Feel like your stomach is always growling? A dietitian explains a few ways to feel full and satisfied for longer
while enjoying delicious, nourishing foods.
Hunger is our body’s natural, healthy signal that we need to eat.
When we fuel our bodies with nourishing foods, that grumbling feeling
should be temporarily soothed – leaving us feeling satisfied and recharged.
So if you feel like you’re always hungry, it might be a sign that you need
to fuel yourself more effectively, says Milly Smith, an Accredited
Practising Dietitian and Spokesperson for Dietitians Australia.
“Hunger is regulated by hormones,” she says. “The main two we talk about
are ghrelin, which signals to our brain that we need to eat food, and
leptin, which tells us we’re full and satisfied.
“What we choose to eat in response to our hunger signals can determine how
full we feel and how long that fullness lasts.”
Here, Smith shares are a few small changes that might help you feel more
Make sure you’re eating enough
It sounds obvious, Smith says, but if you’re always feeling hungry it might
be that you’re not actually eating enough for your body’s needs.
If you’re exercising a lot, for example, you might be burning more energy
than you realise, and need to replenish accordingly.
“It’s important to make sure we’re listening to those hunger cues, eating
enough at each meal for our own individual needs and including healthy
snacks if we need them.”
Choose low GI carbs
Carbohydrates are essential fuel for our bodies, but some are better at
providing a steady stream of energy than others.1
“You might notice when you eat simple carbs like white bread, pasta and
rice crackers, or foods that are high in added sugars, they’re not actually
super filling,” Smith says.
“That’s because they’re high GI – they get absorbed into the bloodstream
quickly, so the energy gets used up quickly, and we start to feel hungry
What is the glycaemic index (GI)?
The glycaemic index is essentially a guide to how quickly different
carbohydrate foods get absorbed into our bloodstream.1
High GI carbs, such as bread and pasta, are absorbed quickly, causing a spike in energy
and blood glucose that then crashes, leaving us feeling hungry again. 1
Low GI carbs, such as wholegrains and legumes, are absorbed more slowly, keeping our
blood glucose levels stable and helping us stay full and satisfied for
Fill up on fibre
Low GI carbs tend to be high in fibre, which is another important nutrient
for fullness and satisfaction.2
“We tend to feel fuller for longer when we’re including fibre-rich foods,
such as vegetables, fruits, legumes and wholegrains,” Smith says.
“Fibre goes through our digestive tract undigested, giving us a really good
sensation of fullness, and it helps delay how quickly things exit from the
stomach into our small intestine, so it helps regulate our blood sugar
Get your protein
Protein also plays a role in keeping us feeling nourished and energised, so
it’s important to have a good spread of it across the day.3
“Protein is our slow-burning fuel – it takes longer to break down and use
its energy, so it keeps us fuller for much longer,” Smith says.
Good sources of protein include lean meats, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts,
seeds, legumes, and dairy products like milk, cheese and yoghurt.4
Enjoy healthy fats
Healthy fats, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, are an important
source of energy for our bodies.5
“Ideally, we should be trying to include a healthy fat in every meal,”
Smith says. “Good sources of healthy fats include oily fish, avocado, nuts
and seeds, and oils like extra virgin olive oil."
“The real benefit is that they help with the absorption of some of our
fat-soluble vitamins. They’re also good for our heart health and brain
You might be secretly thirsty instead of hungry. Drinking plenty of water
is essential for good health, and it can also impact our sense of fullness.6
“Our body isn't very good at distinguishing between thirst and hunger, so
we often find that we’re looking for food when really we need to be
hydrating ourselves with more water,” Smith explains.
Make sure you’re getting enough water throughout the day – try carrying a
water bottle around with you, and making water your main beverage choice.
Get a good night’s sleep
not getting enough restful sleep, it’s common to feel hungrier than usual. Feeling fatigued can
lead to a
surge in ghrelin, the hunger hormone.7
“Not getting enough sleep is also a major factor in what we call leptin
resistance, where our body either doesn’t produce enough leptin, the
fullness hormone, or doesn’t respond to those fullness cues properly,”
Sleeping well might be easier said than done, but
practising good sleep hygiene – like keeping your bedroom cool, dark and quiet, avoiding
caffeine late in
the day, reducing alcohol, and taking time to relax before bed – can make a
Soothe your stress
Similarly, feeling stressed or anxious can impact our hunger hormones.
While some people lose their appetite when they’re stressed, others feel
hungrier and experience more cravings, Smith says.
Try to take some time each day to practice some
simple relaxation techniques – whether it’s meditation, yoga, breathing exercises,
going for a walk,
exercising, reading a book, or whatever works for you.9
With a few small changes to your lifestyle and eating patterns, you can
help give your body a better chance of feeling vibrant and energised – and
keep that grumbling stomach happy.