Has your stomach ever growled in anticipation of lunch, even though you just ate breakfast? At some point, we've all fallen victim to an unexplained raging appetite, which can lead to eating snacks that are high in calories, sugar and fat—and, of course, weight gain. But instead of popping pills that'll supposedly curb hunger, turn to something surprising: food. It sounds contradictory, but eating can actually suppress your appetite—as long as you choose the right foods. Try one of these extra-satisfying eats to keep your appetite in check.
There's a reason people are clucking about eggs lately. A recent study from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA, found that overweight people who ate eggs for breakfast take longer to get hungry later. The research participants had lower levels of ghrelin, an appetite-stimulating hormone that tells the brain to eat, and higher levels of PPY, a hormone that helps stomachs feel full. "Eggs are a perfect combination of protein and fat, so they're more satisfying than other breakfast foods," says Julie Kaye, MPH, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian in New York City. Worried about cholesterol? Don't be. "Despite the high content in yolks, eggs aren't the main culprit in raising blood cholesterol," explains Kaye. If you're still concerned, try liquid egg whites, which also contain protein and can stave off hunger.
The green, creamy flesh of an avocado isn't just tasty—it's also filled with fiber and heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. In other words, avocados might be the perfect fill-you-up food. "Foods high in fiber and rich in fat take longer to digest, allowing you to experience less overall hunger—and possibly take in fewer calories," says Erin Palinski, RD, CDE, LDN, CPT, author of the forthcoming Belly Fat Diet for Dummies. Research also shows that avocados' oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat, tells your brain that your stomach is full. Just remember that, nutritious as they are, avocados are high in calories—stick to snacking on half the fruit (about 140 calories) each time.
beans lentils chickpeas peanuts
A serving of beans, lentils, chickpeas or even peanuts delivers the right feel-full combo of lean protein, complex carbs and good fats. According to Julie McGinnis, MS, RD, a registered dietitian, certified herbalist and owner of The Gluten Free Bistro in Boulder, CO, research has shown that this trio can keep blood sugar stable. "And stable blood sugar means getting a full feeling—and keeping it," she says.
4 Cayenne Pepper
cayenne pepper on a plate
This potent spice is a proven appetite suppressant. Researchers from Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, found that people who added half a teaspoon of the red pepper to a meal ate 60 fewer calories at their next meal. Bonus: Sprinkling half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper over some food can cause your body to burn an extra 10 calories. Ay, caramba!
There are lots of reasons to raise your glass for water. H2O is critical for keeping organs, joints, tissues and the digestive system functioning well, but it can also curb hunger, says Elizabeth DeRobertis, MS, RD, CDN, CDE, a registered dietitian in Harrison, NY. In fact, one study showed that participants who drank two cups of water before a meal ate 75 – 90 fewer calories than people who drank no water at all.
6 Greek Yogurt
Rich in calcium and low in sugar, Greek yogurt is protein-packed—a typical six-ounce serving has 15 – 20 grams, which is twice the amount in regular yogurt and about the same as in a piece of lean meat. "The protein in foods is one of the main factors in feeling satisfied," says Kaye. "Protein-rich foods also contain some fat in varying amounts, which also keeps you full for a longer period."
Eat more soup, experience fewer cravings? Absolutely, according to recent research from Pennsylvania State University. In the study, women who ate a serving of low-calorie chicken and rice soup as a morning snack (don't knock it 'til you've tried it!) ate 100 fewer calories at lunch than women who started their day with chicken-and-rice casserole. You can thank soup's high water content for that full feeling—though the fiber-filled veggies and hot temperature don't hurt (dietitians say that sipping warm liquids can curb your appetite). Make sure to slurp broth-based soups, not creamy ones, which can be fatty and highly caloric, says DeRobertis.
All nuts have heart-healthy fats, but almonds contain the most fiber per serving, which can keep you fuller, longer. "Eating about 15 almonds between lunch and dinner can stave off that 4 P.M. energy dip, helping you avoid those cookies in the break room," says Kaye. Interestingly, one study suggested that our bodies may not absorb all of the fat in almonds, which might lead to an overall lower calorie intake when eating them. Still, don't overload on these snacks. "Eating too many almonds spoils your appetite for your next meal and contributes significant calories to your daily intake," says Kaye.