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12 Foods You Can Eat a Lot of Without Getting Fat

Two Soft Boiled Eggs

One piece of advice often given to dieters is to eat until you
reach satiety — that is, until you feel full.

The problem is that different foods can have vastly different
effects on hunger and satiety.

For example, 200 calories of chicken breast may make you feel
full, but it could take 500 calories of cake to have the same
effect.

Thus, weight loss isn’t just about eating until you feel full.
It’s about choosing the right foods that make you feel
full for the least amount of calories.

What Makes a Food Filling?

Many factors determine a food’s satiety value, or how filling
it is relative to its calorie content. The calorie/satiety
ratio is measured on a scale called the satiety index (1).

The satiety index also measures a food’s ability to make you
feel full, reduce your hunger and lower your calorie
intake
over the course of the day.

Some foods simply do a better job at satisfying hunger and
preventing overeating than others.

Filling foods tend to have the following qualities:

  • High volume: Studies indicate that the
    volume of food consumed strongly influences satiety. When
    foods contain a lot of water or air, the volume is increased
    without adding calories (2, 3).
  • High protein: Studies show protein is more
    filling than carbs and fat. Diets higher in protein increase
    satiety and lead to lower overall calorie intake than
    lower-protein diets do (4, 5).
  • High fiber: Fiber provides bulk and helps
    you feel full. It also slows the movement of food through
    your digestive tract, which keeps you feeling fuller for
    longer (6).
  • Low energy density: This means that a food
    is low in calories for its weight. Foods with low energy
    density can help you feel full for fewer calories (7).

So if you eat foods with the above characteristics, then you
can usually eat them until fullness without getting in too many
calories.

Here are 12 filling foods you can eat a lot of without getting
fat.

1. Boiled Potatoes

Hand Taking a Potato out of a Bowl of Potatoes with a Fork

Due to their higher
carb
content, many people avoid potatoes
when trying to lose weight, but they shouldn’t.

Whole potatoes are loaded with vitamins, fiber and other
important nutrients. They also contain a certain type of starch
called resistant
starch
(8, 9).

Resistant starch contains half the calories of regular starch
(2 instead of 4 calories per gram). In your digestive system,
it acts a lot like soluble fiber, helping you feel full.

Because adding resistant starch to meals helps satisfy hunger,
it causes people to eat fewer calories (10, 11).

Interestingly, cooling potatoes after they’re cooked increases
their resistant starch content. In fact, studies show that
cooling and reheating potatoes multiple times continues to
increase their hunger-suppressing effect (12).

In a study that measured the ability of 38 foods to satisfy
hunger, boiled potatoes ranked the highest (1).

While boiled potatoes were the most satisfying food tested,
fried potato chips were found to be three times less filling.



Bottom Line: Boiled potatoes, which are
highly nutritious, are number one on the satiety index. Fried
potato chips are three times less filling and not considered
weight loss friendly.

2. Whole Eggs

Three Eggs


Eggs
are another food that has been unfairly demonized in
the past. The truth is, eggs are
incredibly healthy
and high in several important nutrients.

Most of the nutrients, including about half of an egg’s

protein
, are found in the yolk.

Eggs are a complete protein, meaning they contain all nine
essential amino acids.

In addition, they’re very
filling
.

Several studies found that people who ate eggs for breakfast
were more satisfied and consumed fewer calories throughout the
day than those who had a bagel for breakfast (13, 14, 15).

In particular, one study found that people who ate eggs for
breakfast lowered their body mass index (BMI) and lost more
weight than those who ate a bagel (16).

Bottom Line: Eggs are a great source of
nutrients, including high-quality protein. They may help you
eat less for up to 36 hours after a meal.

3. Oatmeal

Oatmeal
is a type of porridge, or hot cereal, that is often consumed
for breakfast.

It’s incredibly filling and ranks third on the satiety index
(1).

This is mainly due to its high fiber
content and ability to soak up water.

Oats are a good source of a soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which helps slow down digestion and
the absorption of carbs (17).

When compared to ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, oatmeal was
better at suppressing appetite, increasing satiety and reducing
calorie intake throughout the day (18, 19).

Bottom Line: Oatmeal is high in fiber and
soaks up water, which makes it incredibly filling. It is more
filling than traditional breakfast cereals and may help you
eat less throughout the day.

4. Broth-Based Soups

Vegetable Soup in a White Bowl

Liquids are often considered to be less filling than solid
foods.

However, research shows soups may be more filling than solid
meals with the same ingredients (20, 21).

When soup was eaten at the start of a meal in one study,
subjects consumed 20% fewer calories at that meal (22).

Several studies found that routinely eating soup can reduce
calorie intake, enhance satiety and promote weight loss over
time (23, 24, 25).

Stick to broth-based soups, as they tend to be lower in
calories than cream-based varieties.

Bottom Line: Soups are very filling foods.
Eating soup at the start of a meal may increase satiety,
reduce calorie intake and lead to weight loss over time.

5. Legumes

Three Types of Beans on Wooden Spoons

Legumes,
such as beans, peas and lentils, are well known for being good
sources of fiber and protein.

This, combined with a relatively low energy density, makes them
a filling food that may even promote
weight loss
(26).

A review of several studies indicates that beans, peas,
chickpeas and lentils are 31% more filling than pasta and bread
(27).

Bottom Line: Legumes are high in protein and
fiber, which make them very filling. They are also relatively
low in calories, which makes them a weight loss friendly
food.

6. Apples

Yellow, Green and Red Apples

Fruits are an important part of a healthy diet.

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Several studies indicate eating fruit is associated with lower
calorie intake and can contribute to weight loss over time
(28, 29, 30, 31).

In particular, apples
score very high on the satiety index (1).

Because apples contain pectin, a soluble fiber that naturally slows
digestion, they help you feel full (32).

They are also over 85% water, which provides volume and
improves satiety without adding calories.

It’s important to note that whole, solid fruit increases
satiety more than puréed fruit or
juice
, both of which are not particularly filling (33).

One study looked at the effects of eating solid apple segments,
applesauce or drinking apple juice at the beginning of a meal.

It found that those who ate solid apple segments consumed 91
fewer calories than those eating apple sauce and 150 fewer
calories than those drinking apple juice (34).

Eating apple segments also resulted in higher fullness ratings
and lower hunger ratings than other forms of fruit.

Bottom Line: Apples are high in water and
soluble fiber but low in calories. Eating whole, solid apples
may help you consume fewer calories and contribute to weight
loss over time.

7. Citrus Fruits

Cut Oranges

Similarly to apples, citrus
fruits
are high in pectin, which can slow digestion and
increase satiety.

They also have a high
water
content. Both oranges and
grapefruit contain over 87% water, which means they’re able to
fill you up for very few calories.

It has often been suggested that eating grapefruit can promote
weight loss.

In one study, obese participants eating grapefruit lost
significantly more weight than those given a placebo (35).

In another study, eating half a grapefruit three times daily at
mealtimes for six weeks was associated with modest weight loss
and a significant reduction in waist circumference (36).

When combined with calorie restriction, consuming grapefruit or
grapefruit juice before meals resulted in a 7.1% weight loss, a
significant reduction in body fat and weight circumference
(37).

However, these results may not be exclusive to grapefruit, as
drinking water before meals had similar effects.

Bottom Line: Citrus fruits such as oranges
and grapefruit are also weight loss friendly foods. They’re
high in fiber and water, which can help you feel full and
consume fewer calories.

8. Fish

Fish
that are rich in
omega-3 fatty acids
may increase satiety in people who are
overweight or obese (38).

They’re also loaded with high-quality protein, which is known
to be very filling.

In fact, fish scores higher than all other protein-rich foods
on the satiety index and ranks second of all foods tested
(1).

One study found the effect of fish on satiety was significantly
greater than that of chicken and beef (39).

Another study found participants who ate fish consumed 11%
fewer calories at their next meal than those who ate beef
(40).

Bottom Line: Fish is high in protein and
omega-3 fatty acids, which may increase satiety. Fish may
also be more filling than other types of protein such as
chicken and beef.

9. Lean Meats

Cut Pieces of Red Meat

Lean meats
are high in protein and very filling.

In fact, higher-protein diets lead to lower overall calorie
intake than lower-protein diets (5).

One study found that people ate 12% less at dinner after eating
high-protein meat at lunch, compared to those who had a
high-carb lunch (41).

Beef scored second highest of all protein-rich foods on the
satiety index, but other lean meats such as chicken and pork
are also weight loss friendly (1).

Bottom Line: Meat is high in protein and
very filling. Eating high-protein lean meat may help you
consume fewer calories at subsequent meals.

10. Cottage Cheese


Cottage cheese
is low in calories but very high in protein.

It is also packed with healthy nutrients, including B vitamins,
calcium, phosphorus and selenium.

These characteristics make cottage cheese a weight loss
friendly food.

One study found that its effect on fullness is similar to that
of eggs (42).

Bottom Line: Cottage cheese is high in
protein and low in calories. Its effect on satiety may be
comparable to that of eggs.

11. Vegetables

Vegetables

Vegetables are low in calories and high in volume.

They’re also packed with all kinds of beneficial nutrients and
plant compounds that make them an important part of a healthy
diet.

Furthermore, they’re high in water and fiber, both of which
help fill you up.

Research shows that salads, in particular, help satisfy hunger,
especially when consumed before a meal.

In one study, participants who ate a salad at the start of a
meal consumed 7–12% fewer calories at the meal (43).

Another study showed that eating a salad at the start of a meal
increased vegetable consumption by 23%, compared to eating it
with the main course (44).

In order to keep your salad low in calories, avoid adding
high-calorie ingredients and dressings.

Bottom Line: Vegetables are high in water
and fiber, which may keep you full for longer. Eating
low-calorie salads can help increase your vegetable
consumption and decrease your calorie intake.

12. Popcorn

Popcorn

Popcorn
is a whole grain
and contains more fiber than many other popular snack foods.

It is also high in volume, so it takes up a lot of space in
your stomach, despite being relatively low in calories.

Studies have found that popcorn will fill you up more than
other popular snacks such as potato chips (45).

Air-popped popcorn is the healthiest. Commercially-prepared or
microwave popcorn can be extremely high in calories and contain
unhealthy ingredients.

To keep your popcorn low in calories, avoid adding a lot of fat
to it.

Bottom Line: Popcorn is a whole grain that
is high in fiber and volume, both of which help you feel
full. Studies have found that popcorn is more filling than
potato chips.

Take Home Message

Filling foods have certain characteristics. They’re high in
volume, protein or fiber and low in energy density.

Including more of these foods in your diet may help you lose
weight in the long run.

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