Whatever your reason, if you’re looking to make changes to your diet, learning how to successfully manage your appetite is key to success. If you don’t, you may find yourself feeling hungry, lacking in energy or demotivated. Follow our 10 steps and you should be able to work with your body, giving it what it needs to thrive in a healthy way.
Discover more practical tips in our health hub, including 50 easy ways to lose weight and how much should I weigh? Plus, be inspired by our healthy recipes for weight loss and find out more about our Healthy Diet Plan.
How to manage your appetite
1. Put protein first
Protein makes us feel fuller for longer by keeping our blood sugar levels more stable than if we were to eat carbohydrates on their own. Studies suggest that when we eat protein-rich foods, signals are sent to the brain about our energy intake, and this helps curb hunger.
Including protein-rich foods with every meal, and any snacks, increases your sense of satiety and helps manage your appetite throughout the day.
Lean protein sources include lean meat, fish, shellfish, eggs and dairy products, such as semi-skimmed milk, cottage cheese and yogurt. Plant-based proteins include beans, lentils and soy. Learn more about the best protein sources.
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2. Fabulous fats
Like protein, fat also increases satiety and reduces our appetite, and because fat is more calorie-dense, we don’t need to add a lot to our meals. It's best to avoid the saturated and trans fats found in processed foods, and instead focus on the unsaturated varieties, like olive and avocado oil and whole foods such as avocados, olives, nuts and seeds or oily varieties of fish (such as mackerel, salmon and sardines).
Try our recipes for avocado on toast, sardine pasta and sesame salmon, purple sprouting broccoli & sweet potato mash.
3. Don’t be a skipper
When you skip meals or have long gaps between them, it makes you hungrier – so when you do start to eat, it takes longer to feel full and as a result, you’re more likely to overeat. The best way to avoid getting over-hungry is to eat roughly every 3-4 hours – three small meals with a healthy mid-afternoon snack is perfect.
Protein-rich snacks, such as yogurt or a boiled egg, or fibre-rich snacks, such as oatcakes or hummus with crudités, are the best choices to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
4. Focus on your food
You may think you are an expert at multi-tasking, but believe it or not, your brain cannot concentrate on two things at once – this means if you eat while sending emails at your desk or in front of the TV, you’re more likely to miss the ‘I’m full’ signals that your stomach sends to 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% more calories than they did without any distractions.
Learn more about how to eat mindfully.
5. Fill up on fibre
Fibre fills us up, so a fibre-rich diet helps slow digestion, which increases satiety and improves appetite control. Fibre is also important when it comes to our gut microbiome, so choose wholemeal breads and brown rice and pasta instead of white. Try adding beans and pulses to salads, stews and soups, and add more fruit and vegetables into your day, especially those that can be eaten with their skin intact, like apples, pears, berries and potatoes.
6. High-five your fruit and veg
Did you know enjoying a healthy fruit snack, such as an apple, before you go shopping may help improve your buying choices in the supermarket?
Researchers found that those who ate an apple before they went food shopping bought 25% more fruit and vegetables during their shop.
Aim to increase the amount and variety of fruit and vegetables you eat, and look to combine it with some protein. For example, enjoy an apple with a small piece of cheese or a banana with a handful of nuts; this will help keep you more satisfied, because the protein slows down the release of the fruit’s natural sugars.
7. Drink before you eat
Drink a large glass of water 10 minutes before you’re due to sit down to eat. Many people fear that drinking water before or while eating will dilute gastric juices, and as a result impact 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 the case.
Find out more, including how much water you should be drinking each day and the benefits of staying hydrated. The food we eat also helps us stayed hydrated; examples include watermelon, cucumber and citrus fruits.
8. Take your time
Lay your knife and fork down between each mouthful. Chew food thoroughly before taking your next bite and focus on what you’re eating – all of these things will help slow the pace at which you eat. When you eat slowly, you give your brain time to register what you are doing and you’ll feel full more quickly.
Find out how to stop binge eating.
9. Enjoy the crunch
Studies suggest that the softer the texture of your food, the easier it is to eat and the more of it you’re likely to consume. Try swapping mashed potatoes and creamed carrots for whole new potatoes in their skins and chunky carrot batons.
10. Break the fast
Starting your day with a healthy breakfast helps your body keep its blood sugar stable during the morning, which leads to better food choices later in the day. In fact, recent research has indicated that having a bigger breakfast may help reduce hunger cravings for the rest of the day.
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How do you manage your appetite? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
Kerry Torrens is a qualified Nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last two decades she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food. For more food and health tips follow Kerry on Instagram at @kerry_torrens_nutrition_
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