If you want to lose weight, your best bet is to maintain a diet high in protein-rich foods — such as lean meat, low-fat dairy products and beans — and low in refined starches, such as white bread and white rice, according to a large new study from Danish researchers.

With this diet, you can eat until you are full without counting calories and without gaining weight, according to researchers from the University of Copenhagen.

They examined the eating habits European families. Adults who were overweight were placed on an eight-week diet of 800 calories a day, and they lost an average of 24.25 pounds (11 kilograms).

Then, the researchers put the study participants on one of five diets for six months. The diets varied in how much protein they included and in their glycemic index — a measure of how much a food raises blood sugar levels after eating it (white bread has a glycemic index near 70, while that of an apple is 40).

Some participants were put on a low-protein diet with a high glycemic index, some on a low-protein diet with a low-glycemic index, some on a high-protein diet with a low-glycemic index and some on a high-protein diet with a high-glycemic index. Another group was told to follow the current dietary recommendations without special instructions regarding glycemic index levels.

Among the 548 adults who completed the study, those assigned to a low protein, high glycemic index diet had the poorest results, gaining 3.68 pounds (1.67 kg), the study said.

The adults assigned the high-protein diets gained about 2 pounds (0.93 kg) less than the adults on the low-protein diets, and the adults assigned the low-glycemic index diets gained about 2 pounds (0.95 kg) less than the adults on the high-glycemic index diets, according to the study.

Among the children, those assigned the high-protein diet with a low glycemic index lost an average of 15 percent of their weight, the study said.

The results from the adult participants in the study were published Nov. 25 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The results from the child participants were published Nov. 5 in the journal Pediatrics.

This article was provided by MyHealthNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience.