I’m excited to address a common question both friends and patients ask me: I feel hungry often and can’t seem to stay full for very long. What can I do? Whether you’re trying to lose weight or routinely find yourself at the vending machine ravenous, this post is for you. With a few simple dietary habits you can curb hunger, stay clear of the vending machine, and satisfy your energy needs. Here’s how!
Eat enough protein.
Good quality protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, helping you feel fuller longer while also keeping blood sugar levels steady. Instead of bulking up on protein for dinner (as we tend to do), start with 15-20g of protein at breakfast to help regulate your appetite for the rest of the day. Around 10-35% of your daily caloric intake should come from protein, and I generally recommend 1/3 of your caloric intake to come from protein to help keep hunger at bay. How do you figure out exactly how much you need? About 1g per pound or 2g per kilogram for the average person (athletes will have higher needs).
Not all protein is created equal though, so make sure to choose good quality proteins without added sodium and unnecessary saturated or trans fat. My favorite plant-based sources include millet, quinoa, lentils, split peas, chickpeas, nuts, organic tofu or tempeh. If you eat animal products, choose leaner meats like loin chops, white meat poultry, or 90% lean ground beef. An organic egg, a glass of low-fat or skim milk, and even high quality protein powders (without added sugars or preservatives) are also great choices to incorporate into your diet.
Water, water, water.
Drinking plenty of water and healthy fluids can actually signal satiety and curb hunger. How? The lining of our stomach is full of nerve cells that signal the brain “I’m full!” when the stomach has been filled to a certain point. Fluids, especially water, offer low (or no) calorie ways to add volume. Oftentimes we easily confuse thirst for hunger, and opt for food rather than a large glass of water. The next time you feel hunger pains or a craving coming on, take a long drink of water and then determine if you still feel hungry. Plus, drinking a glass of water before meals also helps to prevent overeating. Bored with plain H20? Spruce up your water by adding chia seeds or infusing with fresh citrus or herbs- try all three in my Minted Chia Fresca!
Fill up on fiber.
Fiber adds volume (much like water does) and bulk to the stomach, stimulating fullness faster while also slowing down the rate of digestion. For example, you’re more likely to feel full after eating an avocado on whole grain toast versus a piece of plain white toast and jam. The effects of fiber are even better when consumed with a glass of water, which absorbs and “bloats” certain fibers (soluble) creating even more volume and fullness in the stomach. If you’re looking to lose weight, high fiber foods tend to be lower in calories and are more nutrient dense (think whole grains, fruits and vegetables), so you can eat more of them. I love this list of fiber-rich foods from Today’s Dietitian.
Eat slower, eat more often.
It takes about 20 minutes for our hormones and nerve regulators to kick in and signal the brain “enough! we’re full!”, and by that point you may have already overeaten into oblivion. Slow mindful eating allows you to eat only what it needs to trigger optimal satiety. Try putting your fork down between bites and eat free from distraction or rush. Eating 5-6 smaller meals a day, or snacking in between meals, helps maintain blood sugar levels. For example, if you eat a large breakfast, skip lunch, and don’t eat again until dinner…you’re probably going to fall victim to the midafternoon slump with irritability, tiredness, and insatiable food cravings. Stock your desk, car, purse, and pantry with healthy options and eat every 2-3 hours to prevent unnecessary energy pitfalls. My current fav snacks are my basic trail mix and ridiculously good chocolate nut bars.
So, what do ya say?! I hope you found this post helpful! Remember, always carry a water bottle and be prepared with snacks to keep appetite and hunger at bay! Feel free to post any questions in the comments below!