Stop Feeling Hungry - A Guide To Picking Foods That Keep You Full
How is it possible to gain weight and still be hungry?
For many people who walk through my doors this paradox is their reality.
They struggle to lose weight because they constantly feel hungry.
This was the problem for my student David. He’d eat breakfast at 8 then be starving by 10.
The first thing I had him do was keep a photo food log.
Like many of our students at FMC we had him send us the photos of each meal he ate so that we could see what he was eating, provide feedback, and keep him accountable.
Those first 3 days my phone didn’t stop buzzing. Every hour there was a new food photo.
When we met for our next class I asked him about the constant eating. His response was that he was hungry.
Common advice for someone who wants to lose weight is to tell them to eat less.
However, telling someone who feels hungry to ‘eat less’ is like telling a person suffering from depression to ‘cheer up’.
It just doesn't work.
Instead, we were going to address the root problem which was that the foods he was eating were failing to keep him full.
The foods we eat should nourish us, satisfy us, and satiate us.
Satiety is what we call the feeling of fullness you experience after eating a meal.
If your like David and are struggling with hunger or cravings throughout the day then it’s a sign that the foods you are eating are failing to do their job.
The good news is that you don’t need to feel like your starving yourself to lose weight.
You just need to chose foods that leave you feeling full and satisfied, because the fuller you feel the less you'll eat naturally.
So what leads to a filling meal? What makes one food more satiating than another? Which foods are the most satiating?
Australian researchers Holt, Miller, Petcoz, and Farmakalidis aimed to answer these questions in their paper A satiety index of common foods.
The researchers gathered a list of common foods found in the western diet. They included 6 sections, Fruits, bakery products, snacks and confectionery, protein rich foods, carbohydrate rich foods, and breakfast cereals.
For there experiment they served participants 240 calories of a food then tested how satiated they felt afterwards using surveys and measuring how much they ate in a following meal 2 hours later.
Some of the results -
Boiled potatoes were the most filling food in their study.
Apples, oranges, porridge/oatmeal, and protein rich foods rounded out the top of the results.
The least satiating foods were bakery foods such as croissants cakes and donuts. Snack foods such as salted peanuts, candy bars, an ice cream were also low scorers,
Cereals were marginally better but still scored quite low for satiety.
Carbohydrate rich foods fell in the middle with whole grain versions being more satiating than their processed counterparts.
So what makes a food satiating?
The factors that made a food more or less satiating are Protein, Fiber, Fat, Water, Volume, and Palatability.
Let’s dig into each of these.
Foods high in protein consistently are shown be satiating. The main reason is because protein takes a long time to digest. The longer a food is in your belly the longer it will be till your hungry again.
Look to get protein in at every meal. A little protein at every meal will help keep you full and satiated.
The best sources of protein are lean meats, poultry, and eggs. Dairy sources such as greek yogurt, or certain beans can also be effective. If your vegetarian then tofu and certain other vegetables can be a good option.
Fiber is a type of starch found in fruits, vegetables, and grains that is indigestible. Fiber slows digestion keeping you satiated longer. Foods high in fiber consistently out ranked foods low in fiber.
Look for foods high in fiber. A high fiber food will typically have 6 grams or more per serving. Foods such as apples and oranges, oatmeal are good options. When choosing grains chose whole grain products instead of processed versions.
The volume of food a person ate was one of the biggest indicators of satiety. The more you eat the less hungry you feel.
Typically eating more results in eating more calories however it doesn’t have to. When choosing foods pick foods that are low in calories but full of mass.
The most satiating food in the study was boiled potatoes. The main reason was due to volume. Consider this - two tablespoons of olive oil is approximately 3 potatoes worth of calories.
Which of the two do you suspect would fill you up more?
Chose whole natural foods with low calories but high volume for example fruits and vegetables.
Foods with more water are more satiating. One reason for this is because water takes up a lot of space in your stomach.
The second is because thirst can often be confused for hunger. Staying well hydrated is important for avoiding situations where you may misinterpret the sensation of thirst for hunger.
Eat foods high in water. Foods like oatmeal, fruits and vegetables ranked high in this regard. Before and during each meal drink water. This will keep you hydrated and full.
Palatability is related to how yummy a food taste. The yummier it is the more palatable it is. Foods that were shown to be more palatable like bakery goods and snack foods were shown to be less satiating.
The issue we face as a modernized society is the wide availability of hyperpalatable foods. These foods are designed to override the signals of the brain that tell us when we are full. The way they act on the brain is like that of a drug making us crave more and more.
Food should taste good, however these junk foods should be avoided.
Junk food is what we call hyper palatable. They’r a perfect blend of sugars , fats, salts, and flavorings that hijack your brain and make you crave more and more.
avoid junk foods. If you're unable to eat a food in moderation there's a good chance it’s a hyper palatable food. These foods will not keep you full but rather push you to eat more and more.
To help, you can use our stoplight activity. You will place common foods you eat into three of the following categories.
Green light- These foods are good for you and you should eat more of
Yellow light - these foods you may be better off eating less of. Certain junk foods may fall into this category. Keep them to special occasions
Red light - these are foods that you should avoid. Typically junk food that you know that you cannot eat in moderation.
Fats like protein take a long time to digest. Having some fats in a meal can help keep you full. However, fats are high in calories and can be hyper palatable. For example roasted salted peanuts used in the study fared poorly. Partly because they were very palatable, and secondly because 1000 calories in peanuts it’s not a lot of food.
Include fats in your meal but don’t over do it. When adding fats use fats from whole natural sources such as nuts and seeds, fish, avocados, or on occasion dairy.
If your hungry and looking to lose weight, it will be easier to switch to foods that keep you satiated than to try and reduce the amount of food you eat.
There are 6 factors that will influence how satiating a food will be - Protein, fat, water, fiber, volume, and palatability.
The key to a satiating meal is to include all of these factors.
Here's your meal checklist
A source of protein - such as fish, meat, poultry, tofu, eggs etc.
A source of healthy fat- fish, nuts and seeds, avocados, occasional dairy product ct.
A Hefty portion of vegetables fruits and or legumes. This can include greens, root vegetables, fruits, and or beans.
Optional - Voluminous fibrous grains or starches . Some people feel fuller if they have a source of starch. If you do add these do so in moderation.
For active adults - Starches and carbohydrates can be beneficial. Choose starches and carbohydrates that are fibrous and pack volume. Boiled potatoes - not fried. Whole wheat bread, pasta or rice, legumes such as beans. Fibrous fruits such as apples or oranges.
For a visualization I like to use the Precision Nutrition My Plate
If you follow these tips you will have more energy, and feel nourished. You will no longer feel hungry all of the time.