By Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS
You might think that if you cut back on calories, you’ll have less energy. Think again. It’s entirely possible to cut calories by 20% or more and have more energy -- if you choose the foods that are the best nutritional bargains. The foods below all qualify -- they’re foods that provide sustained energy, as well as important vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats -- all for a relatively low caloric cost.
Sardines are truly a health food in a can. They’re high in protein, which boosts metabolism and leaves you feeling satiated for much longer than the equivalent amount of carbohydrates. They’re loaded with energizing omega-3 fats, which also help keep you full while being good for your heart, brain and mood at the same time. And because they’re low on the food chain, they’re almost never polluted with chemicals like mercury. Best of all, a full can is under 200 calories!
What would you say to a juice that lowers cholesterol, reduces arterial plaque, might help protect against heart disease and cancer and may even help slow aging? Well, say hello to pomegranate juice. It has the highest antioxidant capacity of any juice on the planet, even beating out red wine and green tea in tests at the University of California. And because it’s low in sugar, it won’t set you up for overeating after you drink it, like high-sugar drinks. Calorie cost? Only 80 calories for four ounces.
Nope, it’s not just for Thanksgiving. Pumpkin is an energizing, low-calorie fruit (no that’s not a misprint) that’s brimming with immune-boosting vitamin A. It’s got way more potassium than a banana, and, for good measure, it’s loaded with fiber. That means your blood sugar won’t soar, but your energy will be constant and sustained. Canned pumpkin is available at every grocery store. You can heat it and season it just like you do pumpkin pie -- with nutmeg, cinnamon and a little butter. Just leave out the sugar. It also makes a great substitute for mashed potatoes and has only 49 calories per cup
Blueberries are a true superfood. They’re loaded with fiber and antioxidants and studies show they boost memory making them a true “brain food,” too. Low in sugar but sweet and delicious, they’ll sustain your energy while adding nothing to your waistline. Add them to shakes or salads or eat them alone. Tip: Frozen blueberries are an undiscovered low-calorie treat that mix incredibly well with a little milk or yogurt. You’ll never even know you’re cutting calories. One cup: 84 calories.
Even if you hate broccoli, you’ll love baby broccoli. It’s has a completely different taste, and is actually pretty good raw. Best of all, it’s satisfying, unbelievably nutritious, and ridiculously low in calories -- less than 37 calories per cup. It makes a great raw vegetable snack, and because it’s so low in calories, you can even treat yourself to a couple of tablespoons of dip and not break the calorie bank.
There’s no better protein source than wild salmon, and you get the additional benefits of heart healthy, omega-3 fatty acids. The protein stabilizes your blood sugar, the fat keeps you from being hungry, and those magical omegas will improve your mood -- you won’t even notice you’re cutting calories! You can have a nice 3 oz salmon steak for about 150 calories. Add a handful of brown rice and a heap of vegetables and you’ll be good to go for hours!
The Incas called it the “mother of all grains” and actually used it as a major source of fuel for their armies. Though it’s technically a seed, it cooks, acts and tastes like a grain, and has the highest protein content of any cereal on the planet. It’s also high in iron, and has 5 grams of fiber per cup. Calorie cost? Just over 100 calories per half cup. It’ll fill you up for hours! Tip: Combine with blueberries for a terrific breakfast.
Oatmeal is a food that actually helps you cut calories! Studies have shown that people who eat a high-fiber breakfast food like oatmeal are satisfied longer, naturally eat fewer calories later in the day, and have more energy for things like mental performance. High in fiber and moderately high in protein, oatmeal fills you up and energizes all for a very moderate caloric cost of 150 calories per half cup of uncooked dry oats, which cooks up into a nice portion. Tip: Avoid the par-boiled packets -- they’re loaded with sugar and have less fiber.
Switching to tea is an easy way to cut calories without losing energy. Black tea is made from the same plant -- Camella sinensis -- as it’s more famous cousin, green tea, but it’s also a very healthy beverage. All teas are energizing, and none have calories. Black tea makes an absolutely fabulous substitute for some of the high calorie, milk and sugar laden coffee concoctions we’ve been accustomed to drinking on a daily basis, yet the flavor is strong and satisfying -- and it has less caffeine than coffee.
Three to four ounces of beef is surprisingly low in calories -- a quarter pound is under 200 calories. And more surprises: Half the fat in beef is heart healthy monounsaturated fat, the same kind that’s found in olive oil. Beef stabilizes blood sugar and gives you lasting energy, plus it’s loaded with iron and amino acids. But there’s a world of difference between fast food and grass-fed beef. While more expensive, the grass-fed is high in omega-3’s and virtually free of hormones, antibiotics and hormones. Spend the extra money and get the good stuff.
WHEY PROTEIN POWDER
Whey protein powder is one of the best-kept secrets of dieters and athletes! It’s one of the highest rated proteins on the planet, containing a full range of amino acids. Studies show that it keeps folks feeling fuller longer. Plus, whey protein boosts immunity and slightly lowers blood pressure. Calorie cost? About 100 calories per serving.
Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS is a board certified nutritionist, a nationally known expert on weight loss, health and nutrition, and the best-selling author of 8 books including “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth.” Visit him at www.jonnybowden.com