A Few Tricks to Easier Self-Control

By Sally Squires
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Finding ways to feel full with fewer calories is a trick that can help you sidestep nutritional mischief and added pounds, especially during the tempting holiday season.

But what are the best choices to help you pull a fast one on your stomach?

Reach for high-volume foods rich in water, fiber and, yes, even air. Evidence shows these foods help you feel full with fewer calories.

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Welcome to Week Two of the Lean Plate Club Holiday Challenge. For those new to this idea, it's simple: Maintain your weight from now through New Year's. Each week, you'll find a food goal and an activity goal to assist in your efforts. Plus, on our Web site at http://www.leanplateclub.com/holidaychallenge, there are healthful recipes, tools to help you succeed, and new products. This week, see snazzy scales and measuring cups to help you stay on track.

Plus, on the new Lean Plate Club Bites blog, you can share your successes -- we'll cheer you on! -- and find commiseration about any slip-ups.

Holding the line on weight is always important so that you don't increase your risk of diabetes or other weight-related health problems. But it takes on special meaning at the holidays, when food temptations are as common as corner Santas.

"People already overweight or obese are at particular risk for packing on the holiday pounds," notes Susan Yanovski, co-director of the Office of Obesity Research at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

As part of a study of holiday weight gain, Yanovski and her colleagues examined a group of healthy adults and found that overweight and obese people were at greater risk of gaining five or more pounds from Thanksgiving to New Year's than their leaner counterparts.

The team tracked some of the participants who added holiday pounds for a full year. Although they lost a little weight from January through March, a year after the study began they weighed roughly 1 1/2 pounds more. The results suggest, Yanovski says, that "all of us are at risk for not only holiday weight gain, but weight-gain retention."

That's where those high-volume, lower-calorie foods come in handy, an approach to eating known as volumetrics. Research from Pennsylvania State University indicates that eating foods with water as a main ingredient -- think fruit and vegetables, soup and stews -- helps reduce overall caloric intake. Puffed and whipped foods -- popcorn and whipped yogurts, for example -- do the same, because they contain so much air. So does food with a lot of fiber.

It also turns out that some types of fiber may be better than others at helping you feel full -- a tip that can come in handy at any time of year.

At last month's annual meeting of the Obesity Society, a professional group, Minnesota researchers reported that fiber from bean, barley or oats was best at helping study participants feel full and satisfied three hours after eating. By comparison, polydextrose, a fiber substance used as a fat substitute in some commercially prepared products, was least likely to do so.

Most people fall short on eating the fiber recommended by the National Academy of Sciences. Women are advised to aim for 25 grams per day; men, 38 grams.

There are plenty of easy ways to reach those goals. Start the day with whole-grain cereal. Whether it's a steaming bowl of oatmeal (about four grams of fiber per cup) or a serving of shredded wheat (about six grams of fiber per cup), you'll get flavor and fiber. Add a cup of berries for an additional eight grams of fiber.

Whole-wheat crackers, bread and pasta provide two or more grams of fiber per serving. A medium sweet potato with the skin packs five grams of fiber. A pear has four grams, while a banana and an orange clock in at three grams each.

But beans are the fiber winner. Just one cup can provide at least 11 grams. So split pea, lentil and navy bean soups are smart choices that won't make you feel like you're chewing hay. Other easy options include hummus and bean dips.

Staying active also can help you avoid mindless eating. That's why this week's activity goal is to add another five minutes of walking or other activity per day beyond what you did before Thanksgiving. Add that to the 10 extra minutes that was the goal last week, and you'll be doing 15 minutes more of exercise.

Remember, no need to do it all at once. If you get up every hour for five minutes to move around your office or around the block, you can add 15 more minutes of activity in a morning. Plus, when you're walking, you're probably not eating. Just avoid strolling past the holiday goodies your colleagues are bound to bring in.

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