Eating healthy, filling foods can help you lose weight without feeling hungry. Certain foods make you feel fuller — and satisfy you longer — than others. Knowing which healthy foods are the most filling and incorporating them into your diet can help you lose weight.
Remember, it’s not just what you eat, but how you eat that can make a difference in how full you feel.
To help you figure out a strategy that’s going to leave you feeling satisfied while eating less, we’ve interviewed three registered dietitians about filling up while slimming down.
Foods That Help You Feel Full Faster
Foods that are high in fiber fill you up on fewer calories, says Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD, and author of The F-Factor Diet. Whole grains, such as whole wheat breads and pastas, oatmeal, and brown rice, are complex carbohydrates that have more fiber and nutrients, and, typically, fewer calories than simple carbs like those in cake, candy, and soda.
Fruits and veggies
“Many fruits and vegetables have high water and fiber contents, making them the ultimate low-calorie filler,” says Zuckerbrot. Grapefruit, apples, pears, berries, broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus are especially filling.
Additionally, says Marisa Moore, RD, National Spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, you should opt for whole fruit over fruit juice whenever possible. “Whole fruit provides all the benefits of juice with an added bonus — fiber, which can keep you feeling full longer,” she explains.
Research indicates that protein ranks high on the scale of foods that make you feel full and creates a greater feeling of satisfaction than other foods, according to Moore. The best choices are animal and plant proteins that are high in calories but low in fat.
These include fish, white-meat poultry, fat-free dairy products, egg whites, legumes, beans, peas, and lentils.
In addition to high-fiber whole grains, fruits and veggies, and lean protein, Lona Sandon, MEd, RD, LD, and a National Spokesperson for the ADA, recommends adding healthy fats to your diet.
“For instance, you can use a light olive oil-based dressing,” Sandon says, “and add a spoonful of nuts or seeds to your salads,” because these also contain “good” fats.
Strategies to Help Fill You Up Faster
Sandon, Moore, and Zuckerbrot all recommend beginning lunch or dinner with a broth-based, vegetable-filled soup or a salad.
“Research suggests that including a broth-based soup or veggie salad with low-calorie dressing may help you eat fewer calories during your meal,” says Moore.
Zuckerbrot adds that since these foods take longer to eat, they can also help curb your hunger and prevent you from overeating your main dish.
Don’t skip meals.
To avoid filling up on unhealthy options, fuel your body with healthy foods periodically throughout the day, suggests Sandon. This means no skipping meals.
“Eat at regular times spaced evenly throughout the day and try to eat approximately the same amount of food at each meal.” Sticking with a schedule, adds Zuckerbrot, will help keep your metabolism working and burning more calories daily.
Use a smaller plate.
“We tend to eat with our eyes, not our stomachs,” says Sandon. “For many people, the sign of fullness is an empty plate.” Consuming healthier portion sizes on a smaller plate may have the same effect.
For a balanced meal, Sandon recommends loading up at least half your plate with veggies and fruit, then filling a quarter of the plate with lean protein and the other quarter with bread, pasta, or a potato.
Because it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to realize that the stomach is full, eating more slowly may help prevent overeating, says Moore. “It allows you to get to the point of being satisfied, not stuffed.”
Additionally, many people tend to ignore common signs of fullness, such as the feeling of tightness in the stomach, says Sandon.
“Don’t keep eating until your fullness is uncomfortably obvious. Instead, take time out to put your fork or spoon down between bites and have a sip of water while observing the physical sensations of your stomach.”