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Consider the difference between chocolate milk and a milk chocolate bar. A 1 1/2 ounce milk chocolate bar has 230 calories, while an 8-ounce glass of chocolate milk made with whole milk has 250 calories. For about the same calories, you get a portion that is five times bigger than the chocolate bar.

Add more vegetables -- and less pasta and fat -- to a pasta dish, and you get more food volume. You see the difference, and feel satisfied when you eat it, she says.

Obese people eat more low-water foods than normal-weight people -- big portions of meats, full-fat milk and cheese, fried eggs, high-fat desserts, one study shows. They also ate few high-water foods like salads, fruits, skim milk.

Psychological satisfaction is powerful, she says. "We're talking about dietary changes that people can sustain. If fat content is too low, it doesn't satisfy your hunger. If you don't enjoy foods, you are not in the long run going to sustain the eating pattern. That's where people go wrong, they go too extreme, so they're on the same old dieting roller coaster."

Make the Switch

Rolls' theories are right on the money, says Hassan. "There's a lot of research to back this up. Foods with high water content take longer to eat, and they generally leave people feeling fuller. People feel better when their plate is full and their stomach is full."

Her advice:

  • Drink two glasses of water or other non-calorie beverage before a meal.
  • At a restaurant, either eat a small salad or broth-based soup.
  • At home, fill up half the plate with vegetables, one-fourth with a starch, and one-fourth with protein -- so the dominant part is vegetables. If you want seconds, veggies would be the choice.
  • Before going to a restaurant, eat a high-volume, low-calorie snack -- fat-free milk, a piece of fruit, a cup of light yogurt. "You won't be famished, so you won't eat a whole basket of chips or bread."
  • If you get the evening munchies, drink bouillon, hot tea, or light cocoa, or have two cups strawberries with light cool whip. "It's a great dessert and only 100 calories," Hassan says.

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