12 Filling Foods
If your stomach’s always growling and you find yourself constantly snacking, these tasty eats can help you feel full longer. By: Karen Ansel, MS, RD
When it comes to staying slim, balancing the calories you eat with the calories you burn is rule number one. But eating less can be hard if you always feel like you’re starving. If you could use a little extra help controlling those incoming calories, fill up on these appetite erasers and watch hunger disappear. Try combining one or more of these filling foods, like we did with peas and scallops in the recipe below.
These lean, meaty mollusks deliver volume and protein. With over 80% of their weight coming from water, one generous 6-ounce serving dishes up 21 grams of protein for just 117 calories. Briefly searing or sautéing them will guarantee that they stay moist, plump, and juicy. For a quick weeknight meal, keep a bag of frozen scallops in your freezer to defrost as needed. They’re perfect on top of a hefty watermelon and arugula salad or in this delicious recipe below.
Often relegated to the back of your freezer or used as an ice pack for bumps and bruises, these little legumes are satiety superstars. Not only do they boast 7 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber per cup, they’re also proven to keep you full. When researchers fed volunteers different kinds of protein 30 minutes before a meal, volunteers who ate pea protein felt fuller and ate less at mealtime. Toss them in pasta or rice for a quick protein and fiber fix. Here’s an example of a tasty pea recipe.
Eating small amounts of protein with every meal can work wonders for helping you stay satisfied. When we eat protein-rich foods, they signal our bodies to release hormones that tell us we’re full. But we know you don’t have time to roast a turkey or ham every day. Canned salmon is a quick, easy, and convenient protein source. Just one small 3.5-ounce can of pink salmon offers up an impressive 20 grams of protein. It's also packed with beneficial omega-3 fats and is way lower in mercury than canned tuna. Try topping this on salads or combine with chopped veggies and a dab of canola mayo in a sandwich. Or, check out the recipe below.
You may recognize the name from the funny ceramic statue planters that were once the craze. These tiny seeds are no laughing matter – in fact they are a natural appetite suppressants and just 1 ounce delivers an impressive 10 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein. Research found they can help you eat less by naturally regulating blood sugar, which helps put the breaks on hunger. We love the way they swell up in liquid for a bubble effect.
Add them to your water bottle, morning OJ, afternoon iced tea, or sprinkle them on salads, yogurt, and cereal.
If you’re overwhelmed by messages to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, start with salad instead. Not only is it a cinch to prepare, a 2012 study found eating salad before your meal can pump up your intake of water-rich veggies by 23%. Prefer to eat yours with your meal? Go ahead. You’ll down 11% fewer calories. For maximum staying power and nutrient absorption, make sure yours has a little bit (think 1 tablespoon) of healthy fat from vinaigrette salad dressing made with heart-smart olive or canola oil.
If you’re trying to eat less, filling fiber is your friend. And few foods pack more of it than beans. Just ½ cup of cooked pinto, black, or cannellini beans contain between 6 to 8 grams of fiber and roughly 8 grams of protein for only about 120 calories. That’s good news for your waistline. A 2001 study found that for every 14 daily grams of roughage you add to your diet, you can expect to eat 10% fewer calories, translating to a weight loss of about 1 pound per month.
Snacks can be a strategic way to keep your appetite in check if they have the right ingredients. Trouble is, standard snack foods like highly processed chips or crackers rarely satisfy, making it frighteningly easy to plow through hundreds of calories before your hunger gauge hits full. Not so with nuts. Naturally packed with a gratifying trio of fiber, protein, and healthy fat, nuts can be a super smart nibble. Just be sure to limit portions to 1 ounce or less to keep calories under control. That’s about 14 walnut halves, 22 almonds or 49 pistachios. Try making your own snack mix with different nut varieties and some spicy pepper!
A bag of air-popped popcorn could be the perfect snack to stash in your desk drawer. Not only is it filled with fiber, it’s also filled with air. Just like high-volume water-packed foods keep us full, so do light, airy foods, says a research study. Plus, when you choose popcorn you get to do a lot of munching. Three cups of air-popped popcorn serve up nearly 4 grams of fiber and a surprising 3 grams of protein for only 93 calories. Give yours a low-cal flavor blast by sprinkling it with curry powder or cocoa. Or try this yummy idea below.
Water-rich foods like soup are key for halting hunger. When foods contain high concentrations of water they dilute the energy density of your meal, meaning you get more food for fewer calories. And that means you fill up faster, too! Research shows slurping soup before a meal can result in eating 20% less of a main course. However, all soups aren’t created equal. Ditch the cream-based soups that ladle up a bowlful of calories and fat and go for clear broth fruit or vegetable soups like gazpacho instead. With very few calories per cup (around 50-100), it will fill your belly for fewer calories.
If you have been avoiding this green power fruit because you’ve heard about its high fat content, you’ll be happy to learn their fat may actually help quash between-meal hunger pangs. Avocado’s slowly digested fat helps your meal stay with you longer and their ample fiber (3 grams per quarter avocado) plus the fact that they’re 73% water make them a smart decision. Don’t just save them for salads and sandwiches. Toss them in omelets, smoothies, and into any southwestern dish, like these chicken tacos.
If your meal doesn’t feel complete without a little something sweet, these toothsome tubers are a healthy solution. Despite their natural honeyed flavor, they’re surprisingly low in sugar with only 7 grams (that’s less than 2 teaspoons) in a 4-ounce baked sweet potato. In addition, you’ll score loads of slowly digested complex carbohydrates and filling fiber. Try sweetening things up even more with a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg. Or add something a little spicy, like in the recipe below.
Move over oatmeal. Ounce-per-ounce barley packs more fiber than almost any other grain. Plus, it’s effective for preventing spikes and dips in blood sugar that send you searching for a snack. First, it boasts a low glycemic index, so its carbohydrates are released slowly into your bloodstream. Then, it’s loaded with beta-glucan, a cholesterol-lowering fiber that also helps regulate blood sugar. Whip up a big batch at the beginning of the week and toss it into salads, soups, and stews. It blends well with pungent ingredients like peppery arugula, as in the recipe below.