You sit down with good intentions, planning to only eat a few chips. Next thing you know the bag is half-empty and you’re still hungry. It’s not your imagination; certain foods can cause you to feel even hungrier. What’s worse is the more you eat, the hungrier you feel. If you’ve ever felt like a bottomless pit for no obvious reason, check your diet for these seven foods.
White flour foods like crackers, bread, and cookies contain simple carbohydrates and very little fiber. These carbs digest quickly, which produces a rapid spike in blood sugar followed by a fast drop. This plunge in blood sugar causes intense hunger, even if you just ate. Eat Instead: High fiber whole grains like brown rice, farro, or quinoa. Complex carbs digest slower, so they don’t raise your blood sugar as high. Pair grains with some protein and healthy fat, which will help slow down digestion and keep you full for longer.
There’s a reason why it’s impossible to eat just a few chips. Research shows that eating salt triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with our brain’s pleasure center. This means that salty food is addictive in a way similar to nicotine and alcohol. The more salty food you eat, the more you crave. Loading up on salty foods also makes you more thirsty. If you’re turning to water, great. But studies have found a link between salt intake and intake of sugary beverages. Eat Instead: Minimize temptation by keeping salty food out of the house. If you are going to eat a salty food, balance it out with a food high in potassium, like yogurt, avocado, or a banana.
Packaged foods like cereal, cakes, bars, pizza, cookies and pastries are highly processed with large amounts of sugar, salt, and fat. These foods are designed to appeal to your taste buds and lead to more cravings. Plus the high amounts of sugar and refined grains lead to the blood sugar spike and subsequent drop, causing more hunger soon after eating. Eat Instead: Aim to eat as close to the “whole” version of the food at least 80% of the time. Instead of sugary cereal, make oatmeal with vanilla extract, nuts, and fruit. Or instead of pretzels, have whole grain crackers with hummus.
Wine, beer and cocktails are all full of calories, so why do you end up even hungrier after drinking them? Alcohol lowers your defenses, making it easier to eat more than normal. It is tougher to pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues if you are buzzed. Plus booze dehydrates you, which can trick you into thinking you are hungry, when what you really need is water. Drink Instead: Try a wine spritzer to cut the alcohol content. Always alternate each drink with a glass of water. Sparkling water with a splash of juice and a lime wedge is a good alternative to a cocktail.
If you think that granola bar is a healthy choice, you may need to think again. Most of the bars on the market are nothing more than glorified candy bars, with more added sugar than what you need in a day. They are also full of highly processed ingredients, which means they digest quickly and leave you feeling hungry. Eat Instead: Grab a handful of nuts and a few spoonfuls of dried fruit, or try a piece of fruit with nut butter. This way you get a whole, real food, including fiber, protein, and fat. If you do have a granola bar, make sure you choose a healthy version.
While whole fruit has a lot of fiber, this natural appetite-tamer is lost when you drink juice. Not only is juice lower in fiber, but it is high in sugar. Many juices or juice products add extra sugar; even if the juice is fresh-pressed, the sugar content is much higher than a piece of fresh fruit. This high dose of sugar causes a spike in blood sugar, and the eventual crash, leaving you even hungrier. Eat Instead: Reach for the whole piece of fruit so that you get all the fiber and nutrients, which are more filling. If you do drink juice, look for a brand without added sugar, and stick to a four-ounce glass.
While smoothies may seem like health-in-a-bottle, not all are created equal. Many bottled smoothies have the equivalent of 12 to 15 teaspoons of sugar – that is more than you need in an entire day! The freshly made smoothies aren’t much better, often packing three or four servings of fruit in one glass. All this sugar leads to a quick blood sugar rise and fall, making you hungry within an hour or two of drinking the smoothie. Drink Instead: Make your own smoothie with the proper proportions. Stick to one cup of fruit, and add in some leafy green veggies, protein (try Greek yogurt or milk), and some healthy fat (chia seeds, nuts, etc.).
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