ADD, don't SUBTRACT
5 Ways to Improve your Diet by Adding Foods instead of Removing them
Often times, when it comes to improving our diet, whether for fat loss or general health purposes, we like to adopt a restrictive mindset, focusing on specific foods and nutrients that we need to remove from our diet.
This mentality makes each day feel like a battle to avoid “bad” foods.
But rather than focusing on what you need to SUBTRACT from your diet, what if you concentrated on things that you could to ADD?
Change your Dieting Mindset
Rather than thinking about the "bad" stuff that you need to remove, thinking about the "good" stuff that you can add is even more effective.
The more good stuff – lean protein, fiber, water, fresh fruits, and veggies- that you are able to add to your diet, the less room and desire that you’ll have leftover for foods that aren’t as supportive of your goals.
By adding more beneficial foods, those that are high in nutrients and low in calorie-density, you can slowly reduce the consumption of the less beneficial ones. There is no need to cut “bad” foods out completely, they simply need to take a back seat to the “good” foods.
Here are five easy ways to add and prioritize healthy foods within your diet. Follow these five strategies and you’ll be able to lower your calorie intake, manage your hunger more efficiently, and improve your diet, without restricting and without counting calories.
1. Consume more protein
There are many well documented health and fitness related benefits to a diet that is high in protein.
Protein is often cited as the most satiating or filling of the three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, and fat), and therefore a diet higher in protein may serve a valuable role in managing hunger and suppressing appetite, leading to a lower ad libitum calorie intake (1).
Protein aids in the building and conservation of muscle tissue, it has the highest thermic effect of the macronutrients (meaning that requires the most energy to digest and process), and whole food protein sources tend to be very nutrient dense as well, supplying an array of vitamins and minerals.
Structure each one of your main meals around a lean protein source. Aim for about 20-40g per meal, which is the equivalent of about 1-2 servings that are roughly the size of your palm. A list of lean high quality sources is provided below.
As a total daily goal, shoot for 0.7-1.4g per pound of your bodyweight.
2. Add fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are very low in calorie-density and high in volume, making them fantastic for regulating hunger. Calorie-density refers to the number of calories per unit of weight for a given food item.
Think about the size and weight of a dinner roll, which weighs 38g and contains about 100 calories. It has a calorie density of 260 Cal/100g.
Now consider a serving of broccoli that has the same number of calories (100 Cal). It weighs approximately 305g, takes up way more space, and has a calorie-density of only 30 Cal/100g.
Which 100 Calorie serving will be more filling and satisfying? Easily the broccoli.
By adding more volumous, low calorie-dense, foods to your diet, you’ll be able to fill your stomach on less calories, leaving less room for the “bad” foods.
Not only are fruits and vegatables more filling, but they contain a lot more nutrients – vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals- that can be beneficial to health.
Add 1-2 servings of fruits and/or veggies to each meal. Make these food groups the stable of your diet.
3. Increase your fiber intake
Fiber is an indigestible form of carbohydrate that is found in plants. Fiber cannot be broken down and absorbed from the digestion system, and therefore it moves through the gut until it’s either broken down by gut bacteria or excreted.
Consuming more fiber within your diet adds bulk to the food within your digestive system, causing stomach distention, and a slowing of gastric emptying. Each of these effects plays a role in trigging sensations of satiety or fullness (2).
In other words, fiber helps you to feel more full and can reduce your calorie intake. Aim to consume at least 20-38g per day. Add fiber to your diet by prioritizing high fiber foods, which is mainly found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
4. Drink water around your meals
Water is a great thing to add to your diet because it costs nothing, it has no caloric value, and it takes up space in your stomach, especially when combined with food. Adding water to your diet can provide you with a more satisfied feeling of hunger without the addition of extra calories.
The majority of scientific literature on pre-meal water consumption demonstrates that it can significantly reduce calorie intake in the subsequent meal (3,4,5).
Drink about 15-30oz (1-2 glasses) of water at least 20 minutes before you eat. Additionally, try to consume another 15-30oz (1-2 glasses) during your meal, taking your time to chew food well while sipping water between bites.
Calorie free beverages, which are actually 99% water, work just as well and may even help to satisfy a sweet tooth or soda craving.
5. Eat foods in order from least to most calorie-dense
Not only do you need to ADD goods stuff to your diet, but you have to prioritize it.
At each meal, eat the least calorie-dense food items first, starting with water, then moving onto vegetables, fruits, lean protein sources, gains, and lastly, fats.
Fill up on the good stuff first and you’ll have less room for the more calorie dense items that follow. This is a very effective way to reduce the number of calories that you consume on a per meal basis.
Also, be sure to take your time and eat slowly. Like the fuel gauge in your car, your brain takes time to register the fact that its full.
Start your meal off with a salad. This technique has been shown to reduce the number of calories consumed within a single meal (6). Once you get into your main course, eat all of the vegetables and protein before moving on to the other food items.
Only allow yourself to eat highly processed “junk” food AFTER you have first consumed a good quality meal. This will help you in minimizing its consumption.
1. David S Weigle, Patricia A Breen, Colleen C Matthys, Holly S Callahan, Kaatje E Meeuws, Verna R Burden, Jonathan Q Purnell; A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 82, Issue 1, 1 July 2005, Pages 41–48, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/82.1.41
2. Chamber L, McCrickerd K, Yeomans MR. Optimising foods for satiety. Trends in Food Science & Technology. Volume 41, Issue 2, February 2015, Pages 149-160. [ScienceDirect]
3. Corney RA, Sunderland C, James LJ. Immediate pre- meal water ingestion decreases voluntary food intake in lean young males. Eur J Nutr. 2016 Mar;55(2):815- 819. [PubMed]
4. Dennis EA1, Dengo AL, Comber DL, Flack KD, Savla J, Davy KP, Davy BM. Water consumption increases weight loss during a hypocaloric diet intervention in middle-aged and older adults. Send to Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Feb;18(2):300-7. [PubMed]
5. Daniels MC, Popkin BM. Impact of water intake on energy intake and weight status: a systematic review.. Nutr Rev. 2010 Sep;68(9):505-21. [PubMed]
6. Rolls, B. J., Roe, L. S., & Meengs, J. S. (2004). Salad and satiety: energy density and portion size of a first-course salad affect energy intake at lunch. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 104(10), 1570-1576.