I’ve had several people tell me over the years that I eat a lot of food. Usually when I was working in an office or similar situation, where between the hours of 8am and 6pm I would have a morning snack of fruit and yoghurt, a full lunch of reheated leftovers from the night before (Tupperware has always been my friend) and an energy or protein bar in the afternoon. It drove my co-workers crazy, because I appeared to eat way more food than them, yet was not piling on the pounds like they were. The problem was, they were focused on volume, not density.
Fundamentally, your stomach responds to volume not mass. In other words, you feel full when your stomach is stretched by bulky foods. What’s more, the stretch signal is one of the first to reach the brain and tell you to stop eating. Unfortunately, a common theme of high fat, high sugar foods is they pack a lot of calories into a very small space. In nutrition circles, we call these foods calorie dense. For example, 100g of spinach leaves is a LOT of salad, but it has less than 30 kcal. On the other hand, most people would have no problems eating 100g of milk chocolate, which has at least 500 kcal. Of course, your body will realise you’ve just downed a load of calories eventually, even if they were packed into a tiny portion. But only after they’ve been digested, which takes at least 20 minutes, during which time you’re still hungry!
The solution is to go for foods that are high in fibre, water and general bulk, without being high in calories. These will fill you up faster and help prevent overeating. The best sources are plant based foods like fruits, vegetables, pulses and whole grains. What’s more, these foods tend to be high in vitamins and minerals. This means they are nutrient dense, but lower in calories. For example, my favourite breakfast is a bowl of porridge with frozen fruit and ground flaxseeds. It absolutely fills a large bowl once the boiling water has been absorbed, yet it only has 250 kcal. On the other hand, you can easily find several brands of cereal or granola where a 30g serving barely fills a third of the bowl and is 250 kcal or more, before you add the milk!
If you are used to managing your weight by eating tiny portions of calorie dense foods, then yes, it will look like I eat a lot of food. However, as you can see from the diet diary below, choosing plant based, unprocessed foods means you can eat “a lot” of food and still keep the calorie count down!
The Score for 30 March:
|Calories burned through exercise:||431|
What I ate:
|07:30||Centrum Multivitamin, Vitamin E 400IU, Vitamin D 25 µg|
|Soft boiled eggs, 2 large||115g||150||14.49||0.00||0.00||0.00||10.35||2.88||0.00|
|Free From pure oats||50g||171||6.40||30.30||0.60||4.30||2.70||0.50||0.00|
|made with boiling water||250mL||0||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00|
|Tesco mixed frozen fruits||100g||40||0.90||7.90||7.90||2.00||0.20||0.00||0.00|
|11:45||Homemade veggie tagine||350g||284||10.26||38.28||23.79||7.29||8.26||1.13||0.00|
|Activia natural yoghurt with||150g||96||7.50||9.90||9.90||0.00||2.90||2.00||0.00|
|Sliced plums, two medium,||112g||47||0.67||9.86||9.86||1.08||0.11||0.00||0.00|
|and Brazil nuts||6g||41||0.86||0.25||0.14||0.45||4.03||0.97||0.00|
|16:15||Sandwich made with Genius brown sliced gluten free bread, 2 slices, with||75g||195||1.95||35.10||1.87||7.80||5.15||0.39||0.00|
|Baked chicken breast,||100g||135||31.90||0.00||0.00||0.00||1.90||0.60||0.00|
|Tesco extra mature cheddar,||46g||187||11.43||0.05||0.05||0.00||15.71||9.77||0.00|
|and Baxters Albert’s Victorian chutney||26g||39||0.26||9.15||8.37||0.47||0.08||0.00||0.00|
|19:00||Salad with spinach,||30g||8||0.84||0.48||0.45||0.63||0.24||0.03||0.00|
|Merchant Gourmet red and white quinoa,||125g||231||7.63||35.75||1.88||5.00||5.25||0.63||0.00|
|Tesco Healthy eating frozen Wild Alaskan salmon fillet, baked||86g||86||18.49||0.17||0.09||0.00||1.38||0.43||0.00|
|and Tesco French Dressing||1 tbsp||13||0.10||2.20||1.70||0.10||0.40||0.05||0.00|
|21:45||Hot skimmed milk,||300mL||105||10.20||15.00||15.00||0.00||0.30||0.00||0.00|
|with brown sugar||5g||20||0.00||5.00||5.00||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00|