Can’t seem to satisfy your hunger? Tuck into the right foods and feel fuller for longer, and if you do feel the need to snack, snack on the right foods.
When you’re trying to lose a few pounds, it’s those pesky but all too familiar hunger pangs that are the most common reason for throwing in the towel and scoffing a pack of chocolate chip cookies. By choosing your foods more carefully and including plenty of those that fill you up but not out, you can stay fuller longer and curb the cravings that lead to kilojoule overload. Interestingly, scientists have found you tend to eat about the same amount of food every day, with how full you feel based on the weight and/or volume of food, not its kilojoule content. One of the key ways to feel full and stay trim is to build your diet around low energy density foods – those that provide plenty of weight and bulk, but with few kilojoules. Choosing foods that are higher in protein, fibre and complex carbohydrates can also trigger satiety mechanisms and help curb hunger more effectively. To feel optimally full on fewer kilojoules, here’s our top 10 filling foods.
In the satiety index created in the Nineties by researcher Dr Susanna Holt at the University of Sydney, boiled potatoes were top of the fullness scale, ranking three times more satisfying than white bread. Not all potatoes are created equal, however. Chips, with their higher fat content, score much lower in their ability to satisfy.
Eating two high-protein scrambled eggs for breakfast contributed to greater satiety compared with bagel consumption up to the same kilojoule level, according to a study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. What’s more, participants’ energy intake was reduced over the following 36 hours, and blood cholesterol levels remained unchanged.
Fish is high in protein, which, gram for gram is a better appetite buster than carbohydrate or fat. Moreover, fish, especially white fish has fewer kilojoules than meat, which means you can eat a bigger portion. Try jazzing up grilled poached white fish with a chunky tomato sauce laced with a little chilli.
Porridge proved to be twice as satisfying as Special K on the University of Sydney’s satiety index. Instant porridge only needs a boiled kettle to be ready in no time at all, and is great if you’re on the run. If you have a little more time, add a kick with cinnamon, a drizzle of honey or your favourite dried fruit. You can even cook porridge in a slow cooker overnight, so you wake up to a hearty breakfast.
Of course all green vegetables are healthy and low in kilojoules, but broccoli stands out in the stomach-filling
stakes as it’s bulkier than other vegies, taking up room on your plate and in your stomach. Compare a Mars bar with 10 large portions of broccoli – they both contain around 1200 kilojoules– and you can see how the broccoli will fill you up far more. It’s a fabulous source of vitamins and antioxidants too.
Chicken noodle soup
Listed by the British Nutrition Foundation as one of the lower energy density foods, chicken noodle soup (or you could choose minestrone or any other non-creamy soup) is the ultimate filling but non-fattening food.Satiety expert Dr Barbara Rolls of Pennsylvania State University found women consumed an average of 418 fewer kilojoules when offered chicken and rice in a soup, rather than as a casserole, or as a chicken and rice dish with a separate glass of water.
Popcorn has stomach-filling volume and provided you avoid buttered, toffee or sugared types, it can fill you wonderfully well without ruining your diet. Popcorn is a delicious snack, especially when it’s still warm.
All fruit is wonderfully filling, but apples are particularly convenient and portable. Also, the pectin fibre they contain swells in the digestive system, giving them the edge as a low-kilojoule satiating food. If you’re tempted by a biscuit, have one of these versatile fruits instead.
Plain, unfilled pasta is a really filling food – wholewheat varieties particularly so. The low glycaemic index (GI) will keep hunger curbed for a decent amount of time, but do keep an eye on portion size – pasta is satisfying, precisely because you don’t need to eat lots of it to feel full. A fist-sized portion is about right.
All pulses have a really low GI, meaning they release their energy slowly, and are among the best appetite-curbing foods in existence. Pop them in soups, salads and casseroles for extra bulk without adding many kilojoules. Good old baked beans count too!
Words: Angela Dowden