#216 Fill Up, Slim Down

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It is not the horse that draws the cart, but the oats.

Russian proverb

More Food Substitutions for Faster Slimming Results

By Jude Buglewicz

One of the hardest things about losing weight is dealing with hunger pangs. Pizza, donuts, and chips are so satisfying because they're high in fat, which promotes a feeling of fullness. Unfortunately, fat is also high in calories. Happily, you have a healthier option with fiber-rich foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and legumes that are nutrient dense and much lower in calories than those artery-clogging munchies.

If you've been avoiding fiber because of its "smelly" reputation, know this: there are two kinds of fiber—soluble and insoluble. The fiber in oats, fruit pectin, and beans is soluble—that is, it dissolves in water and breaks down in your intestines with the help of gas-forming bacteria. Remember that bean-eating scene in Blazing Saddles? A huge benefit of soluble fiber, though, is that it helps reduce bad cholesterol. (So stock up on your Beano!) Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and can't be broken down by intestinal bacteria; hence, no gas. It's the fiber in most vegetables and in wheat, rye, and other whole grains.

Since fiber isn't digestible, it has no calories—it just passes through your system, scrubbing your insides clean, keeping you regular, and decreasing your risk of colon cancer and diverticulosis, among other ailments. It adds bulk to your foods, which makes you feel fuller with less. To get the most fiber out of your vegetables and fruits, eat the skin, too—just wash it thoroughly first, of course.

It's recommended that you get 25 to 40 grams of fiber per day. But if you're used to a lot less, it's best to increase your fiber consumption gradually over the course of a few weeks to give your digestive system a chance to get used to your new eating habits. And be sure to increase your fluid intake, too, as fiber absorbs a lot of water in your system. Drink up—8 to 10 (8-ounce) glasses of water a day.

Take a look at these lists of everyday foods below, and keep in mind that the more fiber per serving, the more nutritious that food is, and the more filling, too! (And for help replacing fattening, high-calorie foods with healthier alternatives, be sure to see "15 Easy Food Substitutions for Big-Time Calorie Savings.")


Cereal – 1 cup

  • Bran flakes 120 calories 6 g fiber
    Cocoa Puffs 117 calories 1 g fiber
    Cheerios, plain
    (whole grain oats)
    111 calories 4 g fiber
    Wheaties 104 calories 2 g fiber
    Corn flakes, plain 101 calories 1 g fiber

    Winners: Bran Flakes and Cheerios are great high-fiber, low-cal bets, but there are lots of healthy cereal choices in grocery stores now; just read the labels and avoid high-sugar varieties.

English Muffin – 1

  • Whole wheat 134 calories 4 g fiber
    Thomas' English Muffin, plain 132 calories 0 g fiber

    Winner: Whole wheat, hands down. With all that fiber, you'll stave off hunger pangs much longer!


Pita – 6-1/2"

  • Whole wheat 170 calories 5 g fiber
    White 165 calories 1 g fiber

    Winner: Whole wheat—five times the fiber!

Bread – 1 slice

  • Oroweat Honey Wheat Berry 90 calories 2 g fiber
    Pepperidge Farm 100% Whole Wheat 90 calories 2 g fiber
    Wonder Bread, white 70 calories 0.25 g fiber
    Roman Meal 100% Whole Wheat 60 calories 2 g fiber
    Wonder Bread Whole Wheat 55 calories 1.5 g fiber

    Winner: Most of the 2-grams-of-fiber-per-slice breads are good as long as they are also not high in fat and/or sugar. Read labels to make sure the first ingredient listed is a whole grain.


Rice – 1 cup, medium grain, cooked

  • White 242 calories 1 g fiber
    Brown 218 calories 4 g fiber
    Wild 166 calories 3 g fiber

    Winner: Brown rice is best, but wild rice is a great choice, too. Pay the extra if you have to for brown rice with your takeout—your intestines will thank you.

Spaghetti – 1 cup, cooked

  • White, regular 221 calories 3 g fiber
    Whole wheat 174 calories 6 g fiber

    Winner: This is a no-brainer—whole wheat rules. It may take a couple minutes more before it's al dente, but it's worth it!

Beans – 1 cup, canned, cooked

  • Garbanzo (chick peas) 286 calories 11 g fiber
    Refried 237 calories 13 g fiber
    Black 227 calories 15 g fiber
    Kidney 218 calories 16 g fiber
    Pinto 206 calories 11 g fiber

    Winner: How can you go wrong with kidney beans—a true fiber powerhouse! But none of these beans are fiber slackers, so bring on the three-bean salads!

Veggies – 1 cup

  • Potato, medium, baked (w/skin) 161 calories 4 g fiber
    Green peas 124 calories 8 g fiber
    Broccoli, chopped, cooked 54 calories 6 g fiber
    Carrots, sliced, cooked 54 calories 4 g fiber
    Brussels sprouts 38 calories 3 g fiber

    Winner: Green peas are great to add to salads to boost fiber content. Consider healthy split-pea soups, too (check fat content, though—some are made with bacon, which drives up the calorie count). But overall, you can't go wrong with more veggies—of every variety!


Popcorn – 1/2 bag (about 5–6 cups of popped corn!)

  • Microwave, regular 300 calories 5 g fiber 20 g fat
    Air-popped 155 calories 5 g fiber 0 g fat
    Microwave, low-fat 90 calories 3 g fiber 4 g fat

    Winner: Air-popped, for the most fiber without the fat.

Tortilla Chips – 1/2 bag (about 4 oz.)

  • Nacho flavor 576 calories 4 g fiber 28 g fat
    Plain, white corn 552 calories 4 g fiber 28 g fat
    Light, baked 524 calories 8 g fiber 16 g fat

    Winner: Light, baked chips, if you must have them at all: lower in calories and fat, yet higher in fiber.

Crackers vs. Carrots (1 serving) + Peanut Butter (2 Tbsp.)

  • Crackers, whole wheat (14 g) 62 calories 1 g fiber
    Crackers, saltines (15 g) 59 calories 0 g fiber
    Carrots, baby (85 g) 30 calories 2 g fiber
    Peanut butter, smooth 190 calories 2 g fiber
    Peanut butter, smooth, low-fat 180 calories 2 g fiber

    Winner: Baby carrots with low-fat peanut butter is best, but if you must have crackers, opt for low-cal whole wheat.

Fruit vs. Juice – 1 cup, unsweetened

  • Apple, with skin 65 calories 3 g fiber
    Apple juice 117 calories 0 g fiber
    Orange 85 calories 4 g fiber
    Orange juice 110 calories 0 g fiber
    Tomato 31 calories 2 g fiber
    Tomato juice (no salt) 41 calories 1 g fiber

    Winner: Fruit! Read Steve's article below for more on the benefits of whole fruits over juices.

Calories, fat, and fiber information from NutritionData.com, pfwholegrains.com, and dietFacts.com.

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The Whole Fruit and Nothing but the Fruit

By Steve Edwards

A new study has shown eating whole fruit could be the main dietary difference between obese and overweight individuals. And that would be whole fruit, not juice, jam, smoothies, or fruit-filled dessert items. Let's give Mother Nature some love; she knew what she was doing.

A recent study at the University of Southern California showed that the main difference between 52 normal-weight adults and 52 overweight and obese adults was the amount of fiber in their diet, which mainly came from fruit.

"These findings suggest that the composition of a diet, especially low dietary fiber and fruit intake, plays a role in the (development) of obesity," concluded the study team in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

In the study, the normal-weight group consumed an average of 33 percent more fiber and 43 percent more carbohydrates than their overweight counterparts. This balanced approach is at odds with most fad diets, and suggests that fiber, much more than eating low carb or low fat, is responsible for controlling weight.

In today's marketplace fruit is often altered, most commonly in a juiced state. A Jamba Juice employee complained after my juice article a few weeks back that they used real fruit and "didn't add sugar," in contesting my nutritional breakdown of their products (which, incidentally, came from their own Web site). This is the type of training she had been given, which leaves out the rather important fact that fruit, when turned into juice, is mainly sugar. In nature, it's surrounded with a generous layer of fiber, which slows the sugar's absorption into our system, regulates our appetites, and also, it would seem, helps us become thinner and healthier.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on a newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com. Check Steve Edwards' Mailbag for his responses to reader comments

For Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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