There's a good chance when I sit down to start work in the morning, I will open my my direct messages on Instagram to find 8-10 unique individuals writing me to inquire,
"I'm hungry all the time, what do I do?"
To address the obvious, eat. If you're hungry, the low-hanging fruit is most obviously to increase the portion size and/or frequency of your meals.
More specifically, you want to ensure your meals satisfy both the stretch and density receptors in the stomach (yes, it has both!).
Every snack you eat should contain satiety activators like water, fiber and/or protein.
Lets double click into that.
You want to eat foods high on what's called the Satiety Index. There’s actually a study published on PubMed called the Satiety Index of Common Foods. It tested 38 foods and showed what happened when people ate 240 calories of any one of them (oatmeal, popcorn, jelly beans, etc.), waited two hours, and then went to an all-you-can-eat buffet. The big question was, how hungry were they still? Which snacks prompted them to feel more satisfied and consume less calories two hours later?
The results of this study were, and are, some of the most potent and empowering advice I give to my clients surrounding the topics of weight loss, fullness and satiety.
And for your convenience, I've synthesized the results for you in a single, color-coded resource.
The results here are grouped by category. In other words, muesli was the least satiating in the breakfast cereals category, porridge the most satiating in that category, and so on.
Boiled potatoes were the season MVP by far, scoring a whopping 320 on the index. Oatmeal, popcorn, apples, oranges, whole wheat pasta, and baked beans are other fantastic choices. And since then, soup, quinoa, and small amounts of nuts/seeds atop meals and snacks have proven to score highly on the satiety index as well.
The difficult part comes in being honest with ourselves about this information.
Boiled potatoes - that’s what ranked highest in the fullness factor - not fried potatoes, not hash brown patties, not baked potatoes loaded with cheese and sour cream or roasted potato wedges tossed in oil & sea salt.
Boiled. Ugh, the truth is so unsexy at times.
In addition to the satiety index, I always advise my patients to be mindful of ready-prepared, frozen, drive-through or delivery-type meals as well.
If you make the food yourself, you not only control what’s in there, but you can also appreciate the time & resources that went into that preparation.
That's how we address the boredom factor. That's how we tackle heart-hunger. That's the reason you're still hungry after scarfing down your breakfast cereal.
We've lost the art of preparing our own food & savoring the sensory experiences (sight, touch, taste, sound, smell) along the way!
Finally, eat what you love.
Eating food you love doesn't just make you happy, it also helps you avoid plowing through ten mediocre snacks on your way to the real deal in an effort to avert the inevitable!
If intrusive food thoughts narrate your every waking moment, or if food is a primary coping mechanism for you, consider seeing a licensed therapist to help shed light on any subconscious beliefs or motives at play.
Food should be entertaining, it should taste amazing, it may even comfort you or tie you to family traditions or culture...but a primary coping mechanism for life’s tribulations? Chocolate chips aren't your Miyagi.
Don’t give food a job only you, an educated professional & some serious inner work can accomplish. I’ve been there. So has almost every other Dietitian I’ve ever met.
Therapy is necessary for most people. If you need it, prioritize it. Prioritize it like you prioritize paying rent every month. Alternatively, talk to your employer or insurance provider, as certain forms of therapy are often covered or subsidized by these parties.
*Pro tip: There are actual therapists that specialize in nutrition counseling & health psychology. Seek them out - they are frighteningly talented.
A note on food addition:
Heavily processed foods tend to contain more of those appetite stimulants like sugar, salt, oils, margarines, chocolate, flour-products, or others. It's critical to understand that every individual has a unique tolerance & relationship to those.
For some people, small amounts of real sugar like Ben & Jerry's ice cream can help them feel satisfied so they don’t go snacking on dried fruit and gluten-free cookies all day long. Whereas for others, sugary ice-cream and other foods containing those potentially-addictive components may trigger binging tendencies. If you suspect you may have addictive tendencies around food or certain food components, consider taking a food addiction test like this one. A licensed therapist and/or Registered Dietitian are great places to begin on your journey to food freedom.
I hope you found this post empowering and informative.
If you're looking for more ways to incorporate delicious and filling plant foods into your life in practical, decadent ways - be sure to check out my favorite go-to recipes, linked here.
Thanks for dropping by my little corner of the internet!
This post was written & medically reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.
Grace Pascale, MS, RDN. Grace Pascale Nutrition.