Appetite control is all about maximising satiety in order to feel fuller longer. Hands up if you associate the word ‘diet’ with hunger, frustration and feeling miserable? It’s almost impossible to focus on eating less if you are constantly hungry. When it comes to weight control I cannot be the only person who finds the advice ‘Eat less and move more’ completely unhelpful. What we need instead is practical, evidence based nutrition tips to help us manage our hunger levels and ensure we have a number of easy strategies which help us stay fuller longer. The good news is that foods which are filling tend to be bursting with nutrients, a win win for both appetite control and our health!
Satiety is the feeling of ‘fullness’ and lack of hunger after food is consumed. It is triggered by a number of signals which are released along the digestive tract as a food or drink is consumed, digested and absorbed. These messages or signals are received by a part of the brain called the hypothalamus which then signals to us to stop eating.
Foods which are digested more slowly also help to stabilise our mood and energy levels. The energy is released at a gentle and constant rate as we digest the food, so we avoid drops in our blood sugar levels, and we can keep functioning until the next meal.
Evidence based nutrition = a practice that has been rigorously evaluated by scientific studies!
Protein power Protein rich foods such as meat, fish, chicken, eggs and seafood as well as vegetarian and vegan alternatives like beans and lentils and tofu, are digested slowly. While the exact time varies, depending on the quantity and other nutrients contained in a food, proteins take about 4-5 hours to pass from your stomach to the small intestine, before being absorbed.
A practical tip is to ensure that every meal or snack contains a protein rich food, as this will help to keep you feeling fuller for longer and this in turn helps to ensure that your energy levels stay stable.
And no, this does not mean that you need to have a steak for breakfast! Nuts, eggs, a dairy or non dairy equivalent are all good choices. Vegetarians and vegans need to ensure their meals contain a variety of vegetable protein, such as beans, lentils, tofu and quinoa in addition to cereals.
Binge on vegetables! They are possibly the one food group you can eat in an unlimited quantity! The aim is for a minimum of 5 portions a day in order to meet our nutrient requirements, with a portion size being roughly equivalent to 80g. Vegetables are also a perfect example of a ‘high volume’ but ‘low calorie density’ food. This means you can eat a huge volume without taking in too many calories. Our stomach like ‘volume’ without being too particular about the composition of our plates.
My personal tip? I systematically fill my plate 50% with vegetables, before adding my protein and carb. This keeps my meals lighter in terms of energy, but sufficiently filling in terms of appetite control.
The fullness factor of fibre! Fibre is the term used for substances found in plants (so vegetables, fruits, cereals, beans and lentils) which cannot be broken down by our digestive systems. For cereals, the fibre is mainly found in the outer layers of the grain. Wholegrain foods contain these outer layers, while for white ‘refined’ cereals, these layers have been removed, making them lower in fibre. So why is it important to consume fibre then if we can’t digest it?! For appetite control, higher fibre foods are digested slower than lower fibre foods. While we cannot digest fibre, the microorganisms that inhabit our digestive tract love it! They convert fibre to fuel. These microorganisms play a vital role in ensuring our digestion tract works efficiently and we now know that they also ensure our immune systems work optimally.
Where possible, select wholegrains rather than refined grains, so brown rice, bread or pasta is better for both appetite control and health than white bread, pasta, rice.
Drink water! This is an easy one! Quite simply drinking a glass of water just before a meal helps to fill the stomach up. The stretch receptors in the stomach begin to send messages to the brain which then helps to optimise satiety signalling. A study found that drinking a glass of water before every meal helped with weight control.
Fizzy water might possible optimise satiety signalling quicker than still water as it takes up slightly more space in the stomach, but water in general, whether fizzy or still is a good appetite control strategy!
Enjoy slow meals! Do you devour your food or do you savour it? Our satiety signalling tends to kick in after about 30 minutes. So, if you eat your food within 10 minutes, the risk is that you could then go back for seconds without realising you have had enough to eat. This can leave you feeling uncomfortably full once the brain receives the satiety signals!Mindful eating is a technique which encourages you to slow down, taking the time to enjoy your food and being more aware of the physical and emotional cues of appetite and hunger.
Practical tip. If you find it impossible to eat more slowly, try to wait at least 30 minutes once you have finished eating, before consuming more food. This allows a) the satiety signalling to keep in and b) will distract you enough that you might forgot you wanted more food!