We need calories to live, but it seems that so many of our foods have abundant calories and little nutrition. I always think of food like currency. How can I maximize the nutrient value and minimize the calorie count? Although exercise is important for all the many benefits that it provides, you have to exercise a lot to burn off excess calories, and for me it is just easier to keep the calories in check. Here are some foods that are highly nutritious and yet easy on the calorie budget.
Greek yogurt has double the amount of protein of other types of yogurts and so it takes much longer to digest. That’s good because it keeps you full longer. Also because protein takes time and lots of energy to digest, you actually burn more calories digesting high protein foods than foods that are not as high in protein. Eat low fat and low sugar varieties to maximize the effect.
Quinoa is a grain that has 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber in just one cup. It is as easy to cook as rice but has a lot more nutritional value, more protein, more fiber and more minerals. You can use it like rice as a side dish or as the base for other dishes, just as you would rice, and it tastes nutty and delicious.
Cinnamon helps keep your blood sugar level stabilized. That means that you likely will eat less, and also eat less often. You could put cinnamon into many dishes including your Greek yogurt to add sweetness without calories. It also goes well in coffee and quinoa dishes.
You may have heard that hot peppers help fight fat. It is because peppers contain capsaicin which curbs the appetite and also raises the metabolism. The peppers that have the most capsaicin are habaneros but it is also found in jalapenos. If you are not used to spicy foods you might want to ease into using peppers because they can cause heartburn if you are sensitive or if you overdo it!
Green tea is also famous for fighting fat deposition on the body. Green tea contains catechins which are a type of phytochemical that is known to help burn abdominal fat. Of course, you want to take your tea unsweetened and clear to maximize this effect. Coffee also is known as a fat burner — but same deal, you can’t load it up with cream, sugar and chocolate and expect it to reduce your waistline.
Grapefruit is not a magic food that has special properties that help your burn fat, but it does have a lot of water, very little sugar and some soluble fiber that takes time to digest. Eating a half a grapefruit before a meal can help you feel fuller faster so that you don’t overdo the fattier foods.
Fruit and veggies that are high in water and low in sugar yet significant in fiber and nutrients are great choices because they fill you up, give you good nutrition and hydration yet don’t pack on the pounds. Apples and pears are two of my personal favorites that really fill the gap and are readily portable.
You might want to think about the difference between dried fruit and fresh fruit here, too. The water makes a big difference. Two cups of grapes will fill you up, whereas the equivalent in raisins is a ¼ cup, which likely won’t. Not to say that dried fruit doesn’t have its place, but if you are trying to keep your weight down or to lose some weight, dried fruit should be in your diet sparingly, mostly just as a garnish in salads or served with other foods.
Eggs are high in protein, low in calories and are extremely versatile as well as being fairly inexpensive. One large egg has 7 grams of protein, and only around 75 calories. Egg whites are an even better choice because they don’t contain cholesterol and they are extremely low in calories. Just 17 calories in an egg white, and the protein is well utilized in the body.
Other high protein foods that help you maximize the calorie budget and get the biggest bang for your nutritional dollar are fish and lean meat especially white poultry meat and whey protein. These high protein foods help fight fat by needing a lot of energy to be metabolized and not adding to the fatty foods category.
Eating well and staying lean is an essential part of living well. Hope this list provides you with “food for thought.”
Jane Riley is a certified personal trainer, nutritional adviser and certified behavior change specialist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-8119 and www.janerileyfitness.com.