At first glance, the logic seems simple: To lose weight, you need to eat smaller portions. But is sitting down to a half-empty dinner plate really the best strategy if it leaves you hungry and more likely to succumb to the midnight munchies?
When it comes to weight control, it turns out bigger portions of the right foods may be the answer. Numerous studies, many of them conducted at Pennsylvania State University by Barbara Rolls, author of The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet, suggest that people tend to consume and be satisfied by the same volume of food at a sitting regardless of how many calories it contains. So by bulking up dishes in ways that add few or no calories, you can have a full, satisfying plate thats also good for your waistline. Here are some simple, flavorful strategies for getting more for less.
Blend in purees
One of the best ways to amp up portions but reduce calories is to work in vegetable purees. In a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, participants who had pureed vegetables hidden in their meals ate the same quantity of food and were equally satisfied but ate up to 350 fewer calories and two extra servings of vegetables a day than those who didnt. That calorie difference can add up to 3 pounds of weight lost a month, not to mention the potential health benefits from the nutrition in the extra vegetable servings. Try folding pureed winter squash (you can buy it frozen or canned) into your macaroni and cheese, adding cooked cauliflower to potatoes before mashing, or putting pureed cooked carrots or peas in your casseroles.
Add cut vegetables
You dont have to sneak vegetables to amp up volume, nutrition and satisfaction. You can also add them in a way that gives an obvious burst of color and texture. Try slicing zucchini into ribbons and adding to linguine, layering sliced cucumber, radishes and grilled vegetables on your sandwiches, and adding extra vegetables such as red bell peppers and mushrooms to stews and chili.
Slice and dice
Cutting food to make it appear more plentiful is a winning strategy as well. In a recent study from Arizona State University, subjects given a bagel cut into pieces ate less but were equally satisfied, compared with those served a whole bagel. So cut and roast your potatoes instead of baking them whole, and serve slices of bread rather than a whole roll. Make the official 3-ounce deck of cards sized portion of meat look more sumptuous and satisfying by slicing it thinly and fanning it out on the plate.
Of course, air has no calories and you can use it to your advantage to inflate portions. One study showed people consumed about 70 fewer calories when given a more aerated cheese-puff snack. So choose popcorn and puffed grain cereals over more dense chips, crackers and granola. Also, you can get the same sized spread of cream cheese and butter for your toast for considerably fewer calories simply by switching to the whipped kind.
Registered dietitian Ellie Krieger is host of Food Networks Healthy Appetite, which airs on the Cooking Channel. Her most recent cookbook is Comfort Food Fix: Feel Good Favorites Made Healthy.
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