By Isadora Baum
We know the drill. You always feel hungry, constantly think about what your next snack or meal will be, or have the munchies for a sugary donut, salty chip, or gooey cheesy pizza because you’re tired, stressed out. Luckily, there are some types of foods that can actually curb your appetite for longer stretches and keep the munchies at bay so that you don’t resort to that 990 calorie frozen mocha latte.
If afternoon cravings are an issue, grabbing a cup of tea or coffee can help. “Caffeine has been shown to decrease the feeling of hunger among dieters and improve their tolerance to starting a diet,” Davis says. But, “just make sure not to load it up with high fat, high sugar add-ins,” warns registered dietician Lauren Harris-Pincus. The sugar especially can stimulate appetite, so you lose the benefits of the caffeine. Having a cup should do the job—too much can result in anxiety and jumpiness—but you should pay attention to your body first to decide when to cease consumption, she says. People differ in tolerance, so while someone might be able to drink a cup at 4 p.m, others might need to cut back starting at noon.
Plus, “while coffee is a natural appetite suppressant, for some people this may result in eating less at breakfast and finding yourself hungry sooner than you expected. Therefore, if you consume coffee in the morning, try pairing it with eggs,” says nutritionist Jennifer Insel.
Be sure to incorporate fats “like those from fatty fish, nuts and seeds, avocado and healthy oils,” which are “slow to digest and help increase feelings of fullness,” says Kacie Vavrek, registered dietitian at Wexner Medical Center.
Chia seeds in particular, which contain omega-3 fats, “are a fantastic way to curb your appetite,” says Harris-Pincus. “They absorb approximately 10 times their weight in water, so they fill you up and keep you satisfied longer. Add them to smoothies, oatmeal, baked goods, yogurt or your cereal bowl.”
VEGETABLES & FRUIT
Yes, mom was right (again) about eating your vegetables. Because fresh produce is packed with fiber and high in water content, it fills you up and keeps you satisfied, explains Natalie Stephens, a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Research suggests that a type of soluble fiber known as ursolic acid, found in apples, prunes, and herbs such as basil and oregano, promotes muscle development and fat burning. Plus, ursolic acid has also been shown to regulate appetite and increase satiety.
What’s more, “fiber has great volume without adding calories, so it stimulates stretch receptors in our stomachs that tell us we’re full,” says Structure House dietician Benjamin White. “It stabilizes blood sugar responses to carbs, so we can avoid the ‘crashes’ after eating that are usually associated with greater appetite, more cravings and general grumpiness.”
Some good choices that are especially high in fiber and water content, include celery, tomatoes, bell peppers, watermelon, grapefruit, cucumbers and zucchini. Of course, all fruits and vegetables are super heart-healthy and slimming, so incorporating a medley at each meal can really help you achieve your wellness goals.
BEANS & STARCHY VEGETABLES
Fiber-rich beans, legumes, and starchy vegetables are slow digesting and naturally suppress appetite. Legumes are also a good source of protein, White says. He recommends snacking on roasted, crunchy beans. “You can also add beans or lentils to lots of dishes, use them as salad toppers, or as the foundation for soups or dips,” he adds.
“If you are trying to curb your appetite, think about spicing up your diet. Several studies show that adding chili peppers to food helps to decrease appetite and reduce food intake,” nutrition expert Dr. Lisa Davis tells Clean Plates. “When you pair appetite control with the boost in energy expenditure chili peppers are also known for, having a bottle of Tabasco sauce around might be the easiest diet strategy you ever tried.”
Plus, they’re high in protein. “Protein is digested the slowest and will, therefore, keep you feeling full throughout the day,” Vavrek says, so be sure to get enough all day.
“At lunch and dinner, aim for filling one-quarter of your plate with protein, and for snacks or an on-the-go breakfast, opt for a hard-cooked egg or food that contains nut butter,” suggests registered dietician Jessie Shafer, editor-in- chief of Delicious Living magazine.
“Eating whole grains, such as rye, steel-cut oatmeal, pumpernickel, and quinoa, as opposed to white or refined grains, may help you stay fuller longer,” because they’re rich in fiber, Insel says.
And if you’re having a bowl of oatmeal or another grain, “try replacing any use of milk with unsweetened almond or cashew milk, as these milks are slower digesting than dairy milk, because of their lack of lactose,” she adds.
OTHER WAYS TO AVOID THE HUNGRIES
- Distraction: One way to curb hunger is to distract yourself and wait it out, to determine if it’s really hunger that’s driving your desire to eat. “Take a shower, go for a brisk walk or fold the laundry,” Davis says. “Distracting yourself for about 20 minutes is enough time to allow the craving to pass.” Chewing gum can also help; research suggests that gum chewing can suppress hunger and snack cravings.
- Water: Vavrek also recommends drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day, such as water or tea. “Water helps to fill your stomach up so that there is less room for solid food,” she says. “Thirst is also often confused with hunger or food cravings, so consuming adequate fluids throughout the day can control portions consumed and help prevent overeating while also contributing to hydration status.”
- Eat Often: Try having 4 to 6 small meals and snacks daily. “Having regular meals and snacks will help to prevent blood sugar drops, which can increase hunger and lead to poor food choices,” Vavrek says. “We tend to ‘lose control’ when we’re hungry.”
- Chew: Follow the “many bite rule,” Shafer suggests. “Perception can be reality, especially when it comes to how your bites of food relate to your fullness levels. Nutrient-dense foods, such as veggie- and protein-topped salads, avocado-topped toast, or air-popped popcorn, force you to take more bites.”
- Sleep: “Regular sleep disruption increases the hormone ghrelin, the body’s resistance to insulin, and results in greater appetite and a tendency to overeat,” White warns. “Fortunately, reestablishing a regular sleep schedule helps restore hormonal balance.”