Eat This, Lose Weight!

A new study shows that losing weight isn't as simple as calories in minus calories out. The content of those calories counts, too

December 21, 2012
Eat This, Lose Weight

The key to losing weight isn’t to deprive yourself until you hallucinate about pastries. In fact, your best bet at shedding pounds is to add certain foods to your diet. Turns out, eating high-protein meals and snacks could help you lose weight, according to a new review published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Researchers from the University of South Australia in Adelaide analyzed 24 past studies that compared reduced-calorie, high-protein, low-fat diets with reduced-calorie, standard-protein, low-fat diets. On average, over a 12-week period of time, dieters who ate more protein lost nearly 2 pounds more than those on a standard-protein diet. Plus, 3 out of 5 participants with a high-protein diet reported feeling more satisfied than those with a standard-protein diet.


Discover Dr. Travis Stork's no-diet, no-workout prescription to flatten your belly!

It’s hard to say exactly why a high protein diet yields greater weight-loss results, according to Tom Wycherley, Ph.D., of the University of South Australia and lead author of the study. Two possibilities: First, it takes more energy for your body to process protein. Second, a higher protein diet keeps your metabolism humming by preserving your muscle mass and resting energy expenditure (the amount of calories you burn while at rest), says Wycherley. So protein may actually make your body work harder for you all throughout the day. (You can rev your metabolism by adopting a few simple habits. Learn the 15 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism.)

That second point—that protein helps maintain muscle mass—is why it’s especially important for women to up their intake, according to David Heber, Ph.D., Professor of Medicine and Director of the Risk Factor Obesity Program at UCLA. “Starting at about age 35-40, women start losing a significant amount of muscle as they become more sedentary,” he says. “When you lose muscle, you lose 14 calories per pound of energy that you would otherwise burn.” So the less muscle you have, the fewer calories you burn, and the more likely you are to pack on extra pounds. (Keep your muscles in top, toned shape with The Best New Workout Moves for Women.)

Your stay-slim solution: Load up on more protein, obviously. Heber recommends eating 4 servings of 25 grams of protein per day (twice the amount recommended by the USDA!). So for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, make sure there’s a source of protein—like a 3.5-ounce can of tuna, 6 egg whites, or a cup of non-fat cottage cheese—on your plate. Plus, try this craving-crushing and appetite-suppressing trick: Eat 25 grams of protein a few hours before dinner. “It’s a good time to get rid of that hunger so that when you eat dinner you’re in better control,” says Heber.

Search: Best sources of protein

The next time your stomach rumbles and dinner is hours in the future, reach for any of these nine protein-packed snack combos, recommended by Lisa M. Moskovitz, RD, CDN, CPT, owner of Manhattan-based practice Your New York Dietitian. (Are you looking for meal ideas in addition to snacks? Try any of these 37 Protein-Packed Recipes That Keep You Satisfied.)

1 6oz container plain nonfat Greek Yogurt = 18g protein

1 tbsp chopped walnuts = 3g protein

1/4 cup Bear Naked granola = 4g protein

2 tbsp all-natural peanut butter = 9g protein

1 whole grain English muffin = 7g protein

1 part-skim string cheese = 7g protein

1/2 cup 1% cottage cheese = 14g protein

2 tbsp pumpkin seeds = 5g protein

1/2 cup Kashi Go Lean cereal = 6g protein

1 cup shelled edamame = 16g protein

1/2 Japanese salmon summer roll = 8g protein

1 bag Glenny’s Organic Soy Crisps = 12g protein

3 Laughing Cow light cheese wedges = 7g protein

1 ounce raw almonds = 6g protein

2 hard-boiled eggs = 14g protein

1/2 cup 1% cottage cheese = 14g protein

Lettuce Wraps with 2 Laughing Cow light cheese wedges = 5g protein

and 3 ounces of sliced turkey = 20g protein

1 scoop of whey protein = ~20g protein

1 cup of almond milk = 1g protein

1 tbsp peanut butter = 4g protein

3 ounces light chicken or tuna salad = 21g protein

1.5 ounce whole grain crackers = 4g protein

Tags: nutrition