For many non-vegetarians, a meal does not feel complete without a serving of meat. Although flavor and nutrition certainly factor into this, eating meat can undeniably help you to feel full. Unfortunately, few vegetarian foods match the high fat and protein content that is typical of most meats and thus don't provide the same satisfying feeling. However, vegetarians can turn to large quantities of high fiber and low energy density foods to help themselves feel full.
1. High Fiber Foods
Dietary fiber comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber, which helps to facilitate digestion and add bulk to stool, is found in wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grain foods. Soluble fiber binds with water to form a gel-like substance in your intestines. This helps to slow down digestion, thus making you feel full for longer periods of time on fewer calories. Many vegetarian foods are excellent sources of soluble fiber, for example, oat bran, nuts, seeds, lentils, peas, beans, fruits, and some vegetables.
2. Water Content
Following a vegetarian diet typically means you eat more fruits and vegetables than you probably would on a non-vegetarian diet. In contrast with non-vegetarian foods, fruits and vegetables primarily consist of water. For example, cantaloupes, grapefruits, strawberries, and watermelons are all approximately 90 percent water, according to data reported by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service. Several popular vegetables contain between 90 and 96 percent water. This high water content can help to provide feelings of fullness and the soluble fiber in most fruits and vegetables also contributes to these feelings.
3. Low Energy Density
If you were to replace all of your favorite non-vegetarian foods with equal weights of vegetarian foods, you would end up eating fewer calories. This is because meat has high energy density, meaning that it generally contains more fat and calories by weight than vegetarian foods. Because most vegetarian foods have a low energy density, vegetarians can help themselves feel full simply by eating greater volumes of food. Using pizza as an example, you would need to eat approximately four slices of vegetarian pizza for every one slice of meat pizza to consume the same number of calories.
4. High-Fat, High-Protein Foods
Eating more fruits, vegetables, fiber and food in general is an easy way to feel full on a vegetarian diet. However, none of these foods necessarily replaces the feelings of satisfaction that you might have after eating a high-fat, high-protein serving of meat. However, mock meats such as veggie burgers and veggie dogs contain moderate amounts of fat and similar amounts of protein as their meat counterparts. Nuts and seeds are also excellent vegetarian options that are high in fat and protein. However satisfying they might be, you should eat these foods in moderation to avoid excessive caloric intake.
- MayoClinic.com: Energy Density and Weight Loss: Feel Full on Fewer Calories
- MedlinePlus: Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber
- The Dietitian's Guide to Vegetarian Diets: Issues and Applications, Third Edition; Reed Mangels, Ph.D., Virginia Messina, R.D., and Mark Messina, Ph.D.
- University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service: Water Content of Fruits and Vegetables
- Eat, Drink and Be Mindful; Susan Albers, Psy.D.
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