Experiencing mild hunger pangs when you haven't eaten for a few hours is how your brain signals your body that it needs to refuel. However, excessive hunger or feeling hungry soon after eating is not healthy. Eating foods high in empty calories such as sugar and fat may leave you feeling tired and your body craving adequate nutrition. Choose the right foods for meals and snacks to delay hunger for longer periods and help you curb your appetite.
Eat foods high in dietary fiber. Soluble fiber, which is found in fruit, beans, peas and other foods, absorbs water in your digestive tract. This forms a gel-like mass that slows digestion and keeps you feeling full longer. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that most adults should eat between 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day.
Add whole-grain foods to your meals. Foods such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, whole-wheat bread, barley, bulgur and quinoa help to balance your blood glucose levels and keep you feeling more energized. In contrast, eating refined carbohydrates such as white rice and white bread and pasta causes your blood glucose levels to fluctuate, resulting in hunger pangs soon after eating.
Incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet. At lunch or dinner, have a salad with your meal. Snack on fruits and vegetables between meals. These foods are high in fiber and water content, leaving you feeling satiated and hydrated without adding empty calories. Water-rich foods include tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, watermelon, citrus fruits, cantaloupe and berries.
Include healthy fats in your meals. Eating foods that contain unsaturated fats help signal your brain that you are full. These include olive, canola, corn and nut oils from peanuts, walnuts, pistachios or almonds, and also avocados. Oily fish such as salmon and tuna are good sources of healthy essential fats called omega-3 fatty acids.
Avoid high-glycemic index foods. Processed foods such as cookies, cakes, crackers, chips, candy, soft drinks and other sugary foods cause your blood glucose levels to rise quickly after eating them, making you feel hungry soon after. Starchy foods such as white rice, white pasta, white bread and potatoes also have a high-glycemic index. Choose low-glycemic index foods such as vegetables, legumes and nuts more often to keep your blood sugar levels -- and your appetite -- in check.
- Keep a food journal that records everything you eat and drink for one to two weeks; this can help you find culprit foods that may be causing you to feel excess hunger.
- Illnesses such as thyroid disorders and diabetes can cause excessive hunger; consult your doctor if you notice unexplained changes in your eating habits or other symptoms.
Nadia Haris is a registered radiation therapist who has been writing about nutrition for more than six years. She is completing her Master of Science in nutrition with a focus on the dietary needs of oncology patients.