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Added Veggie Purée Cuts Calories, Boosts Nutrition, Equally Filling

When you fall off the diet wagon with a big splurge, you know it. But when it comes to gaining weight, more often it’s those day-to-day “hidden” calories — sweetened drinks, larger portions, addictive salty snacks, etc. — that are the real culprits. Well, what if it was possible to turn the tables — find “hidden” ways to cut calories, and increase nutrition?

New research suggests you can do just that, by sneaking puréed veggies into everyday dishes. Professor Barbara Rolls, famous proponent of the Volumetrics approach to dieting, led a team of investigators to find out what would happen when they added different proportions of various puréed vegetables to a variety of meals consumed by volunteers. The researchers served up three meals a day to 41 young men and women in a food lab for three weeks. In addition to conventionally prepared entrees, there were versions in which added puréed vegetables had decreased overall calorie content by either 15% or 25%. For practical purposes, this would be the equivalent of adding one cup of carrot purée to a carrot bread recipe, or one cup of cauliflower purée to a chicken-vegetable casserole. Diners of the regular and veg-supplemented meals felt equally satisfied. Not only did the purée have no adverse impact on the taste/texture experience, some actually preferred the puréed veg versions. Most importantly: Those people with the highest amount of purée added ended up consuming a whopping 357 fewer calories a day, on average! Those with less purée still consumed 202 fewer calories daily than those eating the standard meals.

In other words, the more purée you add, the fewer calories you consume, the more weight you lose — all without sacrificing taste or fullness! An added bonus: The vegetable purée also increases nutrient density, which as Professor Bruce Ames has indicated, may help signal the brain that you’ve eaten enough.

Bottom line: While eating additional vegetables outright — e.g., starting with a salad — is an effective weight loss strategy, those who don’t like veggies that much to begin with might find it harder to maintain. By puréeing and adding vegetables to dishes, you won’t notice the difference on your plate, but you will notice a difference in your waistline. Get started “hiding” your veggies with this month’s featured recipe, Puréed Carrot, Pineapple and Raisin Muffins.

Published August 1, 2011

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