Everyone knows that eating a high-protein, lower carb diet is an easy way to trick yourself into eating less so you lose body fat. Protein is really filling and it stimulates the brain cells responsible for keeping us alert and burning calories.
For example, a review of the effect of eating more protein, found that for every 1 percent increase in protein, people naturally decrease calorie intake by 32 to 51 calories daily.
The body also burns more calories metabolizing protein than it does fat or carbs, which gives your overall energy expenditure a tiny bump.
But, sometimes you need a few more tricks for changing your body besides going high in protein and lower in carbs. Here are five simple ways to get yourself to eat less food without any struggle.
#1: Start meals with green veggies or salad.
Start every meal with green veggies or salad and you will eat fewer calories overall, while getting a more nutritious meal. Drinking a glass of water or tea before chowing down has also been shown to reduce food intake.
Research shows that whatever we put in our mouths first, is what we eat most of. For example, in a recent study using college students at a buffet, those who started with vegetables ended up eating more veggies overall, which translated into fewer calories and fewer simple carbs like dinner roles or French fries.
Similarly, the students who started with bread or French fries ate more carbs total, which meant they consumed significantly more calories by the end of the meal.
Why it works: As long as you see and eat the same volume of food, you are likely to feel full and satisfied despite the lower intake in energy. Plus, veggies are rich in indigestible fiber, which slows digestion and makes you full quicker.
#2: Eat fewer meals a few days a week.
Eating just one meal a day a few days a week is an easy way to get yourself to eat fewer calories so you lose fat and it avoids the harmful hormonal changes that occur with long-term calorie restriction or full-on fasting.
It works like this:
Some days you eat normal meals, whether that’s 3, 5, 6 or whatever works for you. This plan assumes that you eat nutrient-dense whole foods at least 80 percent of the time. You can eat as much as you want as long as your choices are sensible.
Then on 2 or 3 days a week, you only eat 1 or 2 normal meals. Studies that test this design usually include one meal that’s about 500 calories on “off” days, but if you only want to lose a small amount of fat, you could try two meals in the 500-calorie range and expect to get good results.
Why it works: People report that knowing they have the freedom to eat what they want the next day provides mental relief and replenishes willpower. Plus, after they get used to it, they don’t get hungry on days with only meal.
#3: Trick yourself with smaller plates and “out of sight of mind.”
Seems impossible that we can outsmart our amazing brains by eating with smaller plates and bowls, or hiding foods, but these are well known tricks in the world of food psychology.
For instance, in an amusing study, nutrition experts were invited to an ice cream social. Those who were given a larger bowl, served themselves 31 percent more ice cream and using a big spoon increased their servings by 14.5 percent.
Another unique finding is that eating off red plates leads people to eat less than if they used blue or white plates.
And keeping food out of sight, or simply out of reach, also lowers calorie intake. For example, one study found that people will eat fewer calories if they have to get up out of a chair and walk across a room to eat popcorn and cookies on a counter than if those same treats are within reach on a table.
Why they work: People simply don’t have a clue how much they eat, and their ability to recognize fullness and hunger are poor. We are easily fooled by size illusions, which is why small dishware works.
The color red elicits avoidance motivation that acts as a subtle message to stop eating. Finally, “out of sight out of mind” works because it requires increased motivation to get the food and makes us more mindful about what we are putting in our mouths.
#4: Take care of your gut by eating probiotic foods.
The bacteria in your gut have a rather profound effect on how much you eat and how many calories your body absorbs.
For example, taking antibiotic drugs will shift the composition of your gut bacteria so that your body is able to absorb a greater amount of calories from carbohydrates, which it then converts to body fat.
In addition, one group of researchers believes that inflammatory gut bacteria, which interfere with neurotransmitter production and brain function, actually have the ability to influence how much and which foods you eat.
Because they can alter dopamine levels and mood, bad gut bacteria make you crave foods high in fat and sugar, driving up calories.
What To Do: Avoid antibiotics whenever possible and eat plenty of probiotic foods such as pickled foods, miso, sauerkraut, quality yogurt, kefir, Indian lassi, and Korean kim chi.
#5: Avoid packaged foods—calorie counts lie.
Calorie labels for everything from almonds to processed foods like cookies, bread, frozen dinners, and ice cream significantly underestimate calorie content.
For example, frozen foods tend to have calorie counts about 8 percent higher than what is listed on the label, whereas restaurant menus lowball calories by about 18 percent.
The reason is that energy content of food is typically based on a calculation of the calories in raw food, but heating or processing the food will significantly increase the calories present.
What to do: Best bet is to avoid all packaged foods and eat whole foods, fitting raw produce into your meals regularly. Raw foods reduce calorie intake for a number of reasons:
- You have to chew them more, which improves the release of hormones that make you full.
- They have boatloads of fiber and water that slows digestion and keeps you satisfied.
- Your body absorbs fewer calories from raw foods than those that are cooked.