Maintaining a healthy diet can be tricky, especially when vending machines filled with chips and candy and fast food restaurants lurk around every corner. Whether you are looking for a snack or planning out your next meal, try filling your menu with low-calorie foods that keep you feeling satisfied. In addition to fruits and vegetables, foods that are high in fibre and lean proteins--or a combination of the two--are choices that are nutritious, low in calories and hearty enough to hold you over until your next meal or snack.
This sounds complicated, but it just means that there are few calories per gram in a certain food, almost always because it is water rich. This is the category that puts people in mind of a diet--fruits and veggies. But this is just one kind of food that is filling and low in calories, and the good news is that this means you can eat a lot of these foods with a clear conscious. Low-density foods include broth-based soups, leafy green salads (the darker the better), fruits and non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and winter squash. They make great meal starters and snacks.
You've probably heard a lot about fibre lately. According to the Mayo Clinic, a high-fibre diet may help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Food manufacturers are adding it in to just about everything because of its health benefits. Fibre helps keep you feeling full by absorbing water and expanding in your stomach. Fibre-rich foods that are low in calories include whole grain pasta, whole grain breads, fruits (skin on, if applicable), oatmeal, salmon, air-popped popcorn, baked potato, sweet potato and black beans.
Adding lean proteins to snacks and meals helps to keep you feeling full longer. Look for lean cuts of beef (sirloin, round steaks and roasts, flank steak) and pork. Remove skin from chicken and turkey (breasts are best) and look for low-fat lunch meats. Be sure not to add fat in the cooking process. Most beans and nuts are a good source of protein without being high in calories (keep portion size in mind). Dairy is another excellent source of lean protein. Go for non-fat or fat-free varieties.
Try a combination of fibre and protein to keep you full long after meals or while snacking between meals--eggs and toast, turkey sandwich and tomato, chicken and rice, cheese and crackers. What gets us in trouble is choosing fatty cuts of meat and processed foods and eating out-of-control portion sizes. Make sure the toast, rice and crackers are whole grain, the proteins are lean with little added fat in preparation, and don't eat too much.
Low-Cal Filling Snacks
Snacking can throw off the best laid meal plans. Here are some suggestions for healthy snacking that are nutritious and won't break the calorie bank: Whole-grain pita and hummus; ants on a log (celery stuffed with peanut butter and topped with raisins); Happy trails mix (combine 1 cup whole-grain toasted oat cereal, 1/4 cup chopped walnuts and 1/4 cup dried cranberries), string cheese, whole-grain crackers, yoghurt with fresh fruit, frozen yoghurt with fresh fruit and a hard-boiled egg. See the resources below for many snacks that will stick with you and that are low in calories.