Q: I am trying to lose weight, but I feel hungry all the time. Are there any foods that can help suppress my appetite?
A: You certainly don’t want to feel hungry on a weight-loss plan, nor should you. Feeling hungry all the time can easily derail your weight-loss efforts by causing you to overeat.
That said, you should feel a little hungry – but not ravenously hungry – before meals. If, for example, you don’t have an appetite for dinner, that could be a signal your portions were too large at lunch, or that you snacked too close to the dinner hour. Hunger is a sign from your body that you should eat. Hunger should not be confused with thirst. Staying hydrated by drinking the recommended eight-ounce glasses of water each day will help ensure that what you are really feeling is hunger.
To help cut down on hunger — first, include a source of protein at each meal, and snacks too. Protein-rich foods like lean meat, fish, poultry, egg whites, part-skim cheese, Greek yogurt, milk, soy beverages, firm tofu, nuts and legumes help you feel full longer because they require more time to empty from your stomach.
Most people include protein at lunch and dinner, but often forget to do so at breakfast. Research suggests that eating a protein-rich breakfast suppresses your appetite during the day. Protein influences the release of appetite-related hormones that tell your brain you feel satisfied – and no longer hungry.
Next, avoid eating processed, starchy foods such as white bread, crackers, white rice, refined breakfast cereals and cereal bars. Referred to as high-glycemic-index (GI) foods, they cause your blood glucose (sugar) and insulin levels to spike after eating. In response to excess insulin, your blood glucose will drop more quickly over the next few hours, which can trigger hunger and overeating.
Instead, include low-GI foods at meals; they’re digested more slowly and help keep hunger at bay. These foods include beans, lentils, nuts, pasta, brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, steel-cut oatmeal, oat bran, yogurt, milk, unflavored soy milk, apples, oranges, peaches, pears and berries (most fruit has a low glycemic index).
It’s also important to eat at regular intervals during the day. In fact, my clients tell me one of the keys to their weight loss success is eating a midafternoon snack (protein-rich, of course). Doing so prevents late-day hunger pangs and helps them eat smaller portions at the evening meal.
April Graff, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian at both Mankato Hy-Vee stores and can be reached at AGraff@hy-vee.com or call 625-1107 or 625-9070. Send her questions about food and nutrition, recipes, meal planning and healthy shopping.