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Satiety: The Secret Sauce to Weight Control

Or how to eat more, without actually eating more calories
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Satiety is that wonderfully satisfying feeling at the end of the meal when you are full and no longer hungry. Generally, the more satisfied you feel after a meal, the less you will eat at the next meal. Quite simply, getting in touch with satiety is a very important and oft missing aspect of weight management. Why? Because many people don't recognize when they are full and keep on eating because the food is there and it tastes so good.

Get in touch with your satiety center by pushing away from the table and allowing your stomach time to signal your brain that you have had enough to eat. By choosing the right kinds of foods, you can increase your satiety level. There are numerous foods that stick around in your belly and keep you feeling full for hours after a meal. And then there are just as many that are quickly absorbed and leave you hungry two hours later.

Most fad diets cut calories so low that dieters feel hungry throughout the day. After a few months of hunger and feeling deprived, they give up on the diet and go back to their eating habits that caused weight gain in the first place. At WebMD's Weight Loss Clinic, we encourage you to choose the foods with the greatest staying power and don't shave calories too low. Successful weight management means finding a way of eating for a lifetime that lets you feel full eating fewer calories. Now that is the real magic bullet.

Voluminous Foods

Satiety research has taught us a wealth of information about certain foods, portion sizes, and nutrients that stick around in the belly longer and provide that feeling of fullness. Barbara Rolls, PhD, from Penn State University has done extensive research in the field (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, October 1999 and December 2002) and is the author of The Volumetrics Weight Control Plan (Quill, 2000) based on the theory of feeling full on fewer calories. Her research demonstrates that foods with a high water content, such as fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk, cooked grains, beans, meats, poultry, and fish have a substantial impact on satiety. Eating water-rich, low-calories foods such as soups, stews, casseroles, veggie pasta dishes, and fruit-based desserts can have a significant impact on your feeling of fullness without eating excessive calories. The secret sauce to weight management is that you can eat more of the voluminous foods without excess calories.

Energy dense foods, on the other hand, pack a powerful punch in terms of calories and don't necessarily keep you satisfied for very long. Most foods that are dense are also high in fat and/or sugar. Calorie for calorie, you don't get to enjoy as much of the energy dense foods as you can of the lower energy density foods. For example, all of these snacks are equivalent to 100 calories but differ in total volume and quantity of food -- which would you prefer?

  • 1 ounce jelly beans
  • 1 ounce pretzels
  • 12 baby carrots with 2 tablespoons fat-free dressing
  • 1 1/4 cups orange segments
  • 2 3/4 cups whole strawberries

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