Weight management is a perpetual problem for people of all age groups across the globe. Mere diet control of fat and sugar intakes doesn’t amount to weight loss and weight management.
For this adequate knowledge of the food and their calorific values is a necessity.
Not all types of fats and carbohydrates are unhealthy and protein healthy. The key is to strike a balance between energy intake and expenditure. The former should be lower than the latter. This is done by reducing the overall calorie in our diet.
How to reduce calories in diet?
The way to go about it is to look for low energy density food. Energy density is the energy (calorie) content per weight (gram) of your food .
These type of foods provide less calories in bigger portion of food. Thus they influence enhance satiety and controls appetite.
The most trusted methods of lowering calorie in diet consists of making certain changes in diet. This includes replacing conventional sugars with naturally occurring healthy sugar or reduced sugar, use of healthy fats and fat replacers, inclusion of dietary fibres and usage of low energy density food.
5 ways to reduce calories in your diet
The primary aim of these 5 techniques is to reduce sugar and fat contents and increase fibre and water content in foods.
1. Reduce sugar intake or eliminate sugars
Sugars in our diet play a considerable role in weight loss and weight management. It controls satiety and appetite control, blood glucose and insulin level, energy expenditure and lipid contents in an individual.
Different sugars effect the glucose level of blood differently. Some has higher glycemic potential (effects on the blood glucose level) others have lower. Fructose has higher glycemic index(measures the effects of food on blood sugar level) than glucose.
Sugar provides empty calories- it does not provide any nutrients. Fructose leads to increased production of fats in liver thereby contributing to weight gain.
Fructose influences the serum lipid levels in individuals. It increases lipid and triglygeride synthesis and prevents the clearance of fat from blood. It also enhances the secretion of low density lipo-proteins .
Sugar also disrupts the functioning of insulin and appetite hormones. Study indicates lactose consumption reduces appetite and energy (calorie) intake as compared to glucose. On the contrary, study suggests fructose may have less satiating effect than glucose .
Also sugars hijack your brain circuitry and lead to sugar addiction and obesity.
Cutting down on sugars like sucrose have a greater effect on body fat composition than normal sugars like glucose – which is seen in a reduced BMI, waist- hip ratio. (Read Sugars and Weight management)
What does this mean?
Reducing intake of sugars can cut down a large number of empty calories and cause weight loss.
2. Use natural sweeteners or sugar substitutes
Natural sweeteners have high nutritional value but low calorific value. These naturally occurring sugar substitutes have an enhanced level of sweetness (150-13000 times more than conventional sugars).
These includes products like stevia, honey, yacon syrup, saccharin, xylitol, coconut sugar etc. Intake of these sugars leads to weight loss and enhances satiety by controlling appetite. (Read Do Artificial Sweeteners Really Help In Weight Loss?)
Stevia is natural sweetener derived from the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana plants. It is used as an additive and dietary supplement.
Study shows stevia has a substantial effect in lowering body weight, BMI and hip-waist ratio in both obese and lean patients. It significantly enhances satiety and reduces glucose and insulin level in blood.
Honey consumption effects obesity and diabetes type 2. It enhances body weight loss, reduces glucose, triglyceride and total cholesterol level in blood. It enhances the lipid profile by reducing the amount of bad cholesterol (LDL) and increasing the amount of good cholesterol (HDL).
Erythritol is a polyol natural sugar substitute widely used in food and pharmaceutical industries for obese and diabetic people.
Xylitol is another naturally occurring polyol. Study on animal model has shown xylitol consumption aids in weight loss, lowers total cholesterol and glucose level in blood. A combination of xylitol and erythritol enhances the gut microbial activity and thus reducing appetite.
Xylitol has been found to lower sterol regulating enzymes, increase lipogenic enzymes and fat oxidation gene expression. It also reduces fat in the organs that is, visceral fat and lowers insulin and lipid levels.
Yacon syrup has high nutritional value because of its high fructose content. It significantly reduces body weight, BMI, waist circumference. It lowers serum insulin level and has a positive impact on bad cholesterol (LDL).
Coconut sugar is rich in D-xylose sugar. It acts as sucrase enzyme inhibitor and thus prevents break down of sucrose into glucose. It shows potential in suppressing glucose and insulin levels in obesity associated type 2 diabetes.
What does this mean?
Thus by using naturally occurring sugar substitutes like stevia, honey we can get the nutritional value of sugars. However they should be used in moderation.
3. Opt for healthy fats
Healthy fats are polyunsaturated fats containing lesser number of hydrogen atoms. Fats are chemical compounds of carbon and hydrogen.
Fats with lesser hydrogen atoms are known as unsaturated fatty acids as found in vegetables, nuts and oils like sunflower oil, olive oil etc. these are low in calorie but high in nutritional value
They are of 2 types- monounsaturated fats (eg. Sunflower oil, olive oil etc.) and polyunsaturated fats eg. Fatty fish, soybean oil. Tofu etc.) Of these the polyunsaturated fat have 2 sub-categories – omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.
Studies illustrate the various effects of unsaturated fats in our body. They enhance the lipid profile by reducing total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol level. It reduces the risk of obesity associated type 2 diabetes
It reduces abdominal fat distribution, improves glucose metabolism (decreases glucose level and increases its uptake from blood) and insulin sensitivity. Use of unsaturated fats aids in weight loss , maintains weight and prevents accumulation of fat as compared to saturated fats.
A 2year long clinical trial on 800 men and women supported the above mentioned points. A low level consumption of saturated fat and reduced energy intake bore this result of reduced body weight, BMI and waist line .
Similar trials have shown the effect of high protein mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fat diets lead to greater weight loss and improves metabolic health.
Another study of 6 month duration concentrating on mono-unsaturated fats consumption came up with similar results.
It highlighted the role of mono-unsaturated fats on weight maintenance by reducing fat regain better than controlled diet.
However a 16 week long study on consumption of medium chain triglyceride oil (a type of saturated fat example coconut oil) has a greater impact on weight management than olive oil.
Coconut oil and palm oil are the only saturated fatty acids which are healthy. This is due to the length of their fatty acid. These medium chained fatty acids do not affect the blood cholesterol level adversely.
The most commonly used healthy fats are olive oil , chia seeds , dark chocolate ,nuts , avocado , fatty fish . (Read An Evidence Based Guide to Choosing Healthy Fats)
What does this mean?
This implies that inclusion of unsaturated fats like olive oil, fatty fish, nuts etc are healthy fat alternatives which despite of high calorie content aid in weight loss.
4. Add more fibre
It is advocated to incorporate more fibre in your food if you want to reduce your calorie intake.
Fibres are very low in calorie, about 0-3kcal/gm. They provide strength, rigidity and viscosity all the while imparting very low calorie. They include fruits, whole grains and vegetables.
They are plant product containing cellulose and hence cannot be broken by digestive enzymes.
Commercially available ones are made from oats, wheat, rice, corn or peas. Their main criteria is to reduce the calorie while maintaining the volume and appeal of it.
Study shows consumption of dietary fibres reduced weight gain and obesity risk in women by reducing the energy intake over a long period of time.
Consumption of whole grains and dietary fibres considerably reduces type 2 diabetes risk in older women.
Daily intake of 10gm of dietary reduces coronary artery diseases. In addition to this, dietary fibres presents certain health benefits like lowering hypertension, gastro-intestinal problems, cardiac problems, obesity, cancer etc.
The beta-glucan in oats and barley has a considerable effect on obesity and metabolic syndromes. It lowers the risk of obesity parameters like type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and metabolic syndromes like hypertension.
What does this mean?
Dietary fibres play an important role in reducing calories. Thus by incorporating whole grains and fruits in our diet we can restrict calorie intake all the while not feeling hungry.
5.Reduce energy density of food
As mentioned in Centre for Diseases Prevention and Cure guidelines, intake of low calorie of food doesn’t mean eating less or starving yourself.
Rather it means decrease the energy density (calorie of energy per kg of the food) that is calorie of food by adding more water.
These include consuming beverages like lemon juice without sugars or fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, watermelon, cucumber etc. drinking water with your meals.
Another way to reduce energy density is using low calorie alternative to conventional foods. Like the following
- Instead of whole milk use reduced low fat milk
- sorbet in place of ice-cream
- Low fat yogurt in place of sour cream
- rice noodles in place of ordinary ones
- Fat free meat
- Extra lean ground beef
- Water packed tuna instead of oil packed one
- Chicken or turkey without skin
- Trimmed pork and lean smoked ham
- Canned broth based soups
- Cucumbers or lettuce in place of avocados in sandwiches
An ongoing 12 weeks clinical trial on the effects of reduced calorie density diet has shown some viable primary outcomes in terms of weight loss and dietary satisfaction.
In another we see the effects of reduced energy density and increased water on body weight. This year long study not only demonstrates its potential in reducing but also highlights the difference between the 2 regimes.
The reduced diet had a lower weight loss potential than the combined one. This study recommends intake of fruits and vegetables along with reducing fat intake.
One of the ways by which you follow a reduced energy density diet is to opt for Volumetrics diet. This diet involves replacement of high calorie ingredients with low calorie alternatives that are satiating. So you don’t have to stay hungry to lose weight. (Read Volumetrics diet for weight loss)
What does this mean?
This suggests we can restrict calorie intake to a desired level just by opting for low calorie alternative to ordinary food items and increasing the overall water quotient in foods that we ingest.
So those were some simple ways of reducing calories in your diet rather than reducing portion of your food and starving yourself.
Firstly cut down on sugars and use natural sugar substitutes when necessary but in moderation.
Opt for healthy fats like coconut oil and olive oil. Increase dietary fibre content by adding whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables to your diets.
Lastly reduce energy density of food: use low calorie ingredients and opt for satiating foods like soups and sugar free yogurt as snack.