Are there times when your appetite fluctuates or seems to increase? Extra workouts (eg, summer challenge, running, swimming, skiing), inconsistent meals or meal timing, eating nutrient poor foods, and boredom can be factors for a bump in appetite just to name a few.
Strategies that may help include eating foods that are satisfying, having meals at more consistent times, and beginning meals with lower caloric density foods.
Foods That Satisfy
There is solid research that fiber and fat rich foods satisfy. Research is ongoing to determine whether protein is satiating; some people feel satiated when consuming protein when others do not or certain circumstances are needed for protein to be satiating. Since fiber-rich foods have an abundance of other nutrients too, many that are antioxidants and anti-inflammatory, these are the ones to include the most.
Sources of fiber: whole vegetables and fruits, whole grains (eg, oats, popcorn, quinoa, barley, brown rice), starchy vegetables (eg, potato, [sweet and regular], many squashes, peas, corn)
Sources of good fats: nuts, avocado, and olive oil
Routinely eating these foods (ie, nutrient dense) can also help achieve more consistent athletic performance.
Consider Meal Timing
Meal timing can be factor when it comes to appetite. For example, someone eats lunch at 11:30 am and supper at 7:00 pm. It is not surprising that this person may be extremely hungry at supper. Shortening the length of time between meals or including a nutrient dense snack mid-afternoon helps avert extreme hunger, and potential overeating, in the evening.
Kick off a Meal with a Soup or Salad
Research looking at total intake at meals has found that when individuals consume soup or vegetable salad before a meal, the total intake of energy is less during the meal. Salads with a large of amount of dressing or cheese can offset the calories saved, so proceed with this in mind.
Check and Recheck
A driver for an increase in appetite is a need for food, but dehydration, boredom, or stress and emotional needs can, at times, also feel like hunger. Physiological hunger can be addressed by eating most any food. If eating a piece of fruit, for example, feels like it won’t help, try drinking some water. If food and water do not address the need, it is likely that another cause, like boredom or a non-food related need, may be at work.
Taken one by one, these strategies seem simple, but they aren’t always easy. Planning is needed to ensure that meal and snack options are available. Planning meals and snacks is like any other skill, though, it can be learned and will become easier with practice.
Happy and healthful eating,
Donna G. Pertel, MEd, RD, LDN
If this blog on appetite has you puzzled or still hungry, contact me at [email protected]