If you’ve ever eaten a bag of chips and then returned to the kitchen an hour later looking for anything to eat, there’s a reason for it. Certain foods, particularly simple and refined carbs like cookies, might cause your blood sugar levels to increase quickly, causing a large amount of insulin to be released, followed by a blood sugar fall. “You get hungry when your blood sugar decreases,” says Caron Sharp, RD, a nutritionist at Colleton Medical Center in Walterboro, South Carolina. One of the causes of hunger is a dip in blood sugar.
Sharp helped us figure out certain items aren’t as filling as others and what you should eat instead.
You may already be aware of certain foods leave you unsatisfied, but do you know why? Here are some foods that will make you want to eat more:
Carbohydrates are necessary for the brain and muscles to function, but not all carbs are made equal. Sugars like fructose and glucose are simple carbs that don’t keep you full for long. “Simple carbohydrates, such as cake and cookies, induce our pancreas to create more insulin, lowering our blood sugar and making us hungry.”
Sharp says she advises a lot of diabetics to stay away from concentrated sugars and sweets. Sugary fruit juices and sodas, she claims, are the worst. “Avoid anything with a lot of processed, concentrated sugars or high fructose corn syrup.” If you want to eat sugar or sweeteners in tiny amounts as part of a well-balanced diet, that’s fine—just make sure you’re replacing them with other carbs.
Complex carbs, on the other hand, such as whole grain rice and bread, are high in fiber, which keeps you satiated for longer while also providing B vitamins and minerals.
How to stay fuller, longer
You don’t have to forego a slice of birthday cake every now and then, but sticking to healthy eating habits for the bulk of the time will likely keep you content and help you maintain a healthy weight. Here are a few simple steps to get you started:
Eat a well-balanced diet: According to Sharp, the most important thing you can do to stay satisfied is to eat a well-balanced diet that contains plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. A well-balanced diet includes whole grains, lean meats like turkey and chicken, healthy fats like avocados and almonds, and low-fat dairy. Half of your plate should be vegetables, one-fourth should be protein, such as lean meat, eggs, chicken, tofu, or fish, and one-fourth should be carbohydrates, the bulk of which should be whole grains.
Sharp advises whole-grain bread, rice, and oats for carbs since they contain a lot of fiber, which slows carbohydrate digestion and keeps them from entering your circulation as quickly.
Eat smaller meals, more often: Noshing every three to four hours can aid in the maintenance of a healthy metabolism as well as muscle mass. Small meals throughout the day can help keep you full, preventing you from reaching for harmful snacks when you’re hungry.
Simply ensure that these well-balanced meals are light: you should feel satisfied but not stuffed after eating them. Is there such a thing as a decent rule of thumb? Aim for a 5 or 6 on a scale of 0 to 10 (where 0 means you’re hungry and 10 means you’re full). If you’re having crackers, for example, couple them with a protein to keep you satiated for longer.