Lean plate club: High-volume food can help at holidays

  • Article by: SALLY SQUIRES , Washington Post
  • Updated: November 27, 2007 - 2:25 PM

Those rich in water, fiber and even air leave you feeling full with fewer calories.

Finding ways to feel full with fewer calories is a trick that can help you sidestep nutritional mischief and extra pounds -- especially during the holiday season.

But what are the best choices to help you pull a fast one on your stomach?

Here's where size really does matter. So think about reaching for high-volume foods rich in water, fiber and even air. There's strong evidence to show that these foods help you feel full with fewer calories.

Welcome to week two of the Lean Plate Club Holiday Challenge. For those new to this idea, it's simple: maintain your weight from now through New Year's. Each week, you'll find a food goal and an activity goal to assist with your efforts. Plus, on our website -- www.leanplateclub.com/holidaychallenge -- there are healthy recipes, tools to help you succeed and new products. This week, see snazzy scales and measuring cups to help you stay on track and perhaps find a few holiday gift ideas.

Plus, on the new Lean Plate Club Bites blog, you can share your successes -- we'll cheer you on -- and find commiseration about any slip-ups.

Holding the line on weight is important throughout the year. But it takes on special meaning at the holidays when food temptations are as common as street-corner Santas.

"People already overweight or obese are at particular risk for packing on the holiday pounds," notes Susan Yanovski, co-director of the Office of Obesity Research at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

As part of a study of holiday weight gain, Yanovski and her colleagues examined a group of healthy adults and found that overweight and obese people were at greatest risk of gaining five or more pounds from Thanksgiving to New Year's compared with their leaner counterparts.

The team tracked some of the overweight and obese participants for a full year. While they lost a little weight from January through March, a year after the study began they weighed roughly 1½ pounds more. The results suggest, Yanovski says, that "all of us are at risk for not only holiday weight gain, but weight gain retention."

That's where those high-volume, lower-calorie foods come in handy. There's strong evidence from Penn State researchers that foods with water as a main ingredient -- think fruit and vegetables, soups and stews -- help reduce overall calories. Puffed or whipped foods -- popcorn and whipped yogurts, for example -- do the same thing using air as an ingredient. So does food with a lot of fiber.

It turns out that some fibers may be better than others at helping you feel full -- a tip that can come in handy at any time of year.

At last month's Obesity Society annual meeting, Minnesota researchers reported that fiber from beans, barley and oats were best at helping participants feel full three hours after eating. By comparison, polydextrose, a fiber substance that is used as a fat substitute in some commercially prepared products, was least likely of all the fibers tested to keep participants feeling full and satisfied three hours after eating.

Most people fall short on eating the fiber recommended by the National Academy of Sciences. Women are advised to aim for 25 grams per day; men for 38.

Start day with whole-grain cereal

There are plenty of easy ways to reach those goals. Start the day with whole-grain cereal. Whether it's a bowl of oatmeal (about four grams of fiber per cup) or a serving of shredded wheat (about six grams of fiber per cup), you'll get flavor and fiber. Add a cup of berries to boost fiber an additional eight grams.

Whole-wheat crackers, bread and pasta can provide two or more grams of fiber per serving. A medium sweet potato with the skin packs five grams of fiber. A pear has four grams, while a banana and an orange clock in at three grams each. But beans are the fiber winner, with at least 11 grams per cup. So split pea, lentil and navy bean soups are smart choices.

Staying active can also help you avoid mindless eating during the holidays or at any other time of year. That's why this week's activity goal is to add another five minutes of walking or other activity per day beyond what you did before Thanksgiving. Add that to the 10 extra minutes per day that was the goal last week, and you'll be doing 15 minutes more of exercise.

Remember: No need to do it all at once. If you just get up every hour to move for five minutes around your office or around the block, you can add 15 more minutes of activity in a morning.

You can subscribe to the free Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter at www.leanplateclub.com. Sally Squires is a writer for the Washington Post.

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    SALLY SQUIRES

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