Have you ever eaten a large, carb-laden meal and, even though you packed in the calories, felt hungry in just a short while? Or maybe you were starving after a long day and scarfed down a healthy dinner you just weren’t excited about? Even though you know you’re not “technically” hungry, you’re still ready to back into the kitchen and nibble your way around to something better.
Welcome to the wonderful world of achieving satiety, or how long until you feel hungry again after eating. While eating the right foods are a major factor in feeling full for longer, our minds play a role as well — aka mindful eating. (1) Satiety also is largely a recent, “first-world” problem. After all, when our ancestors were foraging for food or whipping up meals with whatever was harvested, most of the time there was no option to go back for seconds or supplement a meal with something else.
Achieving satiety is critical in maintaining a healthy weight or shedding pounds. If your meals leave you feeling hungry or you’re constantly unsatisfied with your food choices and reaching for extra snacks, you’ll likely start adding more calories to your diet — and, let’s be honest, you probably aren’t reaching for carrot sticks.
But by focusing on being satiated with each meal you eat, you can focus on enjoy the foods in front of you, feel satisfied for several hours and avoid overindulgence. Check out my 10 favorite tips to help achieve satiety.
10 Ways to Achieve Satiety & a Slimmer You
1. Get your proteins in
High-protein foods are proven to help you feel full and stay that way for longer. Eating lean proteins, like grass-fed beef, wild fish and organic chicken, can prevent overeating and might even help you lose weight. One study found that increasing protein intake, along with moderate exercise, helped people burn more calories and lose more weight than those who didn’t up their proteins. (2)
2. Have a starter
Before digging into the main course, start with a healthy, broth-based soup or a salad. You’ll ease hunger before the main course, allowing you to reduce your intake and feel satiated with a smaller portion. This raw veggie salad or clear onion soup are both easy to make and will add loads of healthy benefits to any meal.
3. Chow down on low-density foods
Low-density foods are those that provide the highest nutritional bang for your buck; they provide the most nutrient density for the lowest amount of calories. For instance, eating 100 calories of french fries doesn’t provide the same amount of nutrition as eating 100 calories worth of blackberries, even though the amount of calories are the same.
Incorporating low-density foods into meals and snacks means you’ll be eating filling, nutrient-rich foods with fewer calories. The health benefits of kale, wild-caught salmon and blueberries make them terrific options.
4. Reach for fiber-rich options
It turns out your grandmother was onto something: Eating fiber has multiple benefits, including help you achieve satiety. Evidence shows that eating high-fiber foods helps decrease hunger and increase mealtime satisfaction. (3)
Per gram, fiber contains about half the amount of calories as carbohydrates — nutrient density strikes again. High-fiber foods also take longer for your body to digest, keeping your tummy feeling full.
5. Get in your fruits and vegetables
One more reason to get your daily dose of fruits and veggies: They’re the holy grail of satiety. Not only are they packed with fiber, but fruits and vegetables are also loaded with water. High amounts of H20 in foods adds weight to food without upping the calorie count. The result is that fruits and veggies, especially when they’re eaten whole, enhance satiety. Juicy fruits like watermelons, oranges and peaches along with leafy greens are good choices.
6. Spice things up with seasonings
Seasonings like benefit-rich cayenne pepper, dried herbs and spices add extra flavor to your food and heighten senses, which increase satiety. In fact, the more aromatic a food smells, the quicker your body sends a signal to your brain saying it’s full. (4)
Think about it: It’s a lot easier to savor each bite when it’s bursting with taste and aroma than when it’s bland. If you need some inspiration to wake up your taste buds, try this coconut curried chicken.
7. Indulge in healthy fats
Not only are healthy fats good for your body, but eating foods that feel indulgent but are actually beneficial (like avocado, coconut oil and salmon) ups the satisfaction quotient at mealtime. Fats also take some time to digest, leaving you feeling full longer.
8. Take your time
Because it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to let your brain know that you’re full, it pays to slow down when eating. If you think you’re too hungry to eat slowly, think again. One study found that spacing out a meal over 30 minutes instead of five minutes increased fullness and decreased hunger in participants. (6) Test it out by actually taking a full lunch hour to eat instead of gobbling your food down and heading back to your desk.
9. Clear your (smaller) plate
Because our brains rely heavily on visual cues, you can trick them into feeling satiated. Loading up and polishing off a smaller plate of food leads to more satisfaction and feelings of satiety than the same exact amount of food on a larger plate. When there’s room still left on the plate, our minds think there’s still room left in our stomachs to feed.
A 2005 study tested this theory with soup. Participants were split into two groups. One group was given an accurate visual of a food portion by being served the soup in a normal bowl. The second group was given a self-refilling soup bowl, a biased visual cue. Those who were (unknowingly) eating from the self-refilling bowl consumed 73 percent more than the other group.
However, at the end of the study, they didn’t believe they’d eaten more, nor did they feel more satiated. As the study concluded, “it seems that people use their eyes to count calories and not their stomachs.” (7) So go ahead, clean your plate; just make it a smaller one.
10. Pay attention
Eating in front of the television, mindlessly taking bites while computer browsing, checking your email — all these distractions during mealtime make it more difficult for your brain to process the fact that it’s achieved satiety. And the effects last after the distraction and the meal are over. Researchers point out that distracted eating can also lead to weight gain because people may end up eating more when they aren’t paying attention or wind up eating more frequently. (8)
The solution? When it’s time to eat, turn off the television, put away the gadgets and focus on the food and company around you to feel full in no time.