How to Eat More & Lose Weight

You can enjoy a full plate of food yet cut calories with this simply smart approach to weight loss. Plus, get 1,500-calorie-a-day menus showing what to pass up and what to choose for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack.

Eat More, Lose Weight

You're likely a pro at comparing calories and carbs when choosing between two foods. But what you might overlook is how filling the foods are. Figuring out what will satisfy your hunger yet keep your daily calorie intake on target is easier than you might think.

"Studies show people get full by the amount of food they eat, not just the number of calories they take in," says Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., a researcher at The Pennsylvania State University and author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan (Harper, 2007). People tend to eat the same volume or weight (in grams) of food from day to day, she says. So to stay within your daily calorie allowance yet eat a satisfying amount, pick foods that pack fewer calories per bite -- in other words, low calorie-dense foods. Rolls calls this approach Volumetrics.

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Figuring Out Fullness

If you compare 1-1/4 cups fresh strawberries with two 6-inch strawberry-flavor licorice twists, both have around 60 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrate, but the big bowl of strawberries would be more filling. Rolls explains why:

  • When you see a large portion of food (even if it's low in calorie density), you're more likely to think the serving will satisfy you.
  • A larger portion takes you longer to eat. More bites mean you get to enjoy smelling, chewing, and tasting your food longer.
  • A high-volume portion stretches your stomach more, signaling your brain you've eaten a satisfying amount.
  • As a larger volume of food moves through your gut, it sends more satiety (fullness) signals to your brain.

Reducing Density

Rolls gives these guidelines for picking low calorie-dense foods that will help fill your plate (and your tummy) while you cut calories.

Go high-water. The more water in a food, the less calorie-dense it typically is. Think vegetables, whole fruits, low-fat dairy products, and minimally processed whole grains and legumes cooked with water, such as oatmeal and lentils. These foods are often good sources of fiber, which improves satiety.

Use Lean Meats

Choosing lean meats and low-fat dairy products is an easy way to scale back on fat, which packs nearly twice the calories as carbohydrate and protein. Limit high-fat condiments, too.

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Fiber Up

Plant foods naturally high in fiber are not only bulky, but they also require more chewing, take longer to travel through your digestive system, and influence hormones that reduce hunger levels.

Decrease Sugar

You can reduce sugar by at least a fourth in many recipes and not miss it. For every 1/4 cup sugar you cut, you're slashing about 200 calories and 50 grams of carb.

Get a Bit of Air

When you spray your salad with a mister, enjoy a puffed snack food, or opt for whipped versions of condiments such as butter, you get a bigger portion per calorie compared with a similar food without added air.

Bigger, Better Meals

Planning satisfying, nutritious menus that fit your calorie budget is easier when you follow these pointers.

Start smart: An appetizer of a water-rich vegetable soup or lettuce salad can help fill you up so you eat less of calorie-dense foods at meals. Limit this first course to 100-150 calories, Rolls advises.

Eat Your Vegetables

Add nonstarchy vegetables such as spinach, tomatoes, and zucchini to everything from pasta dishes to sandwiches to pizza. That leaves less room for calorie-dense ingredients such as cheese and meat.

Favor Whole Foods

Rolls compared the hunger-satisfying ability of whole apples versus applesauce and apple juice, including juice with added fiber. People felt much fuller after eating a whole apple compared with the other apple products.

Watch Beverages

Calories in fancy coffee drinks and regular sodas can add up quickly, yet they don't provide the satiety or nutrients that food can.

Keep Treats Small

If most foods you eat are relatively low in calorie density, you can still enjoy small portions of favorite high calorie-dense foods -- including chocolate, Rolls says. Just make sure they fit your carb allowance.

Smart Weight Loss

Research has shown the Volumetrics approach is a sensible strategy for shedding pounds. In a study of 71 obese women, Rolls found that those who ate the Volumetrics way lost 33 percent more weight in 6 months compared with those who focused on reducing fat intake. Plus, the Volumetrics dieters were able to eat 25 percent more food by weight, reported significantly less hunger, and took in more essential nutrients.

"Once people get the hang of Volumetrics, they can't believe how much food they can eat," Rolls says. "And if they come to prefer this way of eating, weight control requires less effort." Our sample menu shows just how satisfying this way of eating can be.

A Day of Dining Choices: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner & Snack

Whatever your daily calorie allowance, make the most of it by choosing filling, low calorie-dense foods. These sample 1,500-calorie menus show what to pass up and what to choose.

Choose This Breakfast: 400 calories, 45 g carb

Choose this feel-full meal

  • 2/3 cup Mushroom Scrambled Eggs with veggies and bacon
  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal with 7 chopped walnut halves
  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1 cup green tea

[Total for meal: 391 cal., 17 g total fat (3 g sat. fat), 13 mg chol., 287 mg sodium, 45 g carb, 9 g fiber, 19 g protein]

Mushroom Scrambled Eggs

Feel-Hungry Breakfast

Pass up this feel-hungry meal

  • 1/2 cinnamon-sugar bagel with 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 6 ounces frozen blended coffee drink

[Total for meal: 400 cal., 17.5 g total fat (10 g sat. fat), 61 mg chol., 329 mg sodium, 52 g carb, 2 g fiber, 12.5 g protein]

Choose This Lunch: 450 calories, 45 g carb

Choose this feel-full meal

  • 1 cup Southwest Gazpacho
  • 1 Grilled Chicken Sandwich (with tomato slices and reduced-fat cheese)
  • 3/4 cup Cucumber Radish Slaw
  • 16 ounces unsweetened iced tea

[Total for meal: 437 cal., 8 g total fat (3 g sat. fat), 81 mg chol., 1,099 mg sodium, 47 g carb, 7 g fiber, 44 g protein]

Southwest GazpachoGrilled Chicken SandwichCucumber Radish Slaw

Feel-Hungry Lunch

Pass up this feel-hungry meal

  • 1/2 chicken salad croissant
  • 8 ounces pink lemonade

[Total for meal: 450 cal., 22 g total fat (6.5 g sat. fat), 112 mg chol., 757 mg sodium, 45 g carb, 1 g fiber, 16 g protein]

Choose This Dinner: 500 calories, 60 g carb

Choose this feel-full meal

  • 3 cups lettuce salad with 2 tablespoons fat-free Italian dressing
  • 1 Grilled Tuna with Sweet 'n' Heat Salsa
  • 1/2 ear corn on the cob with 1 teaspoon whipped butter
  • 1 cup steamed green beans
  • 1 cup blackberries with 1 teaspoon whipped topping

[Total for meal: 494 cal., 11 g total fat (2.5 g sat. fat), 70 mg chol., 570 mg sodium, 57.5 g carb, 19 g fiber, 42 g protein]

Grilled Tuna with Sweet 'n' Heat Salsa

Feel-Hungry Dinner

Pass up this feel-hungry meal

  • 1 slice thick-crust pepperoni and sausage pizza
  • 6 ounces regular cola

[Total for meal: 493 cal., 22 g total fat (8 g sat. fat), 30 mg chol., 1,087 mg sodium, 58.5 g carb, 5 g fiber, 16 g protein]

Choose This Snack: 150 calories, 15 g carb

Choose this feel-full snack

  • 6 ounces plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 2/3 cup fresh peach slices
  • Dash ground cinnamon

[Total for snack: 140 cal., 0 g total fat, 0 mg chol., 80 mg sodium, 16 g carb, 1.5 g fiber, 19 g protein]

Feel-Hungry Snack

Pass up this feel-hungry snack

  • 1 ounce potato chips

[Total for snack: 1 ounce potato chips = 150 cal., 10 g total fat (1 g sat. fat), 0 mg chol., 180 mg sodium, 15 g carb, 1 g fiber, 2 g protein]

Easy Low-Carb Snack Ideas

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