You likely know it well—that dreaded gnawing that appears in your stomach just hours after you’ve eaten breakfast, when the next meal feels so far away. But I just ate, you tell yourself and your grumbling belly. What did I do wrong? There are a few reasons for this unwelcome hunger—and a few easy ways to make sure you always feel satiated and full. Here’s what some of the country’s best dietitians had to say.
Eat more protein, fiber, and fat.
I think the No. 1 reason people are hungry all the time is from lack of protein and/or fiber in their diets. Both of these components will help keep you feeling fuller longer and are more satiating with a meal.
Low-fiber and low-fat diets are the biggest culprits behind insatiable hunger. These foods take a short amount of time to digest and do not satiate you for long periods of time. Low-fiber foods cause your sugar levels to spike and then decline and do not keep you full. Low-fiber foods are devoid of the outer layers of the grain, which provides nutrients as well as takes longer for your body to process. Same goes with low-fat foods—they're not satiating. Eating good-quality fats like avocado, nuts, seeds, and full-fat organic dairy keeps you fuller for longer periods of time since it takes your body longer to digest than their low-fat equivalent.
Often the No. 1 reason people are hungry is because they simply don't eat enough, specifically enough protein and fat. Think back to a time you’ve just had cereal or oatmeal for breakfast only to be ravenous an hour or two later. Now compare that to eating eggs and a piece of toast with peanut butter on it—much more satisfying, right? Processed carbohydrates such as the cereal example above, and even real carbohydrates like steel-cut oats do not stimulate your stomach to produce cholecystokinin (CCK), a neurotransmitter that tells your brain, "I'm full and satisfied." But eating a balanced meal with enough protein, fat, and quality carbs (vegetables!) helps balance blood sugar and stimulate the release of CCK. This means that you can keep working and enjoying life without constantly feeling like you're starving.
—Brenna Thompson, R.D., of Nutritional Weight & Wellness
Snacking too much.
The top reason I see for my clients being hungry all the time is snacking versus having balanced meals. When you do this, you never really give their body a chance to be truly satisfied and satiated, which, ironically, makes you reach for another snack shortly thereafter.
Make sure you're combining food properly for satiation.
I think that people are hungry so often because they don't always know how to properly combine nutrients for ultimate satiation. I always tell my clients to try and combine a protein, fiber, and healthy fat at mealtimes. Consider this: if you were to eat an apple to hold you over between meals, you would likely be hungry again shortly after. If you were to eat an apple with 2 tablespoons of nut butter, you would be satisfied for a lot longer. That's because you would be combining fiber from the apple with protein and fat from the nut butter, versus eating the fibrous apple alone.
Don't overlook emotional factors.
My clients who come to me saying they're hungry all the time mostly comes from blood sugars that are out of balance, they're not eating enough, they're overexercising, or they're not as aware of their mind-body connection as they could be (i.e., mindless eating and "thinking" they're hungry when it's really a craving coming from an emotional factor).