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Move over, crash diet – say good-bye to missed meals, starving and rebound weight gain. There’s a new diet plan in town: Apparently, unlike traditional diets that involve a lot of food restriction, this particular diet actually encourages you to eat more times a day than your typical breakfast, lunch and dinner, while still allowing you to achieve long-term weight loss effects. You can get to eat snack-size proportions often instead of three big meals. This article gives you the skinny on why how a less-and-often meal plan can give you the body you’ve always wanted, and what to fill your plate with if you want results to really last:

The Principle and Benefits of the Snacking Style

Before you understand how less-but-often meals can help you lose weight, you will first need to see why restrictive diets often fail. When you are deprived of calories (such as when you skip meals or starve yourself), your body becomes too famished that it begins to eat at your own muscles. While you end up losing lean muscle mass (but not fats), you also begin to crave for high-calorie foods, and your appetite and hunger level will constantly be high. What happens is that your metabolism gets out of control, getting you further and further away from your weight loss goal.

The simplest principle of a snacking behavior is that in order to burn body fat, you will need to eat. This type of diet is centered on keeping the balance between not allowing your body to feel hungry, and not overeating.

Your metabolism increases when your body has food to digest and calories to burn. Frequent meals of lesser proportions (about five a day) allow your metabolism to stay constantly high because your body will be constantly digesting something. High-volume foods, or those that take a longer time to digest are perfect for your frequent meals, as they keep you feeling more and energized and satiated for longer (so you can avoid cravings and hunger pangs which may cause you to over-eat), while a perky metabolism works on burning fats round the clock, even when you in between meals.

The High-Volume Plate

This type of diet emphasizes the importance of a balanced meal and of proportions. It is important that you choose foods which are digested more slowly – this will keep your metabolism fueled until the next meal. The keywords here should be low-density, high-volume: This means the foods you choose should have low calories, but more water and lean protein to keep you fuller for longer. In short, you will need to prioritize high fiber and lean protein when filling your plate.

Complex carbohydrates are usually also the best sources of high fiber as they typically only contain less than 3 calories per gram. They require more chewing and a slower digestion. They also keep blood sugar levels constant, preventing cravings and binges, and trick the brain into feeling “full”.  Whole grains, legumes, lentils, nuts, vegetables and fruits are fiber-rich. About 25 to 35 grams of fiber-rich complex carbohydrates is advisable. Stay away from their opposites – refined carbohydrates like white rice and white bread.

Focus on a lean protein intake every meal, even when it’s just a snack. Good-quality protein can make satiety (feeling of fullness) last longer than carbohydrates can. Legumes and lentils are great sources of lean protein. So are soy and other soy products. Meats, seafood, chicken and turkey are also lean protein sources.  When choosing dairy, make sure to pick the low-fat variants. When cooking your meats, try baking or grilling them to reduce the fats and keep them off.