By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D. , June 14, 2012 - 6:40am
When you’re trying to slim down, every meal—and calorie—counts. But that doesn’t mean that dinner has to be a skimpy salad. You can build a filling, diet-friendly dinner (that includes dessert) around these four slimming ingredients.
1. Salad greens. Start your supper with a simple salad: it’s low in calories and research out of Penn State shows that eating a first-course salad can cut your overall calorie intake at a meal by up to 12 percent. Plus, a vegetable-packed salad delivers fiber, a must-have when you’re dieting. Fiber helps you stay satisfied longer—and, according to one study, upping your fiber intake may help prevent extra pounds from creeping on and even promote weight loss.
2. Lean Protein. Beef, chicken, pork, fish, tofu or beans—it doesn’t matter which you pick—all are protein-rich. Gram for gram, protein will keep you feeling fuller longer compared to carbohydrates and fat (read: help keep those midnight snack attacks at bay). And don’t forget about low-fat dairy: recent research, published in the Journal of Nutrition, found that the protein in dairy (called whey protein) may help ward off weight gain and help build lean body mass. (Find delicious, healthy, protein-packed dinner recipes here .)
3. Whole grains. You probably already know that for overall health you should be making at least half of your grains whole grains. But for dieters, choosing whole grains—such as brown rice, quinoa and whole-wheat bread—100 percent of the time may give you an extra edge, says a recent study. When researchers put volunteers on a three-month weight-loss program and instructed one group to eat only whole grains for their grain servings and the other group to choose only refined grains (and avoid whole grains entirely), the whole-grain eaters melted significantly more abdominal fat. While the fiber in whole grains may deserve some of the credit, researchers note that whole grains are rich in magnesium, a mineral instrumental in regulating fat metabolism.
4. Dessert. Though this isn’t exactly an ingredient, what dieter doesn’t want to hear that it may be easier to stick to your diet if it includes a little sweet treat? Well, it’s true. According to a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, banning sugary foods could lead to overeating. One reason may be that removing access to sweet foods stimulates the release of a molecule in your brain called corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), produced when you’re afraid, anxious or stressed, says Pietro Cottone, Ph.D., lead study author. And increased stress levels may lower your motivation to eat more nutritious foods, making it more likely that you’ll binge on junk food. So go ahead, indulge a little with these 100-calorie chocolate treats .
Enjoy these four “ingredients” in this delicious Salmon Burgers with Green Goddess Sauce dinner menu  (pictured above)—all for just shy of 500 calories.
What’s your go-to dinner when you’re trying to slim down? Tell us what you think below.