Fill Up on Fiber

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How do water and fiber help make certain foods more filling?

If a food is considered to be energy dense, that means it has a lot of calories in a small amount of food. On the other hand, foods with low-energy density pack the same number of calories into a much bigger serving size. Two things that add bulk to a food without adding calories (and therefore make it more filling) are water and fiber.

Many fruits and vegetables have high water and fiber contents, making them the ultimate low- calorie filler. As well, foods that are high in fiber, such as whole-grain products, can take longer to digest, making you not only feel full, but for a longer period of time. High-fiber fruits such as apples, strawberries and blueberries consist of at least 80 percent water. Carrots, zucchini and spinach are also high in fiber and water.

What kinds of healthy foods are most satiating?

Fiber:Anything containing fiber is your best bet. Fiber slows down gastric emptying, allowing you to feel fuller for a longer period of time after a meal. High-fiber foods have little effect on increasing serum glucose levels. Since fiber is indigestible, it adds no calories to your diet. Adding fiber-rich foods to your meals bulks them up (think larger, more filling portions), without adding excess calories. Fiber allows you to feel fuller and more satisfied even on fewer calories, making weight loss easier to achieve.

Carbohydrates:Focus on eating complex carbohydrates which have more fiber and nutrients, and typically fewer calories, for example; whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, oatmeal, whole-grain cereals and brown rice.

Water:Many fruits and vegetables are high in water, which provides volume, but not calories. Grapefruit, for example, is about 90 percent water, and has just 39 calories in a half-fruit serving. Carrots are about 88 percent water, and have only 52 calories in 1 cup.

Fruits:Another prevailing source of fiber is fruits. Fruits have fiber, vitamins and minerals, and satisfy a sweet tooth without excessive calories (60 calories per serving). Choose fruits with the most amount of fiber. Opt for high-fiber fruits like an apple, pear or berries.

Vegetables:Vegetables are also low in calories (25 calories/cup), and high in fiber, vitamins, phytochemicals and antioxidants. Some high-fiber options include broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, artichoke hearts and hearts of palm. Remember: The more fiber a food has, the fuller you will feel on fewer calories.

Protein:Researchers at the University of Washington found that people who eat a 30 percent protein diet ate 441 calories less each day than those on a 15 percent protein diet. This includes foods from both plant and animal sources. The best choices are those that are high in calories, but low in fat. Always select lean proteins like fish, white-meat poultry, fat-free dairy products and egg whites. Protein such as legumes, beans, peas and lentils, are also good sources of fiber.

Can you suggest any strategies that might help a person who is concerned with his or her weight achieve fullness without loading up on unhealthy food choices?

Hunger can be a major obstacle for many people who are trying to lose weight. But incorporating foods into your diet that give you more bang for your buck can be a strong strategy for beating hunger pangs.

Fiber and protein are the two nutrients that take the longest to digest. It is this perfect combination of foods that keeps your serum glucose levels consistant, leading to improved energy throughout the day. In addition, since fiber has 0 calories per gram, and protein has 4 calories per gram, you are guaranteed the least caloric intake with the most food itake.

Eating 3 meals and a snack a day keep your metabolism working throughout the day leading to more calories burned daily. Eating at regular intervals also helps to keep your sugars from dropping too low, therefore avoiding the symptoms of hypoglycemia, which tend to lead to overeating.

Begin lunch or dinner with a broth-based, vegetable-filled soup or a large salad with a small amount of low-fat or fat-free dressing. Research from Penn State shows that people who eat soup and salad at the start of a meal wind up taking in fewer calories all day than those who skip them. These foods take longer to eat and curb your hunger. This will ultimately prevent you from overeating your main dish as well as night time overeating.

It may be difficult for some people to recognize when they are actually "full." What are some signs that indicate fullness/satiety?

One can begin by thinking about how you are feeling while you are eating. This takes a conscious effort. Once you've eaten some of your food, consider asking yourself some of these questions:

• Is my hunger beginning to settle? • Does the food still taste good? • After a few more bites, am I beginning to feel satisfied?

Try stopping about halfway through to determine if you've had enough.

Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a nutritionist and founder of She is also the creator of The F-Factor DietaC/, an innovative nutritional program she has used for more than ten years to provide hundreds of her clients with all the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, improved health and well-being. For more information log onto