Dietitian Kate Marsh has come up with a plan to help you balance what you eat and how full you feel. You will be satisfied without falling prey to weight gain.
"I eat healthily but I just eat too much." Does this sound like you? Even the healthiest eaters can find themselves overeating or eating at times when they aren't really hungry. If this sounds like you, then a focus on better appetite management can really help you match food intake with energy needs to stay in shape, says Matt O'Neill, Accredited Practising Dietitian and director of SmartShape.
Many things can affect our appetite, from hormones and emotional factors to the types of food we eat and how they are presented. These factors differ from one person to the next, but there are a few things we can all do to take control of our appetite, prevent ourselves from overeating and maintain a healthy weight.
Reduce energy density
Energy density is the measure of kilojoules in a given volume of food - foods with a low energy density give you a much larger volume of food for the same amount of energy as a food with a high energy density. Think fruit and vegetables – for the same kilojoules as a 50g chocolate bar you could eat 4 apples or 8 carrots – which do you think would be most filling?
Go for low-GI foods
A number of studies have shown that carbohydrate foods with a low glycemic index (GI) produce greater satiety and reduce the amount eaten at a subsequent meal. Low-GI carbs are those that are more slowly digested and absorbed, and include oats, wholegrain breads, pasta, legumes and most fruits.
Watch portion size
Whether it's a sandwich, snack food or meal, research has shown that if we are served larger portions we will eat them, without feeling any fuller or reducing our subsequent food intake. One study found that even when subjects were given larger portions of all food and drinks for 11 days, they continued to consume the larger amounts with no signs of cutting back.
Fill up on fibre
A recent study found that a supplement of soluble fibre increased satiety and led to greater weight loss in overweight subjects – an extra 4kg over 16 weeks. Foods high in soluble fibre include oats, legumes, barley, oat bran, rice bran, psyllium husks and some fruits.
Slow down your eating
Matt suggests to try slowing down your eating and give yourself a chance to feel full. "Research has found that the brain's signal that you have eaten occurs about 10 minutes after you start your meal." Based on this, Matt's advice is to give yourself a minimum eating time of 10 minutes.
Top food for feeling full
When it comes to feeling full, some foods satisfy more than others. Fill up on these and you will no longer feel hungry.
In addition to other health benefits, fish is more satisfying than other animal proteins. Include a few fish meals a week in your diet.
High in fibre and low in energy density, vegetables and salads are the key to losing weight and still feeling full. Ensure half of your plate includes vegies and salads.
Fruit makes a perfect snack or dessert, satisfying sweet cravings without the fat and extra calories. High fibre and water content gives it low energy density and most fruit is low GI.
Legumes are perfect to add to meals if you want to feel full. High in soluble fibre, a good source of protein and low GI. Add to soups and salads or substitute for meat in casseroles.
Wholegrains such as grainy breads, oats, barley, cracked wheat and quinoa are rich in fibre and have a low GI, filling you up for longer.
Matt's 10 feel full fundamentals
10 suggestions to help you take control of your appetite and feel full on less.
Eat and drink slowly: Take at least 10 minutes to eat, to give your stomach a chance to feel full.
Soup and salad: Low-fat soups and salads offer large portions with little kilojoules. Start your meal with soup or salad and you will feel full faster.
Drink more water: Drinking water before or with your meals can help your stomach reach capacity more quickly and may also help if you get the munchies between meals.
Chew more: Foods that require more chewing will slow down your eating time and take longer to digest.
Go for wholegrains: High-fibre foods add bulk to your diet and slow down digestion. Try wholegrain or wholemeal versions of bread, cereals, pasta and rice.
Add more protein: Add lean protein, such as lean ham or chicken breast, to your lunchtime salads or sandwiches. It will fill you up and help avoid the mid-afternoon munchies.
Add spices: If your main meals are a little bland, add flavour with herbs, spices and condiments. This can satisfy your taste buds sooner and help you limit your portion sizes.
Have smaller serves: Eating on smaller plates can create the illusion that you're eating more. If you're thinking about seconds, ask yourself whether you really need it.
Listen to your body: Before you eat, stop and ask yourself: Am I really hungry? What do I really feel like eating? Would something healthier satisfy me?
Stay active: Physical activity helps your hypothalamus down-regulate your appetite and balance your energy requirements.