Being on a diet doesn’t have to mean being hangry. The key? Tasty eats (like popcorn!) that are shown to stave off hunger. “Certain foods have just the right combination of nutrients, volume, flavor and even texture to help control your appetite,” says Marjorie Nolan Cohn, R.D., the author of The Belly Fat Fix. Read on for six kitchen staples that work overtime to keep you full.
If you need to nosh, pick popcorn. It’s loaded with fiber, which leaves you feeling satisfied for hours by slowing digestion. And that’s not all. When researchers in a Nutrition Journal study fed people either popcorn or potato chips, they found that 15 calories’ worth of low-fat popcorn was as satisfying as 150 calories’ worth of chips, thanks to the superior snack’s combo of being low in calories and high in volume. “Popcorn also has more crunch and texture, so it takes longer to eat,” Nolan Cohn says. “That gives your brain the time it needs to register that you’ve had enough food.”
- Prep better-for-you Cracker Jacks: Toss one cup of air-popped popcorn with one tablespoon each of peanuts and maple syrup.
- Top corn chowder or tomato soup with a heaping handful of popcorn.
- Swap popcorn for puffed rice cereal in marshmallow crispy treats.
2. Rye Crisps
Trade in your toast. When volunteers in a Nutrition Journal study ate a breakfast containing either wheat bread or rye crisps, those who consumed the latter felt 21 percent less hungry four hours later. They also downed 8 percent fewer calories at lunch. Researchers suspect that rye contains a special kind of fiber, known as viscous fiber, that expands in your gut to slow digestion and the release of carbs into your bloodstream. The result: lower blood sugar and stabilized insulin levels, so you’re less hungry. Look for brands like Wasa or Ryvita rye crisps in the cracker aisle of your supermarket.
Rye Crisp Ideas
- Have a couple of rye crisps with hummus and smoked salmon for breakfast.
- Make croutons for salad: Break rye crisps into chunks, spray with olive oil cooking spray and season with sea salt, pepper and garlic powder. Bake in a 375° oven for 10 minutes.
- Upgrade bruschetta by topping rye crisps with chopped fresh tomatoes, kalamata olives, basil and a little balsamic vinegar.
It’s made with chili peppers, which are rich in the appetite suppressant capsaicin. An analysis of 20 studies in the journal Appetite revealed that this compound has multiple weight-loss benefits, such as increasing body temperature, which ups your calorie burn, and helping you feel fuller. “Our taste buds have receptors that are directly linked to our brains,” explains Amy Myrdal Miller, R.D., a culinary nutrition expert in Carmichael, California. “When capsaicin hits those receptors, they fire neurons that trigger the release of gut hormones that kick off the satiety response.”
- Give your usual PB & honey sandwich a Southeast Asian spin by drizzling it with sriracha.
- Add sriracha to mac and cheese. The heat will slow you down so you’ll savor the comfort food instead of inhaling it.
- For a salad with extra kick, whisk sriracha into ranch dressing.
4. Portobello Mushrooms
These ‘shrooms pack a special punch. They’re high in glutamate, an amino acid that has a savory “fifth taste” called umami (the other four are sweet, sour, bitter and salty). When volunteers in a British study slurped soup with or without this flavor, umami eaters ate less but felt just as satisfied. While researchers aren’t sure exactly why, they suspect that umami’s rich, meaty flavor may play a role.
- Make a portobello pizza. Top grilled portobello caps with marinara sauce, shredded mozzarella and fresh oregano and bake in a 400° oven for five minutes.
- Dice mushrooms and sear in a hot frying pan coated with olive oil. Then sub them for half of the ground beef in your taco.
- Trade oven-crisped portobellos for bacon in a PLT. Brush thinly sliced portobellos with olive oil, sprinkle with smoked paprika and bake in a 250° oven for 40 to 45 minutes. Layer them on toasted ciabatta with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.
If you’ve banished these tubers from your table, it’s time to bring them back. Potatoes that have been cooked and cooled contain resistant starch, a carb that passes through your small intestine without being digested. As it travels into the large intestine, bacteria that live there feast on it, generating substances known as short-chain fatty acids. These encourage the production of special compounds, called peptides, that send messages to your brain to tell you that you’re full. Cooked potatoes served warm contain little resistant starch, but when cooled, about 12 percent of their starch becomes resistant.
- For healthier potato salad, dice a cold baked potato and toss with olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest and fresh basil.
- Make niçoise salad with cooled boiled potatoes, steamed green beans, hard-boiled egg, tomatoes, tuna and olives.
- Turn leftovers into pancakes. Whisk one egg and chopped fresh herbs into a cup of cold leftover mashed potatoes. Divide into four pancake-shaped portions, dust with flour and cook over medium heat in canola oil.
6. Dark Chocolate
It sounds almost too good to be true: When researchers at the University of Copenhagen fed volunteers a morning meal of either dark or milk chocolate, the dark chocolate eaters reported less hunger afterward. Even better, they consumed 17 percent fewer calories at lunch. We’re not suggesting that you start your day with a chocolate bar, but when a craving strikes, reach for the dark stuff. “It’s higher in protein and fat but lower in sugar than milk chocolate, which causes a slower release of sugars into your bloodstream,” Myrdal Miller says.
- Toss dark chocolate chips and chopped tart dried cherries into low-fat plain Greek yogurt.
- For a dessert quesadilla, spread one tablespoon of almond butter on half of an eight-inch whole-wheat tortilla. Top with sliced banana and one tablespoon of chopped dark chocolate. Fold in half; heat in a nonstick pan.
- Swirl a few tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder into your favorite chili recipe.