Fill Up, Not Out

Dear Leah Renee, 

I’m finding that some foods fill me up for a while, but after some meals I feel hungry again soon after and  end up snacking too much between meals.  I don’t want to put on weight because I feel like I’m making good choices, but sometimes I get hungry too often.  Any suggestions?  –Elsie K., CA

When I was younger,  I remember my Step-Mom telling me there was only one way for her to grow now at this point in her life, and it wasn’t up.  I knew what she meant, but couldn’t relate yet.  I certainly can now!  I’m done growing, I’m sure you are too.  Well, we hope.  It was really exciting to stand against that wall–you know, the one you measured your height on and drew a new line admiring your new, greater height each school year?  A proud moment indeed when you realize you’re a bit ‘bigger’.  As we get older (when we no longer measure ourselves against that wall), getting bigger doesn’t have quite the same appeal.  Just like my Step-Mom said: there’s only one way to grow now, and at this point, it’s only out.

How do we make sure not to fill out?  Fill up!  On the right foods, that is.  You do that, right?  Maybe.  I’m sure you do it, but doing it properly with the right foods will maximize your health, emotions, wellness, and not your waistline.  The best way to achieve filling up, not out, is to load up with foods that are filling yet satisfying so there’s not much room for anything else.  It’s a lot easier to pass on unhealthy foods if you’ve already got a full stomach.  The other bonus to filling foods is how long they actually keep you full.

Eating foods that have the right amount in protein, fat, fiber, and carbohydrates allow us to achieve a balanced combination which will give our body the fuel and satiety it needs for many hours.  When we eat ’empty calories’, those items which are considered food yet do not contain much (if any) nutritional value, puts you right back into hunger mode within a couple hours.  Most of us do not have insulin levels that will remain constant and not spike and drop, leaving us running to the nearest snack we can find just to feel normal again.

Popular diets throughout history became, or even stayed, popular because they worked.  Many people don’t stay on these diets forever, nor do they want to go back to them again after feeling like it was too restrictive or too much work.  Atkins was popular because it contained a diet full of protein (which keeps you full for a long time), and low in sugar which your body cannot turn the unused/excess glucose into fat.  The Zone Diet was really popular because of the emphasis on moderation between carbs, protein, and fats (also known as 40/30/30 percent, respectively).  It proposed an easy way to measure out what you’re eating and making sure to get the right balance to, again, keep blood sugar levels constant and cravings at bay.

I’m not here to tell you to go on a diet of any specific kind other than one that makes you feel your best.  Only you know what that is.  I will however happily inform you of plenty of food options to choose from that should help you to achieve that, and incorporate into your diet the way you choose.

  • Beans & Legumes: Black, White, Pinto, Lentils, Edamame, Garbanzo, Peas, you name it.  Beans are full of fiber and contain protein.  Add these to any meal or click here for my recipe for dry roasted chickpeas as the perfect snack on the go!
  • Avocados: This is a great type of fat to consume and fibrous as well.  Half an avocado boasts 15 grams of heart-healthy unsaturated fat (only 2 grams saturated) and 9 grams of fiber!  Eat the right kind of fats, and you’ll lose fat the right way.  Add avocado to your salad, spread it on a piece of toast, use in place of mayonnaise, or add to your morning green smoothie for a nice, creamy texture.

  • Bran: Derived from grains, bran is a great source of fiber.  You can buy them separately in the form of bran, or it can be found in the whole grain itself.  Oat bran, rice bran, and wheat bran (if you can tolerate) will keep you feeling full longer since it takes longer to move through the digestive system.  A cup of oatmeal with some slivered almonds and dash of honey is a great way to start the day!  Or pick up some rice bran next time your at your natural foods grocer and add it to a smoothie or sprinkle on top of your breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
  • Berries: Blackberries, Raspberries, Blueberries are great sources of fiber and taste oh-so-good.  Eat them alone or put on top of some Greek yogurt and sprinkle some cinnamon on top!

  • Nuts: Nuts are a fab form of healthy fats with a good balance of carbs and fiber.  They’re The Zone on their own!  Watch your intake since they are high in calories and even good fat is only good in moderation.  Add to your breakfast, have a pre-workout snack, or keep some in your draw at work.  Pistachios, Almonds, and Walnuts, Cashews are great.  If you’re consuming in the form of nut butter–keep it simple.  Make sure the ingredients just contain the nut and maybe a little salt.  Ones loaded up with sugar and hydrogenated oils are no longer good for your health!
  • More Fruits and Veggies: Prunes, Apples, Dried Apricots, Figs, Artichokes, Spinach, and Broccoli all are good sources of fiber.

  • Eggs: High in protein and fat (if you have the yolk) and low in carbohydrates, this is a great food to keep you going for a long time.
  • Quinoa: A “complete protein” grain meaning it contains all the essential amino acids while providing a substantial amount of protein and slow releasing carbohydrates.  Another great food to fill up on.  Use it in place of rice as a side dish or make your own salad with it full of chopped veggies, edamame, and some raisins for added flavor!  Use chicken or vegetable broth in place of water to cook for a nice tasting outcome on its own.

Enjoy all these items as a healthy part of your diet.  You may already have lots of the items listed in your diet already, and maybe some of them you could add more.  The easiest way to feel your best and fill up, not out, is to use foods to your advantage.  They can help you or they can harm you.  You get to choose which ones you want to make into tasty meals and keep you feeling great throughout the day.  And maybe, just maybe, if  you want to use those oats to whip up a yummy batch of oatmeal cookies every once in a while, that’s OK too 🙂


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