The trick to trimming down without feeling tortured: “Shift to a fiber-rich diet with ample sources of lean protein—it’s the simplest way to reduce your caloric intake without eating less,” says Tanya Zuckerbrot, RD, author of The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories & Fat Disappear—With Fiber! Filling foods with high-fiber and high-protein contents have fewer calories per gram, so you can pile up your plate without packing on the pounds.
Don’t turn to those grab-and-go shakes or bars, either. Eating real food is the trick to making this strategy work. “Being balanced in the food you eat will make you feel balanced mentally,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, a New York City-based nutrition expert and author of Read It Before You Eat It. “You’ll know that you’ve eaten something solid and can get on with your day.” We asked these two dietitians to weigh in on the healthiest feel-fuller foods. Here are the foods that made the top 10.
Sure, nuts are all pretty healthy, but they’re not all created equal. Pistachios are one of the lowest-calorie and lowest-fat nuts out there, says Zuckerbrot. And, get this, that means you’ll get to eat more of them. A 1-ounce serving equals 48 pistachios, while 28 peanuts or 22 almonds set you back the same number of calories. That’s a swap we’ll gladly make. You’ll also get heart-healthy benefits by switching to pistachios: “Almost all of the fat found in pistachios are heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which when consumed in combination with a healthy diet may reduce the risk of heart disease,” says Zuckerbrot.
2. Non-Starchy Vegetables
Let’s get one thing straight right away: There’s no such thing as a zero-calorie food. Sorry, that’s just too good to be true. Fiber- and water-rich veggies like cucumbers, carrots, zucchini, celery, broccoli, and cabbage come pretty close, though, because they’re naturally very low in calories. “Fiber also adds bulk to foods, which gives you the satisfaction of chewing, plus the feeling of a full stomach,” notes Zuckerbrot. If you’re not a raw veggies type of snacker, use produce to bulk up sandwiches, soups and omelets.
3. Calcium-Rich Cheese
Dairy affects people differently and has been reported to help people lose weight (usually because of the probiotics, like in yogurt)—whereas other experts say it’s a food that makes you hungrier. In this case, cheese gets a green light because of its calcium content. “Calcium can also promote weight loss because it helps maintain muscle mass, which boosts and helps maintain metabolism, helping you burn calories more efficiently throughout the day,” says Zuckerbrot. That doesn’t mean you can help yourself to a cheese-drenched casserole, though. Work cheese into fiber-rich snacks to make them more satiating, and consider your diet carefully before opting for whole-fat dairy. Though it does pack many health benefits, you’ll have to compensate for those calories elsewhere throughout the day.
When your sweet tooth rears its ugly head, reach for raspberries. One cup provides 8 grams of satiating fiber and sets you back only 60 calories. Don’t feel restricted to popping them plain, either. Throw them into a smoothie or on top of a salad—you’ll do your entire body a favor. “Raspberries are also bursting with vitamin C, a cancer-fighting antioxidant that keeps free radicals from causing damage to cells,” says Zuckerbrot.
5. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is the popular snack of the moment, for good reason. It packs twice the protein of regular yogurt and a whopping 20 percent of your daily calcium needs. “Problem is, everyone likes to chew, and yogurt doesn’t always do the trick alone,” says Taub-Dix, who suggests adding in nuts, dried fruit, or cereal that is whole-grain, high in fiber and low in sugar. If you’re not a fan of Greek yogurt, try a 2% fat variety. The added creaminess won’t set you back too many more calories compared to plain nonfat Greek yogurt (130 versus 100 calories for 6 ounces).
Returning to a childhood comfort food hardly seems like a smart weight loss tactic, but cereal can make for a healthy meal when you’re in a hurry—with one caveat: Don’t pick a brand with a cartoon on the box. “High-fiber whole-grain cereals not only provide ample fiber, but are also loaded in B vitamins, antioxidants and trace minerals such as iron, zinc, copper, and magnesium,” says Zuckerbrot. Top your bowl with skim milk and a few sliced almonds, and be sure to use a measuring cup to keep portions in check, advises Taub-Dix.
7. Broth-Based Soup
Broth-based soup is a triple threat when it comes to feeling full for fewer calories: it’s loaded with fiber-rich vegetables; it packs in lean protein, like chicken or shrimp; and the warm liquid takes up plenty of space in your stomach. Participants who ate soup as a pre-lunch snack took in 20 percent fewer calories during their midday meal than those who opted for other snacks or no snack at all in a Penn State University study. Researchers suggest that soup’s satisfying combination of liquids and solids makes it an appetite suppressant.
8. Wild Salmon
Be honest: chicken gets boring. But salmon is a frequently overlooked source of lean protein that comes with a fat-fighting advantage. “Salmon is a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which may help aid weight loss by improving glucose sensitivity, reducing insulin resistance, reducing inflammation and speeding up the oxidation of fat,” says Zukerbrot. Double down on the filling effects by serving the fish alongside roasted vegetables. The best picks are artichokes, spinach, or broccoli, which all provide at least 5 grams of fiber per serving.
Chickpeas and hummus are not only packed with protein, but also give you an excuse to eat more fiber-rich vegetables—for a fraction of the calories of higher-fat dips that use sour cream or mayo as a base. Pair hummus with fiber-rich veggies like snap peas, jicama, carrots or celery for an easy, healthy hold-over when you’re making dinner or waiting for take-out to arrive, suggests Taub-Dix.
10. Almond Butter
Almond butter is creamy and decadent, and you don’t need to eat a ton of it to feel satisfied. Plus, it has more calcium and fiber than peanut butter—for the same number of calories (approximately 100 for 1 tbsp). Spread almond butter on a slice of whole-grain bread, advises Taub-Dix. Whole-grain bread packs more fiber than white bread, so it takes longer to break down in the body and will keep your energy levels up for a longer period of time.