When you’re trying to lose weight, hunger can be the undoing of your diet. It inevitably leads to snacking, and when your body is craving food, you’re most likely to reach for whatever’s close at hand - whether that’s a sugar-filled cookie or a calorific slice of pizza.
So how can you keep hunger at bay - and keep your healthy eating on track? We spoke to nutritional therapist Caroline Sherlock from Eat Drink Live Well, who has shared a list of the top 10 healthy foods that fill you up.
Work the following foodstuffs into your diet plan in order to feel fuller for longer - and avoid pangs of hunger hitting hard.
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‘Almonds have the highest protein and fibre content of all nuts,’ says Caroline. These are two of the most important nutrients when it comes to feeling full and staving off hunger, which is why the best protein powders for weight loss are in such high demand.
2. Greek yoghurt
‘As well as being higher in hunger-reducing protein, Greek yogurt is also lower in carbohydrates than ‘normal’ yogurt, reducing the blood sugar spike that can quickly lead back to hunger,’ says Caroline.
3. Edamame beans
Add edamame beans to salads and stews or enjoy them steamed in their pods as a filling - and heart-healthy - snack. ‘High in protein and fibre, edamame beans also have a low glycemic load (a measure of how quickly and by how much foods will raise blood glucose levels), helping keep hunger at bay,’ says Caroline. High levels of glucose in the blood can also lead to type 2 diabetes, so it’s important to follow a diet that helps lower blood sugar levels.
4. Coconut oil
‘The medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) in coconut oil can help suppress appetite –hence the popularity of Bulletproof Coffee, the keto diet-friendly drink, with added MCT oil,’ says Caroline. Add it to dressings and smoothies, use it to roast vegetables or for baking.
‘Opting for a smooth rather than chunky soup can make all the difference,’ says Caroline. ‘Research shows blending vegetables into soup makes them more filling. Scientists found blended soup stayed in the stomach for longer than vegetables and water consumed separately. Add beans and lentils for extra protein and fibre.’ Just don’t be tempted to add cream to your homemade soup - it may taste good, but it’s full of calories!
Adding to their health hero status, it turns out berries are great at staving off cravings. ‘They have one of the lowest glycaemic loads of all fruits,’ says Caroline. ‘They keep blood-sugar levels stable, so we avoid the energy dip that has us reaching for sugary snacks.’
7. Dark chocolate
Craving something diet-breakingly sweet? Try dark chocolate. It’s lower in sugar than milk chocolate and a 2010 study showed women who ate or even just smelled dark chocolate showed decreased appetite. ‘Look for 85% cocoa or more,’ says Caroline, ‘And don’t go crazy – just a few squares per day!’
Add just half an avocado to your lunch and it’ll reduce your desire to eat by 40% over the next three hours. ‘The combination of healthy fats and fibre in avocado work together to boost that feeling of being completely satisfied and helping us feel full for longer,’ explains Caroline.
‘The high protein content in eggs helps to reduce the hunger hormone ghrelin while also raising levels of peptide YY, a hormone that helps us feel full,’ says Caroline.
10. Oily fish
Get familiar with the satiety index, which measures how full people feel after eating foods. ‘Fish scored higher than protein-rich beef and eggs,’ says Caroline. Opt for oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna - all great omega-3 foods.