Nutrition Articles

Tips to Stay Full Longer

Beat Hunger and Boost Satisfaction

No doubt about it, hunger is unpleasant. In fact, it can be downright embarrassing when your tummy grumbles for your attention at the most inopportune times. When you’re watching your calorie intake to lose or manage your weight, there will be days when you might experience ongoing hunger, even when you’re eating at the top of your calorie range. It can be so distracting and debilitating that you’re ready to throw in the towel. If deprivation is what eating healthy is all about, then forget it!

Not so fast. Don’t give up on your new way of eating until you add what could be the missing ingredient back into your eating and weight loss program. What's the elusive “secret” to feeling fuller, longer? Satiety.

Satiety (sa-TIE-e-tee) is that wonderfully pleasant feeling of fullness you get as you eat, when you’re no longer hungry, but aren’t overly stuffed or uncomfortable. You are just satisfied beyond desire. The more satisfied you feel after a meal, the less you’ll eat later. So how do you increase satiety without eating MORE?

When making food choices, it’s still important to meet the nutrition recommendations outlined in your SparkDiet. But if you’re having problems staying full, adjust your meals and snacks to incorporate these tips:

Eat More Low Density Foods
Calorie density refers to the number of calories per gram of food. Foods that are HIGH in calorie density contain a high number of calories per gram; foods that are LOW in calorie density contain a low number of calories per gram. Calorie density is the key to feel full without overeating.

When you eat too many calorie dense foods, you’ll end up consuming a lot of calories to fill your belly. If you focus on low calorie density foods, you can fill up on fewer calories because low density foods contain a lot more water, which adds weight and volume to the food, but no calories.

Just drinking a glass of water along with the meal does not provide the same degree of satiety. Research has shown that to reduce hunger and boost fullness, the water has to be in the food. Why? Because there are separate mechanisms in the brain to control hunger and thirst. If the food you eat contains the water, it will stay in the stomach longer while the food is being digested. Beyond that, there is also the psychological component of eating food versus drinking water. When you eat food, even water-rich food, you get more sensory stimulation because you have more food going through your mouth and you’re eating for a longer period of time, both of which help you feel more satisfied with your meal.

The following are all water-rich food choices with about 90% bound water. They can have a great impact on the calorie density of your diet.
  • EAT MORE broth-based soups like chicken noodle or vegetable. Be sure to look for soups that have less than 200 calories per 1 cup serving.
  • EAT MORE leafy greens like lettuce, baby spinach and mixed salad greens with fat-free dressing.
  • EAT MORE fruits like apples, blueberries, cantaloupe, grapefruit, oranges, peaches, strawberries and watermelon.
  • EAT MORE non-starchy vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes and winter squash.
  • TIP: Start your meal with a bowl of broth-based soup or low-calorie leafy green salad to fill up on fewer calories. Turn to non-starchy vegetables when you get the munchies.
Fill Up on Fiber
Fiber contains only 1.5 to 2.5 calories per gram, while other carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram. Fiber-rich foods also necessitate more chewing and slow the passage of food through the digestive tract. The fiber in carbohydrates helps prevent those peaks and valleys in blood sugar levels that can cause cravings and poor food choices. They also may stimulate a satiety hormone in the brain.
  • EAT MORE fiber from whole grains, fruits and vegetables with skins, beans, lentils and legumes. Aim for 25-35 grams each day to help reduce your calorie intake and increase your satiety level.
  • TIP: Avoid refined carbohydrates (like white bread, white rice, white pasta and sugar). When eaten alone, refined and simple carbohydrates can wreak havoc on satiety by causing rises and falls in blood sugar which trigger hunger every few hours.
Lean on Protein
Studies suggest that protein appears to help prolong satiety more than carbohydrates or fat can. Continue eating the amount of protein that your SparkDiet recommends, since consuming even a little bit of protein with each of your meals and snacks will help you stay full. Meeting your protein needs is important, but eating more protein than your body needs will NOT boost your metabolism.
  • EAT MORE lean protein from meats, chicken, seafood, low-fat dairy, legumes, lentils and soy products.
  • TIP: Prepare your meat using low-fat cooking methods like grilling and baking.
Fit in the Fat
Cutting fat intake reduces the calorie density of a food. In other words, you get a bigger portion of food for the same calories when it has fewer fat grams. However, if you go too low in fat you won’t enjoy the flavor, texture or satiety of your food. Plus dietary fat is essential for staying healthy.
  • EAT ENOUGH fat to meet the fat recommendations in your SparkDiet. This will bring the pleasure and satisfaction back to your meals so you’re less likely to overeat later.
  • TIP: Eliminate fat where you don’t need it, opting for reduced fat foods instead of full fat versions. Select low-fat dairy products, low-fat salad dressings, low-fat mayonnaise, etc. and limit saturated and trans fats.
Go Nuts
Nuts have been shown to have a very positive impact on satiety because of their protein and fiber content. A SMALL handful of these nutritious nuggets will often hold you over until your next meal. Of course, portion control is important because nuts and seeds are high density foods.
  • Choose nuts like peanuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews and others. Even seeds make good choices.
  • TIP: Keep your portions in check! One serving of nuts or seeds is about the size of a golf ball.
Drink Up!
Drinking plain old water can help with your weight management program, especially if you are substituting calorie-containing beverages like regular soda, juice and sweetened coffee for water, which is healthy and calorie-free. For some people, drinking water throughout the day also keeps their hands busy so that they’re less likely to eat out of habit or boredom.
  • DRINK MORE water throughout the day, aiming for about 8 cups total. Some calorie-free beverages can make good choices, but moderation is important. Check out these beverage guidelines to meet your body’s needs.
  • TIP: Don’t drink your calories. Calories from beverages add up quickly and affect your weight. Most people don’t pay attention to the number of calories they drink, and that can hurt your weight loss efforts. Limit your intake of caloric beverages to less than 200 calories each day, and be sure to add these calories to your Nutrition Tracker.
Make It Work
Now that you know which foods have the staying power, it is important to spread these satisfying foods throughout the day into designated meals and snacks. Then you’ll be reaping the benefits all day long.

Even better, slow down and savor every bite. Research has shown that it can take 20 minutes for your stomach to signal your brain that you have reached satiety. So take your time and enjoy every delicious bite along the way.

Get in touch with your satiety center by giving your stomach time to signal your brain that you have had enough to eat, and by selecting the right kinds of foods when you do eat. Finding ways to feel fuller while eating fewer calories—now that’s the secret to success!

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Member Comments

  • It is great that readers update articles and point out changes in current thinking, but this can be done without a critical tone. Instead of just kvetching, have you contacted your Spark Coach about discrepancies, suggested a new topic or otherwise tried contacting Spark admin?

    Having said that, there are points in this article that are timeless and beneficial - salads, broth based soups, water, etc.
  • After reading this, I think I am going to add broth soups to my meals. Well, at least, a few times a week,
  • Great ideas. After being at this for many years, good and innovative ideas are welcome!
  • Great ideas. Definitely a keeper.
  • This was the best article I've read on nutrition! So much good information!
  • I just scrolled down the other comments and saw many readers criticizing the "dated" article. Hummm... yep we now know that there are good fats and not so good fats but there were so many good points that were included that I think overall it was a great motivator for many of us, at least me.
  • I Have been making a big batch of vege based soup once a week which has really helped in many ways. I now feel like I am not starving myself. We either have it for lunch, replacing a sandwich which included mayo, or begin dinner with a bowl of soup. I put into the soup whatever I have on hand rather than my usual approach of using a recipe. Liberating and feeling creative(-: my husband has become involved with the creative activity as well so this new way of eating is doing lots of great things in our family of two. Thanks SP for your great articles- very motivating.
  • Lots of OUTDATED information from the outdated Becky Hand.
  • It's a dated article but I enjoyed it. I'm a big fruit eater ... given my preference I could live on fruit which of course would guarantee me a shorter less healthy life. There are some good tips there always are but articles need to be kept timely if only to make up for the changes in food production. Now more than ever it's important to read the label and it needs to say more than "Libby's, Libby's, Libby's" (that really dates ME).
  • Great article! After reading this article I can see how one of my most satisfying meals is a large veggie bowl which includes baby spinach, cucumbers, broccoli, tomatoes and mushrooms. I also sometimes add avocado chunks to the bowl. It is very satisfying and leaves me full and happy! It helps meet many nutrition goals and contributes to water intake. I try and eat a bowl of veggies every day.
  • Broth with veggies helps me - think its the fiber and sodium combo. Salads with onions and bits of white chicken for flavor help me. FF popcorn definitely helps - think its the fiber/salt combo. Fruits satisfy me only for maybe 30 mins. What works the most is a fiber supplement. Has to be a blend with guar gums; inulin or benefiber do not work nearly as well.
  • Since 2013, the comments have mentioned the outdated advice in this article. Obviously, no one from Spark management reads these. So where do you go to let them know about articles that should be deleted? Post it on the message boards

    Anyway, read labels: try to stay away from chemicals. Know your body: I get full on plain popcorn, but overeat it because it tastes so good. Eat sensibility: no matter if it's plain popcorn, or cake, if you can't resist it, don't buy it.
  • Others have mentioned it, but I want to add my own two cents to this. Low=fat has been proven to be dangerous for our health. When will dieticians get up to date. Healthy fats, coffee, chocolate, eggs - all these are now considered healthy and dieticians who were trained before these studies came out need to go back to school. I remember way back in time when cranberries were taken off the "safe food" list! I think people now know they are good for us. So catch up, please!
  • Becky Hand's writings are bordering on dangerous, considering the wealth of knowledge out there about healthy fats.
  • I also disagree with many of the points in this article. When is SparkPeople going to get off the low fat, fake sugar bandwagon? Years of practicing this type of dieting left me alternately starving and yo-yo-ing myself into metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.

    The worst of it was the self depredation for what I thought was lack of will power, and wandering what was wrong with me because I never had that sense of satiety. So I would be miserable for months and loose 30 or 40 lbs. only to regain it and hate myself even more.

    Now, I stay away from fake anything, I eat real healthy full fats with every meal, avoid refined sugar like the plague, and finally I feel normal, I have finally found that I do have that satiety switch, you're always talking about, and it didn't come from physically filling my stomach with low density foods and water, it doesn't work that way! Check the science.

    I will always love Spark People for the tools and sense of community. It provides such a large umbrella for approaches to dieting, exercise, and health, and hopefully room for a little disagreement.

    P.S. I lost 30lbs. during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, and I'm happy and satisfied.

About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

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