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Updated 31 January 2014

How to benefit from negative-energy foods

Some foods have such a low energy content that you can eat large quantities of them without risking weight gain. Here's how to use these foods to your advantage.

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Slimmers are always on the lookout for quick fixes to help them in their desperate quest to lose weight. A popular subject is the use of ‘negative-energy foods’ or so-called ‘free foods’.

As the latter name implies, these are foods with such a low energy content that you can eat large quantities of them without risking weight gain. Sounds like magic, but when you see the list of foods, you'll realise that you can't survive on these foods alone.


Free foods


Diabetics and other people who have to control their food intake carefully will be acquainted with so-called ‘free foods'. According to Krause's Food, Nutrition, & Diet Therapy (Mahan & Escott-Stump), a ‘free food’ is defined as “any food or drink that contains less than 20 calories [84 kJ] or less than 5g of carbohydrate per serving”.

Vegetables (serving = 1 cup)


Asparagus
Eggplant (brinjal)
Turnip greens
Beans, green
Gem squash
Vegetable marrow
Beet leaves
Lettuce
Watercress
Broccoli
Mushrooms
Brussels sprouts
Okra
Cabbage
Radish
Cauliflower
Sauerkraut
Celery
Spinach
Chicory
Sweet peppers
Cucumbers
Tomatoes

Fruit (serving = 1 cup)


Cranberries
Blackberries
Blueberries
Grapefruit
Lemon
Pawpaw
Peach
Pear
Raspberries
Rhubarb cooked with artificial sweetener
Strawberries
Watermelon
(All raw or cooked and sweetened with artificial sweetener)

Very-low-energy foods (use as desired)


Clear broth
Bouillon (fat-free)
Dill pickles
Gelatin, unsweetened
Herbs
Lemon juice

Fat-free foods (3 servings spread out over the day)


Cottage cheese, fat-free: 1 Tablespoon
Mayonnaise, fat-free: 1 Tablespoon
Non-stick cooking spray
Salad dressing, fat-free: 1 Tablespoon
Salsa: 1/4 cup

Sugar-free or low-sugar foods


Boiled sweets: one sweet
Chewing gum, sugar-free
Gelatine, unflavoured
Jam, low-sugar or lite: 2 Tablespoons
Jelly, sugar-free

Need for other foods


Clearly, no person can exist and do a day’s work if he or she only eats the foods listed above.

For example, to obtain just 4200kJ or 1000cal from eating strawberries only, you would have to eat 3.3kg of these berries.

Even when you're slimming, it's important to eat a varied, balanced diet and to obtain enough energy from your diet to sustain your basic energy needs. This will prevent your body from going into starvation mode and will also make it possible for you to do some physical exercise to stimulate weight loss.

How to use free foods


These negative-energy foods can be used to give variety to your diet, to increase nutrient intake (most of the fruits and vegetables listed above are rich sources of vitamins and antioxidants) and to fill out meals.

Free foods are also excellent for preventing cravings, so use them as low-energy snacks whenever you feel peckish.

 
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