Meals not filling you up? Try these seven everyday foods that can help prevent overeating and keep you full.
It’s nice to feel full and satisfied at the end of a meal—especially if you can do it without overeating. But in order to do that, you’ll need to choose foods carefully so that you can fill up without busting your calorie budget. If you know what makes a food filling, you can incorporate more filling foods into your day and reduce your risk of overeating.
What Makes Foods Filling
There are a few reasons why some foods are more filling than others. Foods that provide protein help to fill you up, because protein takes longer to digest than either fats or carbohydrates. Protein gives foods some staying power.
A little healthy fat in a meal helps fill you up, because fat slows the rate at which your stomach empties. Since food stays in your stomach a little longer, a little dab of fat may make a meal more satisfying.
High-fiber foods can also help fill you up in a couple of ways. One type of fiber adds volume to foods without adding calories. And another type of fiber slows the rate at which your stomach empties, which helps keep you fuller for a longer time.
Foods that contain a lot of water or air can also help fill you up, because they add volume (without adding a single calorie). Most of us determine our own personal fullness from a set volume of food—a volume that doesn’t really vary that much from meal to meal. So, if a food gets some of its volume from fiber or air or water—all of which are calorie-free—that low-calorie food takes up space in your stomach and contributes to fullness.
Eggs. Protein is more filling than fat or carbohydrate, and a single egg provides almost 7 grams of protein for less than 70 calories. If you choose to have the whites only, each egg white gives you about 3 grams of protein for only about 20 calories. And eggs are super-versatile for both main dishes and as snacks. Make it even more filling: Add vegetables. Their water and fiber content will help fill you up. Add veggies to an omelet, or slice a hard-boiled egg onto some fresh tomato slices for a filling snack.
Oatmeal. Oatmeal is a rich source of soluble fiber, which swells up and thickens when it comes in contact with liquid. Soluble fiber makes food more filling and slows digestion time. A small portion of oatmeal makes a really filling snack. Make it even more filling: Combine your oatmeal with protein and/or a healthy fat. Try cooking rolled oats in milk or soy milk, then stir in some protein powder once it’s done cooking. To add healthy fat, try stirring in a spoonful of almond butter.
Bean soup. Like oatmeal, beans are an excellent source of water-soluble fiber, plus they have an added advantage in that they contain protein, too. A typical bowl of black bean soup could provide about 15 grams of healthy plant protein. Make it even more filling: Have a mixed vegetable salad with a drizzle of olive oil on the side. The fiber in the mixed salad and the healthy fat from the olive oil will complement the staying power of the protein and soluble fiber found in the soup.
Raspberry Protein Shake. A protein shake made with protein powder, milk or soy milk and raspberries will fill you up with a one-two punch of protein and fiber. Make it even more filling: Add ice cubes to your shake and blend for several minutes. Ice thickens up the shake, and the long blending time pumps lots of air into your shake, increasing the serving size.
Nonfat Greek-style Yogurt. Greek-style yogurt packs twice as much protein as traditional yogurt. A typical single-serve container has about 15 grams of protein and less than 100 calories. Skip the sweetened versions and add your own sweetener. You’ll likely add a lot less sugar than the manufacturer does. On its own, yogurt makes a great snack, but it’s also great added to soups and smoothies to boost protein and provide a creamy texture. Make it even more filling: Add fiber. Top your yogurt with high-fiber berries, or go savory and mix plain Greek-style yogurt with chopped veggies—try cucumber, carrot and red bell pepper. And top with a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Avocado. Good-for-you fats like those found in avocado slow digestion time, which helps give avocado its staying power. Make it even more filling: Combine with some protein. Mix mashed avocado with canned tuna and stuff the mixture into whole grain pita bread, spread on top of a few whole-grain crackers as a snack, or scoop onto mixed greens for lunch.
Grapefruit. Like most fruits, grapefruit has a good amount of water and fiber, both of which fill you up. Since it’s lower in sugar than most fruits, it has fewer calories per bite. Make it even more filling: Combine with some healthy fat. Avocado-grapefruit salad is a classic combination. Simply toss red grapefruit sections and avocado slices with a little vinaigrette made with olive oil and white wine vinegar.
Susan is the Sr. Director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife, where she is responsible for the development of nutrition education and training materials, and is one of the primary authors of the Herbalife-sponsored blog, www.discovergoodnutrition.com. She is a Registered Dietitian and holds two Board Certifications from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, and a Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management. Susan is also a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Susan graduated with distinction in biology from the University of Colorado, and received her master’s degree in Food Science and Nutrition from Colorado State University. She then completed her dietetic internship at the University of Kansas. Susan has taught extensively and developed educational programs targeted to individuals, groups and industry in her areas of expertise, including health promotion, weight management and sports nutrition.
Prior to her role at Herbalife, she was the assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, and has held appointments as adjunct professor in nutrition at Pepperdine University and as lecturer in nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Susan was a consultant to the (then) Los Angeles Raiders for six seasons, and was a contributing columnist for the Los Angeles Times Health Section for two years. She is a co-author of 23 research papers, 14 book chapters, and was a co-author of two books for the public: “What Color is Your Diet?” and “The L.A. Shape Diet” by Dr. David Heber, published by Harper Collins in 2001 and 2004, respectively.