How can I manage my appetite?

Trying to reach a healthy weight? Nutritionist Fiona Hunter suggests 10 ways to manage your appetite so you only eat as much as you need.

Two bowls of carrot and coriander soup

1. Start your meal with a salad or soup

They will help to fill your stomach and take the edge off your appetite, which means you'll be less likely to overeat at the next course. In one study, participants were given meals with exactly the same number of calories either as solid food or as soup. When the calories were given in the form of soup, people said they felt fuller for longer. Researchers also found that after soup, participants went on to eat less at their next meal.

Try our favourite healthy soup recipes.

2. Be snack smart

The hungrier you are when you start to eat, the longer it takes your hunger to subside. So in other words, the hungrier you are, the more you need to eat before you feel full. The best way to avoid getting over-hungry is to eat every 3-4 hrs – three small meals with a couple of healthy snacks in between is perfect. Protein-rich snacks (like a yogurt or a boiled egg) or fibre-rich snacks (such as oatcakes or hummus with crudités) are the best choices to make you feel fuller longer.

Discover our top protein-rich snack recipes.

3. Up the protein

Eat slightly larger portions of lean protein such as lean meat, fish, shellfish, eggs and dairy products (for example semi-skimmed milk, cottage cheese and yogurt). Studies suggest that when we eat protein foods, signals are sent to the brain about our energy intake and this helps to curb hunger.

Try these delicious high-protein dinner ideas.

4. Turn off the TV

If you're distracted while eating, you're more likely to miss the 'I'm full' signals that your stomach sends your brain when you've had enough to eat. One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when people listened to a detective story as they were eating, they ate 13 per cent more calories than they did without any distractions.

Read about how to eat mindfully.

A woman choosing fruit at a market

5. Fill up on fibre

One of the reasons why the F-plan diet was so popular was that fibre-rich foods are more filling. Choose wholemeal bread, and brown rice and pasta instead of white. And try adding beans and pulses to salads, stews and soups.

Increase your fibre intake with our top recipe suggestions.

6. Choose foods that take time and effort to eat

Corn on the cob, a crunchy salad or fish with bones cannot be rushed, and will force you to eat more slowly and help you to feel full quicker.

7. Eat more fruit and veg

Their high water content will help fill you up. In fact, enjoying a healthy fruit snack, such as an apple, before you go shopping can help improve your choices in the supermarket – researchers found that those who ate an apple before they went food shopping purchased 25% more fruit and vegetables during the trip.

Discover the 11 things you find out when you start eating 10-a-day.

8. Drink before you eat

Drink a large glass of water 10 minutes before you're due to sit down to eat. Many fear that drinking water before or whilst eating dilutes gastric juices, and as a result impacts the efficiency of their digestion. However, this assumes that your body is unable to adapt to the consistency of your meal, which research suggests is not to the case.

Find out how much water you should be drinking each day.

A glass of water on a table

9. Take your time

Lay your knife and fork down on the table between each mouthful. Chew food thoroughly before taking a second mouthful and focus on what you're eating – all of these things help slow down the pace at which you eat. When you eat slowly, you'll feel full quicker.

10. Enjoy your food whole where possible

Studies suggest that the softer the texture of your food, the easier it is to eat and the more of it you are likely to eat! Try swapping mashed potatoes and creamed carrots for whole new potatoes in their skins and chunky carrot batons.

What are your tips for controlling appetite?


This article was last updated on 20 June 2019.

A qualified nutritionist (MBANT), Kerry Torrens is a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food magazine. Kerry is a member of The Royal Society of Medicine, the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), and the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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