Appetite regulation is one of the hottest areas of nutrition research. There’s even a medical journal, Appetite, that’s entirely about research about cultural, sensory and physiological influences on our food and beverage choices. While new research is being constantly discovered, research is showing us that there are some things we can do to help manage hunger—starting now.
We all experience hunger. That’s not bad as it’s our body’s way of helping us regulate our calorie intake. The problem is, however, that our environment is tripping up the hard-wiring that our body has to control how much we eat.
There’s nothing that will derail your diet faster than an out-of-control appetite. Feeling ravenous ruins your diet because you have no resolve to eat good food and it makes it hard not to overeat. We resort to giving in to cravings and essentially eat whatever looks good that’s quickly available. It’s usually sweets, quick-burning carbs and other foods that have poor nutritional value and often leave us feeling hungry again shortly thereafter.
Here, five strategies that research suggests can help with your next hunger emergency.
5 Ways to Beat Your Hunger Emergencies
1. Lean protein. It may seem weird at first to run to a chicken breast when you really want candy or sweets, but research shows that protein helps to thwart hunger better than any other nutrient. People who ate a high-protein diet when losing weight tend to have less hunger and cravings compared to people who follow carbohydrate-rich diets. Also, solid protein is more satisfying than liquid sources, so make sure to eat your protein, don’t drink it. Try three ounces of lean beef or poultry sliced over some leafy greens with a splash of olive oil and vinegar. Eating eggs or oatmeal with Greek yogurt with for breakfast can also help to keep hunger at bay during the day.
2. Just eat. We’ve covered this before, but the body has a hard time registering fullness if you’re distracted when you eat. In fact, research shows that it may take double the calories to provide the same amount of satiety if you eat in front of a screen or while doing something else. Just eat. It’s okay to give yourself that luxury.
3. Trick Your Brain Full. Our appetite regulation system is easily duped, which explains why we often “eat with our eyes,” and our emotions and not our stomach. But while most of the research focuses on how much more you’ll eat if you use larger plates, eat with others, drink from wide glasses and serve yourself at the table, you can use all of these strategies in the opposite way to manage hunger. First, downsize all your plates and bowls; use tall thin glasses and serve your food at the kitchen and not at the dining table.
4. Crunch On an Apple. (or orange, pear or 2 kiwifruit) There’s something satisfying about apples. It might be their satisfying crunch, water content of fiber, but an apple can help you go from starving to satisfied. A large apple has just 130 calories and 4 grams of filling fiber. And, let’s not forget it’s a big, water-packed snack, so it provides some serious bulk to your belly. All fresh fruit can do this but others that seem to be especially satisfying include oranges, pears and kiwifruit. All are fiber- and water-rich.
5. Water with nuts. The volume that water adds to the stomach combined with the slow-to-digest nuts make a perfect quickie fill-up. Being hydrated can help with hunger management and nuts provide due of protein and fiber which is one of the best combos to tied you over.