When you change your diet to meet a healthier lifestyle, one of the first things you may focus on is limiting your food intake. But on days when dainty portions just won’t do, and you’re craving something that will fill your plate, you need to know what healthy foods you can eat a lot of without ruining your diet. Here are nine items to pile on.
- Raw Veggies: Since you were a kid, you’ve probably been eating baby carrots with dip, not even realizing that you were getting your fill of raw veggies. What’s so great about veggies is many of them are 90 percent water, so they’re the perfect snack to keep you full. They’re also extremely portable and easy to manage. Just fill up a bag with carrots, broccoli, snow peas, celery and even mixed fruit and you have one of the healthiest finger foods around. If you’re looking to add a dip, be sure to steer clear of the high-calorie versions and opt for homemade hummus instead.
- Roasted or Stirred Veggie Dishes: At dinner time, we often find ourselves wanting to consume large portions. To avoid overdoing it on proteins and grains, pack your plate with vegetables, as they’re lower in calories per volume due to their high water and fiber content. Roasting your veggies is a great option to avoid loading on the oil as it requires just a drizzle, but if the sauté pan is calling your name, make sure you choose high-burning fats and that you cook your veggies slow and controlled to keep them from sticking to the pan, requiring more oil. Throw in spices for an added boost of flavor that will excite your palate just as much as your chicken and rice.
- Spaghetti Squash: Everyone knows spaghetti is at the top of people’s comfort food lists. And there’s no eating the delectable delight in small portions. But alternatives to spaghetti are just as filling, yummy and come in heaping mounds, too. Squash is low in calories and rich in dietary fiber. The spaghetti varietal looks just like regular yellow squash on the outside, but when cooked, the flesh falls away in ribbons or strands similar to spaghetti. Try this spaghetti squash recipe if you’re just starting out.
Related: Make These Healthy Food Swaps
- Spiralized Noodles: Another great pasta alternative is to fill up your bowl with spiralized zucchini. Two cups of pasta weighs in at 480 calories with 90 grams of carbs and two grams of fiber, whereas two cups of zucchini noodles has just 66 calories, twelve grams of carbs and four grams of fiber. The fiber and water in the zucchini will help keep you full, whereas the starch in pasta turns into sugar quickly when it is digested, which spikes insulin levels making you feel hungrier.
- Veggie-Stuffed Egg White Omelette: When a cup of fruit or a smoothie in the morning isn’t cutting it, opt for this large breakfast meal. Skip the usual cheese and stuff your egg white omelet with mushrooms, onions, peppers, tomatoes and any other veggies of your liking. Make sure to use a high-burning oil to avoid saturated fats, and use a homemade salsa (or organic store-bought kind that isn’t filled with artificial flavors and hidden sugars) as a zesty topping.
- Soups: Broth-based soups will soothe your insides with their warmth and fill you up quickly due to their water density. Nutrient-rich vegetables and legumes are the way to go, so stock up on black beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, split peas, carrots, celery, cabbage, cauliflower and more. Also, be mindful of the type of broth you use. You don’t want it to be high in sodium and artificial flavors and fillers. You can even make your own or check out this slow cooker vegetable broth to get an idea.
- Popcorn: The buttery movie theatre stuff may sound good, but it’s providing you with more salt and fat than your body can handle. However, popcorn is naturally a whole grain, and provides you with plenty of filling fiber. Swap out store-bought for homemade. Check out these recipes that will really up your popcorn game without sacrificing your waistline. You get around 3.5 cups for just 100 calories, so go ahead and snack away!
- Fruit: Nature’s candy is always at the top of health enthusiasts lists. While you need to be mindful of eating too much of even natural sugar, the reality of the situation is, no one’s going to overeat apples, bananas, berries, melons and more. They’re also dense in water and full of fiber, so a little surely goes a long way.
- Flavored water: While this isn’t a food, it’s important to note that people find themselves drinking their calories and sugars, too. From sodas to juices, there’s a lot of strange stuff packed into store-bought products. Try out the carbonated kind for the bubbles and that soda-like fizz many people love. Be sure to check the labels when buying however, as some add more than water and natural flavors to the mix. And to really be safe, buy yourself a soda stream and flavor with herbs and fruit yourself!