We all have those moments when a nagging hunger takes over our appetites. And before you know it, that bag of potato chips is empty and you’re still trying to savor the crumbs.
This doesn't have to happen to you.
READ: Will Seeing Calorie Counts on Starbucks' Menu Change Your Order?
The key to curbing hunger and preventing binging is by eating appetite-suppressing foods that won’t pack on the pounds.
We asked several health experts to weigh in on the best foods that will fill you up and keep you feeling that way:
Whole Wheat Pasta
“Many people think you need a low-carb diet, but the average adult needs at least 135 grams of carbohydrates a day,” explains New York City-based dietitian and diabetes educator Laura Cipullo. “This is a great way to stave off hunger as long as you pair it with a protein and a fat.” For a last-minute dinner idea, consider whole wheat pasta with grilled chicken.
Researchers at Pennsylvania State University discovered those who ate apples before a meal consumed 187 fewer calories. Health coach Dr. Lori Shemek agrees with the findings on the fiber-filling fruit. “Eating an apple before or after meals will help you feel full in a hurry and this fullness will last longer,” she explains. “Apples are one of the best snacks that will help balance blood sugar. This means it will help prevent you from making poor snack choices.”
Forget those canned variations. Homemade soup featuring plenty of veggies not only make a hearty meal option, but it will also leave you feeling full. “No MSG, cream or salt-laden soups, but rather vegetable quinoa, chicken or spinach leek and white bean,” says personal trainer and exercise physiologist Franci Cohen. “Soup has a high water content, which will fill you up and curb your appetite.” Cohen recommends making soup at home, so you can add fresh, healthier ingredients.
Nutritionist JJ Virgin recommends coconut milk. “It has fat-burning MCTs (medium-chain fatty acids) that reduce hunger,” she explains. Coconut milk can be added in a homemade smoothie for a snack or breakfast on the go. However, not all coconut milk is the same. Always read the label and look out for unsweetened versions that have less than 100 calories per cup.
“A handful of almonds is my go-to food,” says Carol Cottrill, author of “The French Twist: Twelve Secrets of Decadent Dining and Natural Weight Management.” “Because almonds are full of nature’s monounsaturated fat and fiber, they keep you satisfied in very small amounts. Plus they’re delicious, convenient and great for lowering cholesterol and preventing heart disease.” Make sure you reach for the natural, unsalted version.
“Fatty fish like salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids and provides ample amounts of lean protein, which as a fat and protein combination takes longer to digest,” says Cipullo. “The fat is very palatable on the tongue, so it’s great for people who are looking for a dish to pair with greens and whole grains.”
This lean white meat shouldn’t just be reserved for the holiday season. “Turkey is loaded with tryptophan, an amino acid that when it enters the brain, it is converted to serotonin,” says Shemek. “That’s the feel-good neurotransmitter that…turns off the appetite and cravings become a distant memory.”
Fruits in general always make a great yummy snack, but raspberries are the ones you want to have in your fridge. A cup of raspberries has eight grams of fiber, in comparison to blueberries or strawberries, which can have up to four. Fiber is the key ingredient to preventing hunger. “Raspberries are very high in fiber and very low in calories,” says Cohen. “Raspberries are also high in antioxidants and vitamin c.”
This popular green can add more crunch to a bland salad. “With its fibrous leaves, kale takes longer to chew, which slows down your eating and gives your body time to gauge how full you are,” says Cipullo. For a salad that will keep you fuller longer, she recommends adding sliced almonds for extra flavor.
“Greek yogurt is a rich source of calcium, and it's low in sugar and high in protein,” says Cipullo. “It helps slow the digestion of other carbs during your meal.” Cohen agrees. “Greek yogurt is a double dose of protein compared to regular yogurt,” she says. “That extra protein goes a long way when it comes to staying fuller longer.” Enjoy it alone or add fresh fruits or a teaspoon of honey for extra sweetness.