How to Curb Hunger & Suppress Your Appetite – Feel Full on a Diet

hungry woman plateIf you’ve ever dieted, you know how hard it is to stay committed, especially in the wake of constant hunger pangs. Despite eating right and keeping your calories under control, your stomach still growls constantly, which makes you crave food – and tempts you to overeat.

So how do you combat these unwanted pangs of hunger? There are a number of foolproof ways to stop hunger and eat well, all while dieting yourself down to a slimmer, tighter physique.

How to Prevent Hunger While Dieting

1. Eat More Protein

Some people may scoff at the idea of including a surplus of protein in their diet. Unfortunately, cutting out your protein intake can actually spur hunger pangs, increasing your desire to make poor food choices.

The Evidence
According to a 2007 study by Purdue University, men who ate less protein experienced more “appetite sensations” – that’s scientific talk for more hunger pangs throughout the day. This usually occurred when men ate less than the recommended dietary allowance.

Meals with high protein content can also improve fullness and curb the desire to eat late at night. A 2005 study reported by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that adults who ate higher protein meals felt more full, even when they didn’t lower their carbohydrate intake.

If you’re dealing with an insatiable desire to eat, consider eating more protein. Compared to lower protein diets, higher protein diets are effective at promoting satiety (fullness) and a lessened desire to eat.

However, you don’t need to gorge on protein for these hunger-suppressing benefits: Consider adding a serving of protein, such as a chicken breast or a half cup of beans, to your next meal to reduce unwanted hunger.

chicken breast vegetables

2. Add More Fiber

Cutting out processed foods and replacing them with more wholesome foods, such as whole grains and vegetables, isn’t just good for your health – it also improves appetite control. One of the reasons this occurs is because wholesome foods contain more fiber, whereas processed items usually contain very little.

The Evidence
Numerous studies have shown that fiber helps improve appetite control and can help people control their weight. According to a 2001 review reported by the Pediatric Clinics of North America, short-term studies show that eating high-fiber foods, such as whole grains and non-starchy vegetables, helps promote satiety. A 2001 study also showed that increasing fiber intake helps people feel fuller longer after a meal. Fiber’s effects are more profound in obese people, who eat much fewer calories after increasing their fiber intake.

Feel hungry often? Make sure you’re eating enough fiber. You can check the fiber content of foods by checking their nutrition labels. Women should aim for 20 grams of fiber per day, while men should aim for 30 grams. Eating at least one source of fiber per meal can easily help you meet your intake. A few good sources are whole grains, fruits, and beans.

eating beans adds protein to your diet

3. Make Sure You’re Eating Enough Fat

It seems counterintuitive, but this little gem if done in moderation can actually help you lose weight. Since the 1980s, dieters have associated dietary fat with the fat on their bodies, such as the fat on their hips, thighs, and belly. To lose weight, some dieters drastically lower their fat intake, hoping to promote fat loss. Unfortunately, eating too little fat can increase hunger, and can even worsen or create health problems.

The Evidence
Less isn’t always better in this case. Dietary fat helps delay gastric emptying, which can keep hunger at bay. Cut the fat intake too low and you’ll feel hungrier. You’ll also harm your hormone production, and will have lower HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol). From a health and hunger standpoint, low-fat diets just aren’t good.

To curb hunger, ensure you’re eating enough fat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that your fat intake compromise 20% to 35% of your total calories. For example, if you eat 2,000 calories per day, 400 to 700 of these calories should come from fat. To meet your fat intake, add more polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats, such as avocados, peanut butter, fish, or olive oil to your diet. Avoid trans fat, and keep the saturated fats to a minimum when possible.

avocados contain healthy fats

4. Add More Water to Food

It’s a strange concept, but by adding more water to your favorite foods, you’ll stay fuller for longer, due to two unique effects water has on our appetite.

The Evidence
According to Barbara Rolls, a professor of nutrition at Penn State, adding water to food – such as creating broth-based soups – makes the food serving look physically more voluminous, making people think they’re eating more. In turn, dieters seem to get more satisfaction from eating these voluminous foods, despite the fact that they really don’t contain more calories. Water-based foods also leave the stomach more slowly, allowing people to feel full for longer.

Consider adding water or broth to your favorite meals to add more volume. Making meals into soups or curries are excellent ways to create volume and satisfy your hunger. To add even more volume, add low-calorie, fibrous veggies, such as broccoli or asparagus.

add water food

5. Make Sure You’re Eating Enough Calories

As with fat, consuming too few calories is not good for your health. Many people often drastically cut their caloric intake in hopes of losing more weight, but actually have a harder time losing weight and constantly feel hungry.

The Evidence
After about three days of extreme caloric restriction, your body lowers its metabolism, making it harder to lose weight. In turn, you need to eat fewer calories to lose weight because your metabolism dips. For example, people with serious eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, have exceedingly low calorie needs because of the effects of starvation – some even maintain their weight by eating less than 1,000 calories a day.

And of course, if you’re not eating enough, you’re going to feel really hungry.

As a rule of thumb, eat no less than 20% of your maintenance intake, the amount of calories you need to sustain your weight. For example, if you maintain your weight on 2,000 calories, you should eat no less than 1,600 calories per day. This ensures you’re not restricting your calories too drastically, and that you lose weight safely without experiencing massive hunger pangs.

nutrition facts measuring tape

Final Word

Dieting isn’t always easy, but you can make it more manageable by reducing your hunger. Instead of suffering, diet intelligently: Eat more voluminous, low-calorie foods, preferably high in fiber, and make sure you’re consuming substantial fat and calories. After all, the key to successful dieting is sticking to your diet, which will become much easier once you master hunger control.

What methods have you used to stop being so hungry while dieting?

  • Tyler S.

    Adding water to your food is an interesting idea, definitely wouldn’t have thought of that, but I would say just plain drinking a lot of water throughout the day on its own is going to help you feel full between meals. I keep my water bottle with me at all times.

    • Amy Livingston

      Actually, research shows this doesn’t really work. In controlled experiments, people eat the same amount of food at meals no matter how much water they drink before or during the meal. It appears that your stomach responds differently to water in food than it does to water drunk with food or in between meals. When you drink water by itself, it passes through your system much more quickly than it does when your stomach has to sort out the water from the solids in your food. (That’s why diet books always advise you not to “drink your calories”: drinking a soda increases caloric intake without doing anything to satisfy your hunger.)

      However, some liquids – such as broth, milk, or vegetable juice – do satisfy hunger, because they have enough solids in them to give your stomach something to work on. They stay in your stomach longer and keep you feeling full.

  • Amy Livingston

    Your math doesn’t work here: “As a rule of thumb, eat no less than 20% of your maintenance intake, the amount of calories you need to sustain your weight. For example, if you maintain your weight on 2,000 calories, you should eat no less than 1,600 calories per day.” Twenty percent of 2,000 calories would be a mere 400 calories – clearly not enough for anyone. Presumably, what you meant to say was “Eat no less than 80% of your maintenance intake.”