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Foods that fill you up fastest

31st July 19 - 6 minute read

Headshot of James Hudson

Performance Nutritionist at Nutrition in Sport

Our expert:

James Hudson, Performance Nutritionist at Nutrition in Sport. James played Premiership Rugby for Gloucester, as well as lining up for London Irish, Newcastle Falcons and England Saxons. He has a degree and masters in biochemistry from the University of Bath and has completed the International Olympic Committee’s Diploma in Sports Nutrition. He is currently working towards a PhD at Liverpool John Moores University.

What’s in this article…

Whether watching your weight or cutting down on snacks between meals, your first bite at breakfast should feel as appetising and filling as your last mouthful at dinner.

A well-balanced meal could keep you feeling full for longer. But if you’re counting the calories as well, it can be difficult to whip up healthy foods that satisfy your hunger - which inevitably leads to occasional snacking. It’s a vicious cycle – but why does it happen, and how can you make sure your next meal is snack-proof?

At a glance…

  • Why you feel full
  • Foods that fill you up
  • Top 5 foods to fill you up fast
  • Filling low calorie meal ideas
  • More from our experts

Why you feel full¹

How full you feel after eating – whether it’s a quick bite between meals or a hearty main dish of the day – depends on a number of factors, including the signals your body sends to the brain.

While portion size obviously plays a large part, there are other things that impact feeling of hunger, such as:

  • Taste. The pleasure you take from the textures, tastes and smells of the food
  • Perception. How filling you think the food will be before eating it
  • Hormones. These are released during the eating and absorption process.

There’s also a link between the speed at which you take in calories and how full you feel. Studies² show that eating a meal slowly help tell your body when you’re getting full more accurately than if you wolf it down. This can help you to cut down on portion size.

Other factors that play a part in how full you feel, and how much you eat, include availability of food, emotional state, the social situation, and how much exercise you’re doing.³

Need to know: Enjoying the food you eat – and savouring the flavours by eating slower – can help you feel fuller, thanks to the signals your body sends to your brain.

 

Foods that fill you up

What you eat is equally as important as how. Certain food types can be better than others providing that feeling of fullness due to different energy release rates, caloric values and macros – protein, fat and carbohydrates.

Foods that fill you up often contain high levels of protein and fibre, and are lower in fat and carbohydrates.

James says: “If we think about the three main macros, the main one that satisfies hunger more than the others is protein. A good amount of protein consistently in a diet can lead to more hunger satisfaction than eating fat or carbs.

“Diets with a high proportion of protein reduce overeating. Including protein in each meal will help satisfy hunger.”

Fibre also can help as it takes longer to digest. Carbohydrates are the best source of fibre.

James says: “Calorie for calorie, foods with a higher carb content than fat can help reduce hunger. Good quality carbs will have plenty of fibre in them.

“Look for high protein foods and carbs with high fibre levels to reduce hunger and fill you up.”

Need to know: Choose high protein, high carb carbs with high fibre levels to feel fuller faster.

 

Top 5 foods to fill you up fast

These filling foods can help you avoid the temptation to snack and make sure your hunger is sated.

Yogurt

Served up with fruit or used to refresh your favourite recipes, many yogurts contain a much higher amount of protein than other dairy products. Get a breakfast time boost with a helping of yogurt and add your favourite berries or slices of fruit on top.

Porridge

Another breakfast classic, the combination of high protein and fibre that goes into every bowl of porridge is the perfect way to start your day. It should fill you up until lunchtime – and could help reduce the amount of calories consumed in your next meal.

Fish

Fish scores higher than most meats on the satiety index – it tested even more positively than beef as a more filling food. Plus, fish is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, an essential part of our diet.

Cruciferous vegetables

Cauliflower is a good veggie option for boosting protein intake, along with the rest of the brassica family, like broccoli and pak choi. One 100g serving of cooked cauliflower makes up three-quarters of your recommended daily amount of vitamin C too.

Boiled potatoes

Almost entirely fat-free, the humble potato possesses a high water content, which bulks up your food and fills your stomach. Keep the skin on for a vitamin boost.

Need to know: Mix vegetables and protein rich meats to help you feel fuller for longer.

 

Filling low calorie meal ideas

When it comes to finding filling low calorie meals that don’t take a lot of prep, you’ll find plenty of choice here:

Eggs Florentine

Yogurt makes a great substitute for the butter in hollandaise sauce – with less fat and more protein. This – along with the high protein eggs - helps bridge the gap to lunchtime.

Chicken salad

Chicken is another lean meat that’s low in fat and high in protein. Ideal for a light lunch, toss in a few leafy favourites and enjoy a delicious combo that won’t give you a post-lunch slump.

Soup

Whether you want a winter warmer or a light supper, soup stays in the stomach longer than most foods, so you retain the feeling of being full for longer. Experiment with a smooth blend of vegetables and pulses to find new and exciting flavours.

Fish stew

Steeped in omega-3 and bursting with protein, add white fish into a stew along with a few protein-rich prawns to improve the range of flavours without dramatically increasing the calorie count.

Steak and potatoes

Two of the highest-scoring foods on the satiety index go hand in hand at dinner time. Serve up a lean beef steak and some starchy boiled potatoes alongside your choice of vegetables, for a classic take on hearty foodie fare.

Need to know: Planning your meals can help you to choose options that will help you feel full.

In summary:

Eating foods that fill you up can help you eat less during the day, reducing your calorie intake. Opt for foods filled with protein and high-fibre carbs to help you stay fuller for longer and resist those tempting snacks.



[1] https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/fuller/understanding-satiety-feeling-full-after-a-meal.html?start=2

[2] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/eating-slowly-and-weight-loss#eating-slowly

[3] https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/fuller/understanding-satiety-feeling-full-after-a-meal.html?start=2

[4] https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/fuller/understanding-satiety-feeling-full-after-a-meal.html?limitstart=0

[5] http://ernaehrungsdenkwerkstatt.de/fileadmin/user_upload/EDWText/TextElemente/Ernaehrungswissenschaft/Naehrstoffe/Saettigung_Lebensmittel_Satiety_Index.pdf

[6] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/food-and-drink/news/new-kale-should-eating-cauliflower/

[7] http://ernaehrungsdenkwerkstatt.de/fileadmin/user_upload/EDWText/TextElemente/Ernaehrungswissenschaft/Naehrstoffe/Saettigung_Lebensmittel_Satiety_Index.pdf

 

Headshot of James Hudson

Performance Nutritionist at Nutrition in Sport

More from our experts