Healthy Food Habits, Part Three – But I’m Still Hungry!

One of the most common complaints when trying to adopt healthier eating habits is that the recommended food portions leave us still feeling hungry and dissatisfied. Of course, this can lead to discouragement, frustration, and eventually giving up.  Trust me, friends, “hanger” is a real thing!

So how do you satisfy your hunger while still making better choices? I’ve got some great tips for you!

Before I start, though, let me say that if you are the type of person that routinely waits until you’re ready to morph into the Hulk because you’ve waited too long to feed your body, then these tips may be challenging for you. You’ll need to retrain yourself to pay attention to the signals your body is sending you, and you’ll need to be deliberate in doing some meal planning.

AEB: Always Eat Breakfast

There’s a reason it’s called breakfast – – you’re literally breaking the fast you began after dinner the night before. If you go about your day without refueling in the a.m., you’ll be super hungry before lunch. Do you tend to avoid breakfast due to lack of time in the morning? Have pre-made options on hand, like bake-ahead or microwaveable breakfasts. If the problem is that you’re not hungry first thing in the morning, take something substantial with you for mid-morning.

Protein + Fiber

If you’re still hungry right after a meal, chances are you’re not getting enough of the right nutrients. Both protein and fiber are very filling, and they’re more satisfying when paired together. Build your meal around lean protein: egg whites, fat-free Greek yogurt, skinless chicken breast, pouched albacore tuna, etc. Then fill it out with high-fiber foods like veggies and whole grains. A dose of healthy fats is also great for satiety: almonds, avocado, olive oil, etc.

Volumize vs. Super-Size

Big portions are filling, but they also come with big calorie counts. That’s why volumizing is a better solution than going for super-sized meals. Aim for high-volume, low-calorie foods. For example, by adding some meaty chopped mushrooms to taco meat, you get a larger serving for hardly any extra calories. If you volumize your meals and snacks, you’re likely to feel fuller for longer.  Below are some foods that are great volumizers to help you stay fuller longer.

Mushrooms. Why Mushrooms? One large portabella mushroom or a cup of chopped mushrooms has roughly 20 calories, a gram of fiber, and nearly 2g of protein. Cooked mushrooms are especially good in meat dishes as well as meatless versions of classic meat dishes. The texture and taste work perfectly. Mushroom caps make a filling alternative to pizza crust. Seriously satisfying!

Zucchini. Why Zucchini? A medium zucchini has around 30 calories, 2g fiber, and 2.5g protein. The taste is mild, so it takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it with. Zucchini is a great volumizer for pasta! Whether it’s thinly peeled like fettuccine or cut into slabs similar to lasagna noodles, zucchini does a masterful job of impersonating pasta. Use it in place of or in combination with real pasta.

Cauliflower. Why Cauliflower? A cup of chopped cauliflower has about 30 calories, 2g fiber, and 2g protein. And its expanding ability is the stuff of LEGEND. Cauliflower is a go-to when it comes to bulking up starchy dishes — anything with potatoes, pasta, or rice — it blends in seamlessly.

Broccoli Slaw. Why? This mix of shredded broccoli stems with other veggies clocks in at 25 calories, 3g fiber, and 2g protein per cup. Pre-shredded and pre-washed, it couldn’t be more convenient. Add it to pasta, rice, eggs, salad, tuna, as a topper for pizza, and more. This is a great way to pump up the volume and increase your veggie intake!

94% Fat-Free Microwave Popcorn. Why popcorn? You can eat about 5 cups of this popcorn for 100 calories and 1.5g fat, plus 4g fiber. THAT’S WHY.  Mix it with almonds, mini pretzels, dried fruit, or other tasty nibbles for a large-and-in-charge, volumized snack mix.

Pack Emergency Snacks

Sometimes, no matter what we eat at mealtimes, we get hungry before our next meal. It happens. But rather than fall prey to those vending machine snacks or pastries in the break room, be prepared with smart snacks. Keep some in your backpack, handbag, or your desk drawer. Check out the following ideas for healthy emergency snack options.

Individual snack packs of almonds

Nuts and dried fruit mixes

Homemade snack-sized baggies of fiber/protein-rich cereal (multi-grain Cheerios, Kashi Go-Lean, etc.)

Jerky strips

Cheese and nut packs, such as Sargento’s Balanced Breaks

Single-serve tuna pouches

Get the Most Bang for Your Calorie Buck

I know you don’t want to hear this, but I’m going to say it anyway.  READ FOOD LABELS. Seriously. Just do it.  Why?  Because it’s really helpful for understanding where you’re spending your food calories.  Take a loaf of bread, for example. A typical loaf of white bread has anywhere from 120 to 150 calories per slice and approximately 3 grams of protein and 1 gram of dietary fiber (remember, fiber + protein equals feeling fuller).  A sandwich using two slices of this bread is already at 240 calories without anything else added (and not much protein or fiber). Is there a way to still make a delicious, satisfying sandwich without having to settle for using just one slice and making half a sandwich?  Yes, read on!

Nature’s Harvest makes a light multi-grain bread that’s only 80 calories per slice, 18g of carbs, 5g of fiber, 5g of protein, and only 1g of sugar. This is a really good set of nutritional stats, and now you can have two slices of bread for 160 calories and pump up the protein and fiber so that you feel fuller longer. Sara Lee’s “Delightful” bread is another great option. The honey wheat bread is made with 8 grams of whole grains and is only 45 calories per slice (16 grams of whole grains, 4g of fiber, and 5g of protein, with 19g of carbs). Wow – you could actually have two sandwiches for the calorie count of just one!  This is definitely getting more bang for your calorie buck!

Walk and Water

Okay, these are really two strategies, but they go really well together. Sometimes, we only think we’re hungry. One reason? It takes a while for your brain to get the message that your stomach is full. Take a short walk or busy yourself for about 5 – 10 minutes before going back for seconds and see if that helps. It’s also common to confuse hunger with thirst. If you find yourself feeling crazy hungry, ask yourself, “Am I really hungry, or am I thirsty?” Drink some water and see if that helps. When in doubt, grab a water bottle, and sip while you stroll!

Final Thoughts

It IS possible to eat healthy without depriving yourself of a larger, delicious portion of your favorite foods. It does take deliberate thought, planning, and creativity. But isn’t that better than being the hangry monster?  You can do it!



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