Cut Calories: Add Spice, Purée Veggies

Matt Duckor

The word "diet" has always connoted sacrifice but the idea of making smart substitutions to slash calories and retain -- even enhance -- flavor has started to stick in the world of healthy eating.

One superstar food-preparation move that helps suppress appetite and keep calorie count down is adding puréed vegetables to dishes.

For scientific proof of just how effective it is, one recent study compared how much a group of diners ate when they were served regular macaroni and cheese and when they were served macaroni and cheese with puréed cauliflower and puréed summer squash, each on different visits.

The diners ate roughly the same amount of food during each visit and reported no differences in flavor or enjoyment, but when served the casseroles made with puréed vegetables, they ate 200 to 250 fewer calories per meal, reports the New York Times Well blog.

"We've been able to change recipes a lot, even baked goods, and we've been doing it for preschool kids and adults," Barbara Rolls, director of Penn State's laboratory for the study of human ingestive behavior, told the Times. "We had a huge effect on energy intake. We're adding cups of veggies to recipes and people don't even notice."

Rolls added that she hopes the food industry would respond by offering more convenient canned and frozen vegetable purées and more foods bulked up with vegetables.

Another way to suppress appetite through food: add cayenne pepper. The same Times Well blog reports a study at Purdue showed just half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper helped diners consume fewer calories when they were eating soup. The spice also appeared to increase the metabolism and cause the body to burn an extra 10 calories on its own.

Researchers caution that dieters may become desensitized to the effect of red pepper, but say it is a "small change with a small effect that is achievable by making just a small change in the diet."

What are your favorite food substitutions or additions to keep you feeling satisfied?

RELATED: Fast and Easy Food Substitutions for Healthier Eating

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