Does downsizing your diet backfire because it supersizes your appetite? If you’re so hungry by mealtime that you wind up stuffing yourself silly when you hit the table, you need to take the edge off beforehand. Try eating these. All can tame your flying fork.
Nuts: Having a smidge of healthy fat — the kind that nuts are full of — 20 minutes before a meal tells your brain, “Hey, I’m not really that hungry.” No wonder they’re called “good” fats! They stimulate the production of cholecystokinin (CCK), a hormone that not only turns off appetite alarms but also slows the emptying of your stomach. You start to feel full before you even get started. It only takes about 70 calories’ worth — that’s 6 walnuts, 12 almonds, or 20 peanuts.
Dried plums: Yep, thanks to heaps of hunger-quelling fiber, the wrinkled, old-fashioned dried fruit formerly known as prunes has the power to help you eat less. In one study, people who snacked on a little bread, cheese, AND prunes downed 6% fewer calories at a subsequent meal than those who nibbled just bread and cheese. Prunes’ chewy fiber satisfies three ways: You have to chew them slowly, which gives your brain time to realize you feel fuller; they slow digestion by sitting longer in your stomach; and that extra time smoothes out the release of sugar into your bloodstream.
Skim milk: Skipping moo juice to save calories? Bone-friendly, calcium-rich skim milk practically pays for itself caloriewise by filling you up, so you eat less of other foods. In one study, milk sippers ate 8.5% fewer calories at a meal than juice drinkers. Think of milk as an aperitif.
Veggies or fruit: Starting a meal with some apple slices or a big veggie salad tossed with a little good fat (olive oil) and some great vinegar (balsamic, seasoned with herbs) can reduce the total calories you eat by up to 15%. Fresh fruit and raw vegetables are full of water, so they take up lots of tummy real estate for very few calories. (Skip cheese, creamy dressings, and fried croutons. All are loaded with unhealthful bad fat.)
Soup: Have a cup of this warm-you-up, fill-you-up comfort food and you’ll likely eat 20% less at your meal. Go for broth-based varieties laced with filling high-fiber veggies, lentils, peas, or beans. Vegetable purees (carrot, butternut squash) are also delish; just bypass purees made with cream bases.