Half of all Americans say they’re trying to lose weight, but they’re up against a silent enemy: the hungry horrors. They can strike at any time, even when you think you’re eating enough food at mealtimes to stave them off.
Luckily, there are several ways to keep your appetite in check so you can prevent packing on extra pounds. Here are some tips on how to make yourself feel full longer so you can conquer cravings once and for all.
Eat Enough Protein
If you find you’re getting hungry often in between meals, make sure you’re consuming enough protein. The average sedentary woman needs at least 46 grams of protein a day. If you lift weights and exercise, you should consume even more than that.
Protein is made of amino acids that your body requires to form everything from your skin to your muscles. If you lift weights, protein helps you build muscle mass.
When it comes to losing or maintaining your weight, protein is essential for conquering your appetite between meals. It does a better job than both carbohydrates and fats to keep you feeling full for hours, and it also improves your metabolism.
Meats, fish, eggs, cheese, yogurt, beans, legumes, and nuts are all good sources of protein. Whenever possible, choose lean forms of protein such as grass-fed beef, chicken, turkey, pork, fish and boiled eggs to minimize cholesterol and fat intake.
People on plant-based diets may find eating enough protein to be challenging. Tofu, tempeh, chickpeas, soy milk, nut butters, chia seeds, and beans are all good sources of protein for those on vegan and vegetarian diets.
Eat a Good Breakfast
There’s a lot of truth to the old saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Now there appears to be evidence that it can give your metabolism a serious kick in the butt.
A study found that people who eat a big breakfast burn twice as many calories as those who eat a large dinner. Not only that, but the participants who fueled up with a hearty morning meal had fewer sugar cravings and healthier blood sugar levels throughout the day.
Researchers also found that skipping breakfast to cut calories and lose weight often backfires on people, as they end up snacking and overeating later in the day.
It makes sense when you consider that upon waking up in the morning, you’ve gone at least eight hours or more without eating. Your body is starving, and feeding it now will give you the energy you need to power through your morning.
The key to making the most of this tip, however, is choosing foods that make a healthy breakfast. Eggs, turkey bacon, whole-grain toast, oatmeal, unsweetened yogurt, and fruit can all create a balanced meal that contains lean protein, fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients.
Avoid processed and sugary foods such as donuts, danishes, granola bars, and sweetened cereals. They can make blood sugar levels skyrocket, which then will crash, leaving you feeling hungry and tired. Plus, these choices don’t contain much protein to keep you feeling satisfied until lunchtime.
Drink Enough Water
Sometimes it’s easy to confuse thirst with hunger, and drinking enough water throughout the day can help you feel fuller in between meals. Drinking a glass of water before a meal can actually help you lose weight by suppressing your appetite. It also helps your body digest the food better.
If plain water is too bland for you, try flavoring it with a squirt of lemon or lime juice or infusing it with fruit. A cup of tea—whether it’s herbal or a traditional black tea—can help satiate your belly until your next meal.
Make a Meal out of Soup
Soups can be surprisingly satisfying and enjoyed as a meal or a healthy snack if they don’t contain too much sodium. Opt for one that packs a protein punch, such as Italian wedding soup or a minestrone made with beans and beef or chicken.
When served with a piece of crusty bread and fruit for dessert, a filling soup can easily carry you through the next few hours until the next meal.
Get Enough High-Fiber Foods
Because fiber hangs around in your body longer than other nutrients, it can help you stay satisfied longer. Eat a fiber-rich food with protein and you’ve got a dynamic duo that will deflect cravings.
Fruit, veggies, dried chickpeas and soybeans, nuts, and whole grains are all good sources of fiber.
Get a Good Night’s Rest
If you’ve ever found yourself ravenous the day after a lousy night’s sleep, you’re not imagining it.
Sleep deprivation can actually contribute to being overweight or obese, because a lack of shuteye makes us hungry. Poor sleep can spike levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin while suppressing leptin, another hormone that would normally keep the appetite under control.
The result is that your tired body craves extra calories—usually in the forms of sugar and carbs—to keep it going through the day. You may be tempted to reach for doughnuts that your coworker brought in or raid the office’s vending machine.
Not to mention a lack of adequate sleep makes you too tired to exercise. It can be a dangerous cycle to find yourself in, so do what you can to get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. It’ll help you fight the temptation to snack.
Know How to Make Yourself Feel Full
Lastly, know that there’s nothing wrong with reaching for a small healthy snack if you really need one. Go for one that combines protein and fiber, such as low-fat cheese with a few whole-grain crackers, or apple slices with peanut butter. Knowing how to make yourself feel full with these tips can help you lose extra pounds or maintain a healthy weight.
If the hungry horrors are hunting you after dinner, here are tips on how to beat late-night cravings.