Most of us know where our next meal is coming from. Yet our reaction to hunger has not evolved with our convenience-centered world. This is why even the thought of being hungry may send you running to the mini-mart for sustenance. It's also why some people get so "hangry" when they're hungry.
The problem: A lot of different factors influence how hungry you feel—many of which have nothing to do with your body's energy requirements. Your eating habits and schedule, the types of food you swallow, and even how tired or stressed you feel can drive hunger.
These six tips help you control hunger and feel satisfied when you eat.
1. Silence your gut
While fatigue or stress can trick your belly into believing it craves unhealthy junk foods, there are a few proven ways to help chill out its "feed me!" pleas. It may sound counter-intuitive, but expending a little energy can help. A yoga practice, gym workout, or even a 10-minute stroll can help quell those fictitious hunger pangs. Keeping food out of sight can help, too. Seeing food makes you crave food, shows research from Cornell University.
2. Plan your meals
While "grazing"—or eating lots of small meals—had its day in the sun, the bulk of the research suggests sticking to three meals a day is a better plan for weight loss and hunger management. First of all, the fewer chances you give yourself to over-eat, the better. Also, when you only have three meals to manage each day, it's a lot easier to plan ahead—and that's exactly what you should do. Again, you can't trust your gut when it comes to judging your food needs. By deciding ahead of time what you're going to eat at each meal, you won't be subject to your stomach's unpredictable whims.
3. Eat breakfast without fail
A recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition tracked the diets of nearly 900 adults and found that when people ate more fat, protein, and carbohydrates in the morning, they stayed satisfied and ate less over the course of the day, compared with those who ate their bigger meals later on. Unfortunately, many Americans start off on an empty stomach: In one recent survey, consumers reported that even when they eat in the morning, the meal is a full breakfast only about one-third of the time. While it might seem tough at first, eating your biggest meal of the day in the morning—and cutting back at dinner time—can recalibrate your body's hunger cycles in ways that will lower your disease risk and help control your weight, shows research from the University of Southern California.
4. Eat more healthy fat
There's a reason you keep hearing this advice. Not only is dietary fat extremely filling, but it also tends to turn off your body's fat-storage processes. Healthy sources include pistachios and other nuts, olive oil, avocado, and Greek yogurt.
5. Munch fiber all day long
Because the body processes a fiber-rich meal slowly, it will stay in your gut longer and keep you feeling satisfied long after you've finished eating. One review recently published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association linked a high intake of fiber with lower body masses—as well as a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Leafy greens, fruit, and whole grains are all good sources of fiber.
6. Include healthy protein at each meal
When researchers at Purdue University asked 46 dieting women to eat either 30% or 18% of their calories from protein, the high-protein eaters felt more satisfied and less hungry. Plus, over the course of 12 weeks, the women preserved more lean body mass, which includes calorie-burning muscle. Eggs, fish, legumes, nuts, seeds, and Greek yogurt are all healthy protein sources.