Most of us know that if we eat less, we could lose weight, but eating less often leads to not feeling full, and then you’re quickly hungry again (maybe even hangry)! Hunger is one of your body’s strongest and most life-sustaining urges. It makes sure that we consume enough energy for our body to function and survive. Its motivation can drive people to go to crazy lengths to satiate the feeling; people steal and even kill if they are starving. Unfortunately, in times of plenty, we can teach our hunger-urge to stimulate us too easily, and we can feel “hungry” even when our bodies don’t really need the energy. The good news is that we can also retrain it to be more reasonable and to not constantly stimulate us. One way to do that and keep the hungry monster quiet is to eat foods that are filling and keep you full longer. The more full you feel the less amount of food you need to satisfy hunger.
Foods that are made up of mostly water, fiber and/or protein will help you feel full quicker and longer. Surprisingly, liquid foods, such as soups and smoothies can also be quite filling because of their high water content. While they can make you feel full quickly, the fullness may not last as long as protein and fibrous solids foods will. Thin liquids, like water and juices, will leave your stomach quickly, so, in and of themselves, they are not filling. Those that are starchy, sugary and fatty are low on the fullness list and will often leave you hungry and craving more before long.
In 1995, a scale, known as the Satiety Index, was developed to measure the ability of certain foods to satisfy satiety (a.k.a. hunger). Thirty eight different foods were tested, each serving comprised of 240-calories. The 38 foods were separated into six food categories (fruits, bakery products, snack foods, carbohydrate-rich foods, protein-rich foods, breakfast cereals) and were fed to groups of 11-13 subjects each. Foods that were more filling scored higher on the index. Boiled potatoes scored the highest and croissants scored the lowest. Awareness of a food’s satiety index comes in handy because eating foods that score higher on the satiety index can help you eat fewer calories overall, without you going crazy with hunger.
Characteristics of Filling Foods
- High in Fiber – Fiber is filling for two reasons: it slows down the emptying of the stomach and it adds bulk, both of which cause fullness and decreases hunger
- Protein-rich – Protein has a strong satiety factor and when in doubt you can’t go wrong with protein rich foods
- High in Volume – Like we mentioned above, liquids can actually be quite filling, where the thicker they are the more filling they are
- Whole Foods – Unprocessed foods are usually more filling than processed foods
Top 10 Most Filling Foods
- Boiled Potatoes – Although potatoes do contain carbs, they have a high volume of water and contain a certain protein that seems to suppress hunger, and contain no fat
- Eggs – Eggs are high in protein and packed with nutritional value (they have shown to decrease hunger for up to 36 hours after being eaten!)
- Cottage Cheese – Cottage cheese is high in protein, but low in carbs and fat
- Oatmeal – Oatmeal is filling because of its high fiber content and ability to soak up water
- Fish – Fish contains high quality protein, seeming to fend off hunger better and longer than other protein rich foods
- Soups – Even liquid soups proved to be quite filling and took up volume in the stomach sometimes longer than solids
- Meat – Meat has a strong filling ability because it takes longer for your body to break down and digest
- Greek Yogurt – Greek yogurt is thicker and more packed with protein than other yogurts
- Vegetables – Vegetables are full of water and fiber, so eating them prior to or as a meal significant contributes to fullness
- Legumes – beans, peas, lentils and peanuts are loaded with fiber and plant-based proteins giving them a high satiety index