By Jody Paglia Tanzman, RD,LDN,CLC
Do you ever feel like you are making smart food choices but you’re never satisfied? And you continue to eat more because you think you are still hungry? Follow these easy tips and you’ll be feeling satisfied throughout the day so you can stop overeating.
DRINK (AND EAT) YOUR WATER
Don’t underestimate the power of water. Nature’s zero calorie elixir serves many important daily functions within the body, such as carrying nutrients and oxygen to each cell of your body and boosting your metabolism. Drinking water between meals throughout the day keeps your tummy full and drinking water before a meal helps to curb hunger, helping you to eat less. Pre-meal drinking can even reduce your caloric intake by 13%, according to a study from Harvard University. Better yet, eat your water. Foods that contain high amounts of water lend more satiety than a glassful of water, due to the need for digestion of the food along with the sensory satisfaction of eating. Broth based soups and water-rich fruits and veggies such as watermelon, strawberries, broccoli, cucumber and radishes are all ways to fill up without a lot of calories.
DON’T GO TOO LONG BETWEEN MEALS
We’ve all been there. You left the house in a rush and didn’t have time for breakfast. You forgot to pack a snack with you and work meetings ran late. When you finally give yourself a meal break you are so hungry you devour everything in sight, destroying your daily health goals. Sound familiar? Skipping meals sets you up for overeating. Ideally you should eat nutrient-rich foods every 4 hours. While some people may prefer to have 5 or 6 small meals a day, for others those small meals do not produce the same satiety response (and causes them to overeat later in the day). In that case, 3 meals and 2 small snacks with plenty of water might be a better plan. Whatever your preference, the goal is to keep your blood sugar levels steady, preventing dips that lead to poor food choices.
Don’t rush through meals. I know, sometimes this is easier said than done. But it takes approximately 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal that you’re full. Also, eating slowly allows you to enjoy the sensory pleasure of eating, satisfying not only your physiological hunger, but also your psychological needs. Take the time to enjoy your meal, actually taste the food and you will feel more satisfied then if you ate quickly and didn’t give your brain time to process what you ate. Hand in hand with this, try to resist eating while distracted; this concept is called mindful eating. Turn off the television, set aside the phone and computer and really focus on your food. Be aware of the smell, taste and texture of every bite or sip. Savor each mouthful and you will become more aware of feeling full, and stop eating before you overeat.
Fiber provides bulk to foods, making them take longer to digest. Keeping the food within your stomach and intestinal tract longer means that it will take more time to become hungry again. This slow digestion (and absorption) of your food helps regulate blood sugar levels and stimulates cells in the gut to secrete satiety hormones. In addition, it takes longer to chew fiber rich foods, allowing your brain adequate time to register fullness.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT FAT AND PROTEIN
Fat and protein keep you feeling fuller longer than carbohydrates. Carbohydrates begin digestion in the mouth (why chips and crackers seemingly dissolve), entering the bloodstream rapidly. Fat and protein, however, take your body much longer to digest. If you are trying to lose weight, you might intuitively want to shy away from these generally calorically high foods. But in actuality, in small amounts these foods will actually help you. Current research suggests that consuming lean proteins may help your body to burn calories, as well as assist you in eating less at subsequent meals. Healthy fats are important for flavor and texture-inducing satisfaction, crucial to inducing satiety while preventing overeating.
MAKE SLEEP AND EXERCISE A PRIORITY
Wait a minute, isn’t this an article on how to not overeat? Yes it is! And getting feelings of fullness and satiety don’t just come from actual food. Hormones in your body are responsible for transmitting those feelings to the brain. Lack of sleep increases hunger-stimulating stress hormones within the body, while adequate sleep (7 hours plus) increases levels of the hormone serotonin. Serotonin is responsible for mood and food intake regulation, and high levels of serotonin help curb food (carbohydrates in particular) cravings. Exercise also releases serotonin, decreasing hunger (though there are some people who may experience the opposite effect post-workout). Physical activity is also an excellent stress reliever, banishing stress hormones like cortisol which increase appetite. Lastly, exercise can increase sensitivity to physiological signs of fullness and suppress the urge to overeat.
Next time you sit down to a meal, think about these helpful tips. You may even leave those last few bites on the plate!