Instead of counting calories, concentrate on the nutritional quality of food to find the most filling and nourishing option.
Q: I can’t control my hunger. My stomach needs to have something in it at all times. Do you have any advice for someone who always feels hungry?
Feeling constantly hungry is a common issue that may have to do with your food choices. A good place to start is understanding how different foods impact your feelings of fullness.
Refined carbohydrates make up the majority of most people’s diets. They also happen to be one of the least filling macronutrient choices. A common mistake people make when trying to lose weight is choosing low-fat, carbohydrate-rich foods, like cereals and low-fat crackers. Although these foods are typically low in calories, they’re also low in nutrients and won’t keep you feeling full.
First, choose more complex carbohydrate sources (think whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa, and farro) over refined carbohydrates (think white bread and white pasta) to curb hunger. Complex carbs are higher in fiber, making them more filling. Opting for fiber-rich carbohydrate sources, such as sweet potatoes, beans, and berries, will help keep you satiated longer than more refined carb choices can.
The most important factor in creating filling meals and snacks is adding protein and fat sources. Protein is the most filling macronutrient. Research shows that adding protein sources to meals and snacks increases feelings of fullness, which keeps you feeling satisfied throughout the day and decreases snacking frequency (1). Adding a healthy fat source to meals and snacks can help reduce hunger as well (2).
Examples of protein sources that can be easily incorporated into your diet include:
Healthy fats include:
- nut butters
- whole nuts and seeds
- egg yolks
- olive oil
Adding these and other healthy protein and fat sources to meals and snacks is an excellent way to decrease feelings of constant hunger.
For example, starting your day with a protein-rich breakfast of eggs, sautéed greens, sliced avocado, and berries is sure to keep you satisfied longer than a breakfast of low-fat cereal and skim milk.
Instead of counting the calories in the foods you eat, concentrate on the nutritional quality to decide whether it’s the most filling and nourishing option.
Outside of your diet, you can reduce your hunger by:
- getting enough sleep
- staying properly hydrated
- reducing stress
- practicing mindful eating techniques
You can learn more about practical ways to decrease hunger here.
Dietary and lifestyle modification can be very effective in balancing hunger. However, certain medical conditions, such as hyperthyroidism and type 2 diabetes (which can drive feelings of hunger), should be ruled out by your doctor if your hunger persists after making the changes mentioned above.
Jillian Kubala is a Registered Dietitian based in Westhampton, NY. Jillian holds a master's degree in nutrition from Stony Brook University School of Medicine as well as an undergraduate degree in nutrition science. Aside from writing for Healthline Nutrition, she runs a private practice based on the east end of Long Island, NY, where she helps her clients achieve optimal wellness through nutritional and lifestyle changes. Jillian practices what she preaches, spending her free time tending to her small farm that includes vegetable and flower gardens and a flock of chickens. Reach out to her through her website or on Instagram.