High-fibre foods and water help fill you up

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 July, 2011, 12:00am


Kobe asks: What foods are filling, but low in calories?

Wynnie says: Energy density is the amount of calories or energy in a particular weight of food.

Foods with a low energy density provide fewer calories per gram than foods with a higher energy density. So, for the same amount of calories, you can eat a larger portion of a low-energy food than a high-energy food. Water and fibre lower the energy density of a food: water doesn't contain any calories, and fibre has 1.5-2.5 calories per gram. Fat provides more than twice as many calories per gram (nine) as protein and carbohydrates (four).

High-fibre foods are more filling because they take longer to digest. They stay in the stomach longer so help you feel full - faster and longer. High-fibre food also expands if water is present. Choose low-calorie fibre-rich foods like whole-grain rice, bread, noodles, pasta, unpeeled fruits, veggies, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, lentils and beans.

Besides providing hydration, water can make you feel full without adding any calories.

Fruits and veggies are among the best food sources of water. Lettuce, cucumber and tomato all have a high water content, as do watermelons, strawberries, oranges, spinach and cabbage.

Proteins are digested slowly, so eating these at meals and as snacks can help you feel fuller for longer. Choose lean protein chicken breast, egg white, white fish, tofu, low-fat dairy foods, lentils and beans. Cook lean proteins using minimal fat by steaming, grilling or boiling.

How to add low-energy-density foods into your diet:

1. Load up your plate or bowl with vegetables. If you're eating a Chinese-style meal, try eating your veggies first before you help yourself to the other dishes.

2. Use more veggies in dishes like stir-fries. In other dishes, replace some meat with chopped veggies. Fibre-rich legumes and pulses such as lentils and beans make perfect meat substitutes.

3. Keep portion sizes in check. At a buffet, use smaller plates or bowls.

4. Soups make perfect meal accompaniments. Broth and vegetable-based soups, such as clear Chinese soups or minestrone, are a great way to start a meal, as they are low in energy density. And chunky soups make perfect snacks.

5. Choose water instead of carbonated drinks, which are laden with calories: drinking large quantities won't quench your thirst but will pile on the calories. Water is the best drink to keep you hydrated.

6. Keep the amount of fats you eat low. Fatty foods won't make you feel full even though you think they should. Our body thinks fat should be stored to tide us over during times of famine, and so fat isn't broken down for immediate use. When fatty foods hit the stomach and intestine, hunger signals aren't sent to the brain immediately, so we go on wanting to eat more.

Kobe's diary

Breakfast: A carton of yogurt

Lunch: A plate of fried rice and a bottle of green tea

Snack: An ice-cream

Dinner: A bowl of rice, with vegetable, fish and chicken dishes. Fruit

Exercise: A workout once a week, which involves 30 minutes of jogging in the winter and 90 minutes of swimming in the summer