Eating healthy and sticking to a rigid eating plan may seem impossible on some days, especially when attempting to switch up your regular meal routine. Trying to make it through the day without being able to grab a healthy snack can also make life even harder. Whether you need to make it through an afternoon without overeating or are trying to sustain your energy while unable to stop for a quick bite, eating a proper, well-balanced series of meals throughout the day can play a huge role in helping you feel fuller for longer.
Eat This, Not That! tapped a handful of experts to learn the best ways you can maximize your meals while also beating hunger throughout the day. By learning exactly how to hack your daily eating plan, you can find ways to feel fuller for longer periods of time between meals and as a result, resist the urge to indulge in any tempting convenient yet unhealthy treats.
Rest assured, snacking is not the underlying cause of why you can’t feel fuller for longer; noshing between meals throughout the course of the day. In fact, many dietitians encourage snacking to help manage cravings, as long as you make healthy choices. Read on to find out additional dietitian-approved tips on how to sustain feeling fuller for longer throughout the day—and for more ideas on how to snack smart with quality options that don’t break your diet, be sure to also check out 50 Healthiest Snacks to Eat for Weight Loss.
“Working in even a small amount of fiber into every meal and snack is an easy way to make it keep you full for longer,” says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, and consultant at Balance One. “This is because fiber is digested more slowly than other nutrients and therefore keeps the gut full, literally.”
“There is fascinating new research that points to another reason fiber keeps you full for longer: acetate,” she continues. “This is a molecule that is found in fiber and is released upon digestion in the gut. It is then transported to the brain through the bloodstream where it signals to us that we are full and to stop eating.”
Staying full goes beyond what you simply eat.
“Drinking plenty of water is not just important for hydration, but for controlling your hunger, as well,” says Best. “There are two primary reasons why drinking water can help keep you full for longer: First, it is possible to mistake thirst for hunger because thirst signals can be weak. Second, drinking water can activate the stretch receptors in the stomach, which signal fullness to the brain and hunger hormones.”
If your aim is to stay fuller for longer, it’s essential that you drink a glass of water and not another beverage made with made with artificial sweeteners, like a soda.
“This is because sugar and artificial sweeteners create a glucose and insulin response that is actually known to cause overeating later in the day,” Best advises.
While more fiber in a meal can help you feel full, avoiding certain nutrients can be just as important.
“Carbohydrate foods made with refined carbs—like those found in white breads and pastries—are void of many of the nutrients that keep you full like fiber and protein,” says Best. “These types of carbs are also processed quickly by the body, leaving you feeling hungry shortly after a meal. This is especially true of pasta-based dishes where the pasta is made from refined carbs rather than whole grain sources like quinoa or or whole wheat.”
“With this in mind, consider replacing your morning pastries with oatmeal or your white bread at lunch for a whole grain option,” Best adds. “When eating out, bypass the refined pasta or pair it with a fiber rich salad or whole grain bread.”
Incorporating the right kinds of ingredients can make a world of difference when you need to stay fuller for longer.
“Foods that take longer to chew will fill us up quicker and for longer,” Best explains. “Crunchy produce like carrots, apples, cucumbers, and celery have a high water content while also being larger in volume. This combination makes them low in caloric density while also activating the stretch receptors of the stomach more quickly.”
“These characteristics make crunchy produce more filling and also take longer to digest,” Best continues. “Because of their hard texture, the body must work longer and harder to digest them. This results in more calories burned in the digestion process and longer digestion. Therefore, crunchy produce is an excellent addition to any meal or snack for satiety and low caloric density.”
Produce can help you feel full, but also incorporating some extra protein into your meals really makes the difference when you need to sustain that full feeling for an extended period of time.
“Protein helps you get full faster and stay full longer after meals,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, and author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook. “Because protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, when protein and carbohydrate are eaten together, it slows down how fast sugar gets into your bloodstream helping to manage your blood sugar levels and your hunger levels over the next few hours.”
“Consuming protein at meals and snacks helps your blood sugar look like rolling hills, gradually raising and gradually falling,” adds Goodson. “At meals that might look like having eggs with whole grain toast, fruit and milk. At lunch, that can be a salad with protein paired with fresh fruit or a whole grain roll. At dinner, that can be lean beef with sweet potatoes and roasted veggies,” she continues. “Don’t forget to add protein to snacks as well like Greek yogurt with berries, whole grain crackers and cheese, and nuts beef jerky with a granola bar.”
Keeping track of your blood sugar can make a world of difference when you need to feel full throughout the day.
“When blood sugar is high, individuals are more likely to experience increased cravings, low energy, brain fog, and the notorious mid-afternoon slump,” says Daria Piazza, MS, RD. In tandem with complex carbohydrates, protein and fat slow the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream further promoting satiation and feelings of feeling full.
“One of the most efficient and effective ways to promote satiation is by focusing on blood sugar-balancing meals. This looks like a meal or snack that contains all three macronutrients, carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Ideally, complex carbohydrates—i.e., vegetables, grains, legumes—are preferred over simple or refined carbohydrates.”
A balanced meal with a bit of healthy fat truly ensures your meal will keep you feeling content throughout the day.
“The protein, fiber, and fat in nuts help you feel full longer, so you may actually end up eating less throughout the day,” says Dr. Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, and author of Finally Full, Finally Slim.
“Fat helps you feel satiated after a meal and typically keeps you from looking for food for a while because you just don’t feel hungry,” says Goodson. “The goal, however, is to eat more healthy fats like nuts and nut butters, seeds, avocado, fatty fish, and liquid cooking oils.”
“It’s important to note that fat yields more calories per gram (or per bite) than carbohydrate and protein do, so you don’t need as much fat at a meal as the other two macronutrients,” she continues. “Think of ‘garnishing your plate’ with fat. For example, sprinkle nuts and seeds on your oatmeal, add avocado to a wrap, eat peanut butter on a slice of bread, and [so on].”
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