Diet pills, appetite suppressants and slimming teas can take their toll on your health. It’s better to tackle hunger pangs the natural way, so try these simple but effective changes.
Eat more fibre
High-fibre foods will keep you feeling full long after your meal. Foods such as brown rice, bran and oats contain soluble fibre, which acts like a sponge and soaks up moisture in the stomach. The fibre swells up, making you feel full, and also helps to release sugars slowly to prevent energy dips. You can also try high-fibre apples, avocados, beans, broccoli, nuts and seeds.
Eat enough protein
If you experience the 4pm sugar dip, try eating more protein at meal times. A high-carbohydrate meal can make your energy and blood sugar levels peak and then trough. By increasing the amount of protein on your plate, you will help your body convert carbohydrates to sugar more slowly. Make sure 30 per cent of your plate is made up of healthy sources of protein such as chicken, fish, chickpeas and quinoa, and snack on nuts, eggs and cheese.
Research shows the brain recognises thirst and hunger as similar sensations. Before grazing, consider whether you’re thirsty rather than hungry. When you feel a pang, drink a glass of water and wait 20 minutes to see if you still feel hungry. Sip eight to 10 glasses of water throughout the day, and drink a glass of water before each meal to stop you overeating.
Avoid refined carbs
Unlike healthy, unrefined carbohydrates (such as brown rice and oats), refined carbohydrates, including white bread, pasta, sweets and biscuits, are high on the glycaemic index (GI) and release their sugars into your system quickly, giving a short-term energy fix. This is why they leave you feeling hungry again in no time. Even some fruits, such as watermelon, are classed as high-GI carbs because they release sugars quickly. Opt for fibre-rich wholegrains to keep you fuller for longer.
Break bad habits
Are you really hungry? When we’re tired, bored, stressed or sad, we often feel the need to eat. This type of craving is psychological. Habitual eating, such as wanting a dessert after dinner or something to eat at the cinema is also psychological. However, physiological cravings are harder to read. When you’re low on energy or feel light-headed, you’ll crave something to satisfy the need quickly, such as biscuits or chocolate. A protein shake or an apple and some nuts will fill the void in exactly the same way, but will keep you fuller for longer. Try to eat five or six small, nutritious meals a day (three meals and two snacks). Your blood sugar will stabilise and you shouldn’t experience hunger pangs because your body knows it won’t be starved.
Do more exercise
If you think exercise will make you more hungry, think again! Exercise actually prevents cravings and curbs your appetite. Aerobic exercise in particular is proven to trigger the release of the appetite-suppressing hormone peptide YY. Exercise also helps to control blood sugar and the body’s insulin response. Just be sure to eat something nutritious, such as a boiled egg and oatcakes, within half an hour of exercising to help your body recover.