nutritious foods listed high on the Satiety Index, you can reduce your calorie intake, feel satisfied after eating, and watch your waistline shrink.