Feeling hungry sucks. Especially while dieting.
You’re already working so hard, and now you have to fight through intense hunger and cravings to continue to lose weight?
I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be like that. There are so many ways you can stay full, satiated, and dare I say “happy” while dieting down to your goal weight. It doesn’t have to be a miserable process.
Sure, a little hunger here and there is normal, but you shouldn’t feel ravenous while dieting. That just isn’t sustainable.
If you want to lose weight and keep it off forever, maintaining a lean physique, you need to learn these tips and techniques on how to stay full while dieting.
Why Am I Always Hungry?
The reality is, hunger is a side effect of dieting and being in a calorie deficit. However, feeling ‘starving’ and thinking about food all day is not productive or sustainable for your fat loss goals.
You may need to consider that you are in ‘too much’ of a calorie deficit. If your maintenance calories were 2000, and you are eating 1200 to lose weight, this may not be sustainable for you long-term.
A more realistic deficit would be 1500 calories. That would put you to lose about 1 pound per week.
Consequently, you gain the weight back with the very-low calorie method, and you also don’t instill any healthy habits along the way, making it hard to get long-lasting results.
Did I also mention the harmful effects of crash dieting on your hormones, energy levels, thyroid, and overall health? This is why it’s important to calculate your proper maintenance calories first or work with an online coach, that can customize your nutrition to fit you and your lifestyle.
Just remember, any drastic measure to lose weight, whether it’s a pill, workout, or starving yourself is always too good to be true. You may lose a bunch of weight first, but you won’t be able to maintain it.
How to Manage Hunger When Trying to Lose Weight
Based on a lot of research, and working with a lot of successful clients, I’ve compiled 8 ways on how to stay full while dieting.
Along the way I will talk about mental strategies on how to deal with hunger (without eating), what foods keep you full the longest, and my go-to foods and recipes during a fat loss phase.
If you haven’t yet, calculate your fat loss calories and protein HERE.
1. What to Eat in a Calorie Deficit
If fat loss is your goal, then protein is essential to giving you that “toned” look along with strength training of course. Protein also preserves lean muscle mass while dieting.
If you don’t eat enough protein while in a calorie deficit you may end up looking “skinny fat”.
It may also be hard for you to stick with your calorie deficit because protein keeps you full and satiated. If you find yourself constantly hungry, chances are you’re not eating enough protein!
Some examples of low-calorie, high protein sources:
- Chicken breasts
- Pork tenderloin
- Lean ground turkey
- Lean ground beef
- Lean ground chicken
- Whey Protein Powder
- Greek Yogurt (non-fat, or low-fat)
Loading your plate up with non-starchy veggies is not only good for your health, but they keep you full, and contain little calories.
I still recommend that online clients track their vegetables so that we make sure they are getting in enough fiber. You often hear things like ‘vegetables don’t count’, but they do still contain calories, and if you roast, sauté, or grill your vegetables your most likely using cooking oil (which also contains calories–make sure you’re tracking your cooking oils!)
You can make dieting so much easier and stay fuller when incorporating plenty of vegetables in your diet.
Some examples of non-starchy vegetables:
- Mixed greens: chard, spinach, romaine, kale, cabbage, arugula (any leafy green)
- Squash: zucchini, yellow squash, spaghetti squash
- Bell peppers
- Brussels Sprouts
- Grape Tomatoes
- Bok Choy, and more!
There are so many benefits of eating high quality fats in your diet. However, fats don’t really help keep you full in a diet, and contain more calories per gram than protein and carbs. They can also rack up the calories very quickly!
This isn’t to say that some people don’t feel more satiated on high-fat diets (this is very individual). However, when working with online clients, most of them were over consuming fats, and under consuming protein, which isn’t conducive to changing your body composition.
Some examples of high quality fats:
- Cooking oils: Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, ghee, grass-fed butter
- Whole eggs
- Fatty cuts of meat: chicken thighs/legs, 80% ground beef, salmon, fatty cuts of steak, ground turkey, etc. Keep in mind that fatty cuts of meat aren’t the best for dieting because they are higher calorie than lean proteins. However if you still meet your calorie and protein goals, you can absolutely eat them.
Some examples of carbohydrates that will keep you full and satiated:
- Sweet potatoes, yams, russet potatoes, purple potatoes, baby potatoes…I could go on and on because there are a million different kinds. If you are struggling to combat hunger while losing weight, try including potatoes in your diet. Potatoes are one of the most satiating foods on the satiety index.
- Steel Cut Oatmeal
- I make my own popcorn at home with the Dash Popcorn maker. This popcorn maker is great because you can make the popcorn without any oil, or you can choose the amount of oil/butter that goes on the popcorn. Popcorn is a low-calorie, high volume snack, so you can eat a lot of it for little calories. For those clients who love to snack after dinner, popcorn may be a great option.
- Black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, etc. Beans are high in fiber and can be very filling.
- Fruit is packed with fiber, vitamins, and nutrients. Fruit has been demonized for containing sugar, but unless you’re eating in a surplus with fruit, it will not make you fat. 2-3 servings of fruit per day is a great amount for most people.
- Berries: strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries are all high in fiber, low calorie, and super filling
- Apples, Oranges, Grapes, Bananas, Grapefruit, Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Grapefruit, and more!
If you’re bored with your meals, try adding some low-calorie condiments. The reality is, if you’re not enjoying what you’re eating, you probably won’t stick to the diet long enough to see results.
Some examples of low-calorie condiments:
- Salsa: I top my salads with salsa, or make shredded Mexican chicken with a jar of salsa. It’s very low calorie!
- Low-calorie ketchup: (Primal Kitchen Unsweetened Ketchup)
- Franks Red Hot Sauce
- Lemon juice, lime juice: love using these to marinate chicken
- Balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar: (also use these to marinate chicken)
- Salad dressings: I don’t recommend any low-calorie salad dressing because most of them contain inflammatory oils like canola oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, or vegetable oil. If you are going to have salads, save your calories to use extra-virgin olive oil, or quality salad dressings like Primal Kitchen.
- Low-calorie BBQ Sauce: (Primal Kitchen’s Unsweetened Classic BBQ sauce has 15 calories for 2 tablespoons!)
You don’t have to cut out sweets while dieting!
Here are some tasty low-calorie options that are sure to satisfy your cravings:
- Goodpop Organic Chocolate Fudge Pops: 90 calories per pop! A great treat for when you’re craving chocolate, but don’t want to slam a bunch of calories.
- HaloTop ice cream bars or pints: these contain more artificial ingredients than I prefer, but there is no shame in eating a pint every once in a while!
- Greek yogurt bowl: non-fat or low-fat Greek yogurt, protein powder, mini chocolate chips, blueberries, etc.
- Protein ice cream: Make protein ice cream with your favorite protein powder. There are so many recipes out there on Google.
- Smoothie: Make a smoothie with different kinds of frozen fruit, and add some protein powder. Sometimes a little fruit is all you need to satisfy your cravings.
Zero/Low Calorie Beverages
- Coffee: a major appetite suppressant.
- Sparkling waters
- Bottled flavor infused teas
- Water: If you want to add some flavor to your water add some Drink LMNT electrolytes.
2. Eat Enough Protein
I can’t overemphasize how important it is to get an adequate amount of protein while dieting.
Between protein, carbs, and fats, protein is the most satiating macronutrient (aka it keeps you full). It also helps prevent muscle loss while dieting.
If you want that “toned” look, you need to be eating plenty of protein. No one wants to look skinny fat!
Other benefits of protein include the high thermic effect of food (TEF), which means protein burns the most calories digesting and metabolizing in the body, compared to fats and carbs (1).
Set your protein to 0.7-1.2 grams per pound of body weight, and aim for a minimum of 25g of protein per meal.
3. Ditch the High Calorie Drinks
It may be hard to ditch your calorie-filled Starbucks drinks every morning, but if you are trying to lose weight, opting for solid foods is a better choice.
Many beverages are loaded with calories, and contain no protein or fiber, making it hard to feel satiated. Most people feel fuller after eating solid foods, rather than liquids, and eat fewer calories overall when eating solid foods.
Chewing plays a huge part in our digestive system, so it’s no surprise that chewing solid foods promotes more satiety than drinking liquids. That’s why I recommend zero/low calorie beverages above!
4. Prioritize Quality Sleep
You know what happens when you don’t sleep. You crave all the junk foods, miss your workouts, and you have a ginormous appetite.
If you want to lose weight, and keep it off, you need to make sleep a priority. Evidence is rapidly accumulating to indicate that chronic partial sleep loss may increase the risk of obesity and diabetes (2). Aim to sleep for 7-9 hours per night.
Read HERE for tips on how to get quality sleep.
5. Meal Frequency
Not hungry for breakfast in the morning? Intermittent fasting might be for you.
When you are on a diet, you are eating a smaller amount of calories than usual, therefore you are going to be hungry at some point in the day. With fasting, you consolidate your calories into a smaller eating window, therefore saving your calories until you are actually hungry.
If you are hungry right when you wake up in the morning, then eating 3-4 meals a day, including breakfast might be for you. The frequency of your meals doesn’t matter for weight loss, it’s how many calories you eat overall that matters.
If you’re struggling with hunger throughout the day, know that some hunger is normal while in a calorie deficit. However, try experimenting with your meal frequency to help mitigate hunger.
For example, if you are currently eating 3 meals a day, and getting starving around 3pm, try introducing a small snack or meal during that time for a total of 4 meals a day.
6. Eat Mindfully
When is the last time that you sat down to eat with absolutely no distractions? No phones, no TV, no responding to emails while working, and no kids screaming?
It’s probably been awhile.
Most of us eat in a distracting environment on a daily basis. As a result, we are more likely to develop unhealthy eating habits, overeat (never feeling satisfied after meals), or eat too quickly.
Most importantly, if you’re struggling to stay full while on a diet try to sit down at the table without any distractions and focus on one thing, which is chewing your food.
7. Eat High Volume Foods
If you’re asking yourself “How can I stay full without overeating?” My answer for you is high volume foods.
High volume foods are foods that fill you up, but that are low in calories. For me, they are big meals (always in a large salad bowl) filled with a variety of veggies, mixed greens, lean proteins, and sometimes some starchy carbs (like sweet potatoes, butternut squash, etc) as well.
Eating high volume foods while dieting is the key to feeling less hungry, less often. It also gives your brain a mental break from dieting when you see your plate contains a lot of food vs. a plate with barely any food.
Pick foods that take up a lot of room on your plate, contain a lot of nutrients and fiber, and that are low calorie.
Here are some examples of high volume foods:
- Big Ass Salads
- These salads stay true to their name. Start with a large salad bowl, and add a large amount of mixed greens. Place a variety of roasted vegetables in your salad (my favorites are brussels sprouts, bell peppers, onions, broccoli, tomato, cauliflower or cauliflower rice, asparagus, zucchini, and yellow squash), pick a lean protein (cubed or shredded chicken breast are great for salads), add Primal Kitchen salad dressing, and if you have enough calories left, add sweet potatoes, or baby potatoes onto your salad.
- Salads take a long time to eat, so they mentally trick your brain into thinking your eating more calories. They are also filled of fiber and water, so you will stay full long after your meal.
- Swap out higher carb foods, for lower calorie substitutes.
- White rice → cauliflower rice
- Spaghetti noodles → spaghetti squash or zoodles
- Granola or cereal → steel cut oatmeal
- Candy → frozen grapes, or blueberries
- Potato chips → popcorn
- Sweet potatoes → butternut squash
- Add veggies and/or fruits to every meal
- Eating whole-food protein sources instead of liquid protein sources
- Drinking a protein shake is fast and convenient at times, however liquid calories don’t fill you up much. You’re much better off having a whole-food protein source that you have to chew, and that takes more time to eat.
- I would also avoid protein bars if you’re trying to lose weight, because they are very calorie dense, and addicting. Trade the 200-300 calories you are eating from the protein bar for a much more filling snack like an apple, Greek yogurt with protein powder mixed in, hard-boiled eggs or beef sticks.
- Soups, Chili’s, Stews
- Broth based soups, chili’s, and stews take a long time to eat and are usually filled with protein and fiber.
8. High Fiber Foods
Including high fiber foods in your diet will help promote feelings of fullness while dieting, benefit your gut flora (improving your immune system/ mental health), and keep your digestive system regular, adding bulk to the stool, which improves the quality of bowel movements.
Set your fiber goal to 15g per 1000 calories. For ex: if your weight loss calories are set at 2,000-2100, your fiber goal would be 30g+ per day.
It’s best to eat a variety of both soluble fiber, and insoluble fiber. For example:
Soluble Fiber– slows the movement of food through the digestive system
- citrus fruits
- legumes: black, kidney, white, lima, navy beans, etc.
Insoluble Fiber– regulates bowel movements and manages constipation
- leafy green vegetables
- bell peppers
- cruciferous vegetables: (bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower)
In conclusion, remember that some hunger is inevitable while dieting.
However, if you apply and take action to the tips I lay out above, you can be more consistent with your diet and notice faster progress.
If you need accountability, support, and education in your weight loss journey, click HERE and apply to work with me and schedule your discovery call. I help women lose fat through a sustainable and flexible lifestyle approach. Not only will you get results, but I’ll teach you how to maintain a lean body forever.
Hi, I’m Abbey! Certified Training and Nutrition Coach. Of course, I’m a foodie as well, and I love to show others how GOOD healthy eating can taste. Here you’ll find fitness & nutrition content specific to weight loss, as well as easy, real food recipes. I’d love to get to know you!