It's easy to mistake boredom, stress, thirst, or the munchies for true hunger cues. This may lead to excessive snacking, second helpings, or less healthy food choices. Whether or not you are trying to lose weight, the tips below can help curb hunger throughout the day.
1. Plan for Protein
Protein contributes greatly to feeling full or satisfied after a meal. It tends to stick with us, minimizing the likelihood of feeling hungry shortly after eating. Most Americans eat adequate protein, but it may not be spread evenly throughout the day. If you need a snack between meals, try to include a protein food such as a small handful of nuts, a tablespoon of peanut butter, or a 1-ounce cheese stick to keep you feeling full.
2. Fill Up on Fiber
Fiber, like protein, increases fullness by lengthening the amount of time food to stays in the stomach. The average American eats only 15 grams of fiber each day. Men need at least 38 grams and women need at least 25 grams each day. Fiber rich foods include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains. At the store, look for items with at least 5 grams of fiber on the nutrition label for a "high fiber" food. Practical ways to increase fiber include:
- Replacing half of the meat in a recipe with lentils (this provides an additional 5-10 grams of fiber)
- Adding extra vegetables or beans to a casserole or soup
- Choosing a fruit salad for a snack or dessert
3. Let Fluids Flow
Water keeps us hydrated and helps to fill the stomach. Drinking a glass of water right before a meal or beginning a meal with a broth-based soup can decrease the amount of food we eat at meals. Finish your meal with a cup of hot tea to tell your body it's time to stop eating. Ginger, lemon, or mint teas are especially good for cleansing the palate and decreasing the likelihood of continued snacking. What if hunger still hits in between meals or in the evening? It's possible that you aren't actually hungry. Your body could be trying to tell you it needs fluids! Try drinking a glass of water or other low-calorie beverage to satisfy the feeling.
4. Munchies Management
Is food constantly on your mind? Try to keep food out of sight and re-direct your attention to something else. Leave the room, start a conversation with someone, or take a short walk. If that doesn't work, try a low-calorie, crunchy snack. This is could be dry cereal, snap peas, popcorn, carrots, celery sticks, or dried fruit (watch out for added sugars). Or, keep your mouth busy with chewing gum or a peppermint.
Adequate and high-quality sleep contribute largely to the regulation of the hormones that send both hunger and fullness cues. Research has shown that lack of sleep can lead to increased appetite and/or a decreased feeling of fullness, resulting in overeating. Your body needs about 7-8 hours of sleep to be well rested and function optimally. Try to make sleep a priority since it affects more than just your energy level!
Try the tea or trail mix recipe below the next time you feel hangry.
Cinnamon Almond Milk Tea
Granola Trail Mix