Eating for fullness
Hunger is the body’s signal telling you to eat more food. It is a very important signal that we as humans have evolved to make sure we are getting enough energy from nutrients to do the things we need to every day, to stay healthy, and to survive! Sometimes though, hunger cues happen more often than they should or continue to occur after a meal. So let’s talk about how to feel full with less food and more nutrients.
You may feel like you are always hungry. If this is the case, there are some changes you might be able to make to the types of foods you are eating to feel full longer and stay full between meals. In some cases, there may be a health condition or issue happening making you feel hungry all the time, in which case it is important to talk to your doctor about what you are experiencing.
This article shares some specific foods and food groups to help you feel full more quickly and for longer. We will also discuss other important elements in satiety: blood sugar, metabolism, and eating mindfully.
By eating with the goal of feeling and staying full, you can avoid extra weight gain and keep your blood sugar balanced for more energy throughout the day.
Eating a Balanced Meal
Eating a balanced meal is one of the best ways to feel full for longer and to get enough energy from your food without needing to eat more than your body requires. A balanced meal is one that is made up of macronutrients including: protein, (unsaturated) fat, and complex carbohydrates, like fiber.
Protein signals our satiety hormones (the chemical messengers in our body that tell us when we have had enough food).
Fiber from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains holds a lot of bulk and will help keep us feeling fuller for longer.
Fat may have received bad press in the past, but that’s because there are different types of fat. Unsaturated fat, like the fats in nuts, seeds, and fish, are nutritious for our bodies when eaten in small amounts. Incorporating sources of unsaturated fats will help to slow down digestion and support fullness, on top of their many other benefits.
While not perfect, this Healthy Eating Plate graphic will help you visualize how to balance your plate for maximum nutrition at each meal.
Examples of Foods
Incorporating some of the following foods into your meals across breakfast, lunch, and dinner will help you to feel full more quickly and for longer after eating:
- Yogurt (Greek yogurt is higher in protein so will be an even better option than regular yogurt for fullness)
- Beans and legumes
Blood Sugar Balance
Blood sugar balance is also a factor in keeping you feeling full for longer. After eating any kind of carbohydrates – these include foods like rice or bread, sweetened beverages, even fruit and vegetables like apples or sweet potatoes – your blood sugar rises.
A fast spike in blood sugar means that you will experience lower energy and hunger more quickly after eating than a more gradual rise in blood sugars. How much of a spike depends on how much of the carbohydrate is eaten as well as what it is paired with. If you eat a sweet potato on its own, your blood sugar will experience a faster spike than if you paired that sweet potato with some protein and fat.
For example, eating a sweet potato hash made with diced sweet potatoes sautéed with some scrambled egg and avocado slices will help keep your blood sugar more stable. This added protein and fat will also make you feel full and keep you feeling satisfied for longer.
In addition, the type of carbohydrate you are eating plays a big role. Refined flours and sugars like sweets and sodas activate the brain’s reward center and lead to cravings for more of these foods that may be confused for actual hunger.
The body’s metabolism is the process by which food calories are converted into energy. It can also play a big role in how to feel full, determining how many calories you need to satisfy your hunger. The metabolism is very complex and works at a different rate in different people. Physical activity speeds up your metabolism and is a primary reason one person who is very active likely needs to eat more calories than someone who is less active. Physical activity levels also determine the types of foods one needs to feel full. Higher protein intake is necessary for those exercising regularly as they are building muscle and need more protein to keep the body functioning properly.
Metabolism is also affected by certain health conditions, hormones, and stress. Depending on how these factors may be impacting the metabolism, they may cause feelings of excess or continual hunger or alternatively, a low appetite. They may also contribute to the types of foods you crave when hungry.
For example, a 2015 study found that stress from marital challenges impacted both appetite and diet quality. Those experiencing higher levels of stress tended to have higher levels of ghrelin after eating (the “hunger hormone” that tells your body it’s time to eat) as well as a lower quality diet. Nevertheless, the functions of the body and metabolism are very complex and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Mindful eating puts the focus on what you’re eating. When you eat, avoid distractions such as screens or driving, and focus on slowing down, smell your food, enjoy small bites, and fully chew each bite of food. Enjoying your meal in this way will allow the hormone, leptin, to be created and signal your brain that fullness has been reached.
In Conclusion for how to feel full
If you believe that you are always hungry, even after eating for fullness, or alternatively, that you have a low appetite, it’s important to talk to your doctor so that the doctor can consider your individual health and lifestyle and how these might be impacting your hunger levels.