Why the hell can we not stay full during the day? I talk to and overhear a lot of conversations that involve being hungry from busy students or professionals who are at work many hours of the day. What can they do to ensure they stay away from the vending machines at work or on campus or the shitty dining hall/cafeteria food? There’s a few things you can start doing to stave off those hunger cravings.
1: Plan Your Food, Foo
I can’t stress enough how valuable it is to plan your meals ahead of time. Bodybuilders and gym bros/bras have it right with bringing tupperwares of food with them. Now, it isn’t necessary to bring 50 meals with you for an afternoon of work. One large meal should be fine. Take some time either the night before or a few days before to prepare food for the next day or upcoming week.
When you’re prepping, make sure you’re aware of the shelf-life of the food you’re preparing. Chicken is only good for a few days (I never personally go past 3 days) after cooking. Rice and beans last a bit longer, so those are good options. This link shows a great chart for a wide assortment of foods in terms of their storage life fresh, frozen, cooked, etc. Refer to that link if you’re unsure!
2: A Balanced Meal is King
Having a good mix of protein, carbs, and fat in your meal(s) will provide the best bang for your buck. You get a whole mix of nutrients and can fight off cravings by planning smart! For example, having a carb source that is high in fiber (vegetables, legumes, whole grain bread, etc.) with plant protein or lean meat topped off with a quality fat like avocado (which also has fiber) or canola/olive oil will put you in a great position in terms of feeling full for a long time and getting a lot of nutrients in a short time.
Having a balanced meal also just looks better and tastes better from an aesthetics and palatability standpoint. Having different colors, textures, and tastes in the meal elevates the taste, which is so important. Try it for yourself, and you’ll see even just preparing the food gets you excited to eat it.
3: Fiber, dammit!
I will talk about fiber until the day I die. This is such an important nutrient not only for general health (it helps to lower the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer¹), but it also helps to keep you full and satisfied! If you want to learn more about the intricacies of fiber and why it helps you stay full, read my original post about fiber here.
Fiber is a pretty simply nutrient you can start including in your diet right now. If you’re prepping your food already, you can often exchange the carb sources in the meal for a whole grain or higher fiber option. For example, if you made a sandwich, shoot for the 100% whole grain bread. There’s a difference between 100% whole grain and 12-grain products. 12-grain products are often a hybrid between white bread and whole grain. If whole grain, wheat, etc. is available, go for that for fullness. If not, 12-grain isn’t a bad option.
Fiber is also found in fruits and veggies (why do you think we’re always encouraging you to eat them??). In the position stand by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, they have a great chart outlining a whole bunch of common foods that contain fiber. It’s too long for me to embed here, otherwise I would. Check it out for yourself.
If you’re going out with friends or colleagues, look for options with whole grain bread, fruit, or a side of veggies to increase the fiber and satiety you get from that meal. You can also typically find fiber in protein bars like Quest bars or Complete Cookies. It’s very easy now to get fiber in your diet!
Protein isn’t just for people who go to the gym or the bro who downs a gallon of protein shake. Protein is known as the most satiating macronutrient compared with carbs and fat². Having high protein meals will absolutely help with feelings of fullness and feeling and staying full between meals. You can even double dip and eat foods that are high in protein AND fiber! Then you’re really winning! For example, legumes (beans, lentils, peas, soybeans, etc.) are high in fiber and contain a good amount of protein as well.
Adding protein to your meals (while minimizing the amount of fat that comes from the protein) will keep cravings at bay all day (See what I did there?).
5: Don’t Be Afraid of a Big Meal
Just because a meal is large and may contain a lot of calories (yes, “healthy” food can have a lot of calories) does not mean in any way, shape or form, that is going to make you fat or that it’s “unhealthy”. As a species, we require calories to survive and thrive. Unfortunately, we can’t always eat whenever we freely want to. This should not deter you from eating a bird’s portion when you do get the chance to eat because you’r afraid of gaining weight. If you haven’t eaten all day, chances are you can have a hefty meal and be fine.
Plus, if you’re following these guidelines when having that one meal (balanced, has fiber and protein, etc.), then you may not even eat it all because it will fill you up before you’re finished! My own meals fill up a medium-sized tupperware up to the lid, but I’m okay with it because I know to reach my goals that I need to eat! Food is your friend, let it help you!
What have you done to fight cravings throughout the day? Share below and help someone else! Thanks for reading!
¹Dahl, W., & Stewart, M. (2015). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber. 115(11), 1861.
²Gerstein, Woodward-Lopez, Evans, Kelsey, & Drewnowski. (2004). Clarifying concepts about macronutrients’ effects on satiation and satiety. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 104(7), 1151-1153.