When you were young, your mom probably told you to eat fruit. Although she might have been more interested in keeping you healthy—fruit has zero cholesterol, serves as a good source of heart-healthy fiber and contains phytochemicals that reduce blood pressure and the risk of cancer and type 2 diabetes—boosting your fruit intake may also help you lose weight. Add strawberries and grapefruit to your watermelon, and watch the scale inch to the left.
Eating to lose
Research shows that following positive weight-loss messages or diets that promote eating more of a certain food provides better results than following negative messages or diets that promote eating less of a certain food.
Everybody wants a weight-loss plan that lets them eat as much as they want while satisfying hunger and reducing calorie intake. The trick is to choose foods with a lower energy density, or fewer calories per gram weight of the food. The more water and fiber in a food, the lower its energy density, and the more it helps you stay full while you reduce your calorie intake and lose weight.
One of the best ways to fill up on foods with low energy density is to eat more fruit. But not just any fruit will do. Canned fruit packed in heavy syrup has twice the energy density of canned fruit packed in light syrup. Dried fruit has four times the energy density of fresh fruit, because almost all the water has been removed. The best choice is fresh, whole fruit for the least amount of calories and the highest amount of fullness and satisfaction. The top fruits for weight loss include grapefruit, melons (watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew), berries (strawberries, raspberries and blueberries), papaya and peach.
10 easy tricks to boost your fruit intake
According to mypyramid.gov, women should aim for at least two cups of fruit per day; more if they're physically active. Here are some suggestions to help you boost your fruit intake to healthier levels—and you might just lose a few pounds along the way.
- We know you'd rather order the cheesecake, but we've come up with a fair compromise. Many restaurants serve fruit dishes with a tasty indulgence—like a sugar cookie, a scoop of sorbet or a selection of cheeses—on the side.
- Feast away on apple slices throughout the day, and you'll be less tempted to hit up the vending machine to satisfy your sweet tooth.
- Are late-night ice cream cravings your diet downfall? Snack on frozen grapes instead. They're sweet, crunchy and cold—and they'll make you forget about the pint of Ben & Jerry's in your freezer.
- When eating at fast-food chains, order a fruit cup instead of fries.
- Doughnuts and bagels may be the usual morning snack at work, but wow your colleagues with a parfait of frozen berries, yogurt and low-fat granola.
- If you usually eat chips with your lunchtime sandwich, try eating grapefruit instead. Peel and section a grapefruit in the morning before you go to work, and toss it in a plastic zipper bag.
- Jazz up your breakfast by tossing a handful of berries on cold cereal or adding sliced peaches to oatmeal.
- Need to whip up a tasty dinner party dish? Try making a fruity dessert. Slice strawberries and mix with raspberries and blueberries. Top with a quick syrup: Simmer 1/2 cup water with 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon amaretto until reduced to 1/4 cup. Cool and pour over the fruit for an out-of-this-world dessert dish.
- Appetizers can be a dieter's downfall, packed with calories and loaded with fat. Amaze your friends with a delicious, colorful and low-calorie fruit kabob appetizer. Cut a variety of fruit to skewer on a bamboo stick, including red and green grapes, pineapple chunks, strawberries, sliced bananas, cubed pears—the sky is the limit! If preparing in advance, drizzle the fruit with lemon juice to prevent the bananas and pears from turning brown.
- Keep a bowl of fresh fruit on your kitchen counter. You're more likely to grab an apple, tangerine or peach if it's in sight.
Reviewed by Susan Janoff, MS RD LD/N