While you’re finding yourself spending more time at home, you might be tempted to take a little walk into the kitchen for a snack. Hey, it happens to the best of us! But what you don’t want to end up doing is eating foods that are simply going to end up leaving you wanting more. Seriously, there are foods that will just make you more hungry.
Here, we compiled the most unwholesome foods you’re going to want to ditch, as that will just make you hungry. And instead, replace them with some healthy, filling snacks!
It all goes back to when we were tiny babies. “Humans are programmed to have an opioid (opiate-like) response to a protein found in milk (casein) so that infants will continue their desire to consume adequate amounts of their mother’s milk,” explains Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, a plant-based dietitian and author of The Vegiterranean Diet and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition. “Cheese, which is a concentrated form of milk, also induces this effect. These protein compounds, called casomorphins, combined with the high amount of fat and salt are what is responsible for the popular obsession with cheese. Thus, the more you have, the more you crave—as devised by nature.”
“Although juicing and juice cleanses are highly popular right now, the process used to make juice strips the most filling nutrient—fiber—from the sugary liquid,” explains Janel Funk, MS RD LDN. “This leaves you with a calorie-containing beverage that spikes your blood sugar, leading to a crash that leaves you hungrier. Studies have shown that our bodies aren’t any more satiated with the calories in juice as opposed to those from food, so stick with water for thirst and hydration and eat whole fruits and vegetables with their fiber intact.” If you’re craving something to drink and not a snack, try this idea from Rebecca Lewis, RD for HelloFresh: “Blend the fruits and veggies that you were planning on juicing. If you can’t get past all the pulp, try adding some protein powder or a nut butter. The added protein and fat act in a similar way to fiber in slowing down the absorption of the foods into your bloodstream.”
“While yogurt is constantly promoted as a super healthy food, it truly depends on which one you choose to keep you full,” shares Nutritionist Kayleen St. John, RD at Natural Gourmet Institute, a health-supportive cooking school in New York City. “A typical 6-ounce fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt clocks in at 150 calories, 6 grams protein, 1.5 grams fat and around 25 grams sugar. The higher carbohydrate load and very low-fat content will keep you looking for more to eat, even after your last spoonful.” Instead, opt for a plain Greek-style yogurt that has twice the protein, and add your own fruit, nuts and seeds for additional fiber and antioxidants.
“There’s a reason you may feel hungry soon after your morning egg white omelet. While egg whites are a good source of protein, a great deal of the beneficial fats, vitamins and minerals lie within the egg’s yolk, and a 2010 meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported saturated fat was not associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke or coronary vascular disease,” shares St. John. “The saturated fat in egg yolks not only adds to satiety but is necessary for hormone production and the body’s absorption of some vitamins and minerals. Vitamin A (great for skin and your immune system), B vitamins for energy, and choline, which is supportive of brain and muscle health.” We’ll raise our protein shake to St.John’s healthy pilgrimage to bring egg yolks back in style for dieters.
“When we grab for the fat-free bottle, we think we are making a good choice,” says Lisa Hayim, registered dietitian and founder of The Well Necessities. Not the case. “These fat-free salads dressings can be loaded with salt and sugar to give them flavor. We end up pouring on more, making sure each piece of lettuce in our salad is doused. After the salad is over, the salt and sugar make you feel unsatisfied and craving more.” Exactly what the salad dressing company is hoping for, but not your flat belly diet.
“We tend to overeat those foods labeled healthy, according to a recent report published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research,” cautions St. John. “This tends to make people order larger portions and feel less full after eating foods touted as healthy. The exact reason behind it is unclear, but likely has to do with subconsciously programming ourselves to relate unhealthy foods to satiety.” Be wary of those label claims, and always check the ingredient list before you buy.
Sugar and all of its counterparts (from artificial sweeteners to organic cane sugar and everything in between) are highly addictive because of its associated heightened dopamine release. “Given the fact that we are evolutionarily designed to seek out sweetness in order to survive and that highly concentrated sources of sugar are omnipresent in endless quantities, sugar addiction has become increasingly prevalent and a huge contributor to our current global healthcare crisis,” comments Hever. “Refined and processed sweeteners are unrelenting in their ability to entice you to overeat and yet, don’t provide satiation, satiety, or nourishment.” Don’t swear off fruit, though: “Whole food sources of sugar, such as fruit, is different because fruit maintains its fiber and nutrients. That’s why you can swiftly consume a couple of candy bars or drink a huge cup of juice without feeling full, but eating 10 apples or pears would be challenging,” she adds.
“Traditional granola bars are often made of just sugar and hydrogenated oils and are void of protein (the stuff that fills you up),” shares Hayim. “They are often lower in calories than a traditional meal and do not serve as a meal replacement. The flavor is just enough to whet your appetite, but leaves you far from satiated.”
Think twice before smothering this naughty condiment on your baked sweet potato fries or mixing with your breakfast egg dish. “Ketchup, or any food made with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), can make your appetite continue to grow stronger. HFCS interrupts the body’s metabolism and slows down the production of leptin (which helps us feel full). As a result, there is no message being sent to the body that you’re full and that it’s time to stop eating,” warns Hayim.
“Ever stuff yourself with a giant blueberry muffin, only to find you were hungry right after?” asks Hayim. Been there, done that. “Although it can be loaded with calories, it is made almost completely of sugar. This sugar is rapidly digested and absorbed, leaving your body starved for more.” Yikes!
“Many sugar-sweetened cereals are void of fiber and protein, two nutrients you need first thing in the morning to keep your blood sugar stable and avoid a mid-morning hunger crash,” comments Funk. “Pairing your sugary cereal with fat-free milk means you’re missing out on satiating fat to keep you full as well. Look for cereals with more than five grams of naturally occurring fiber per serving, and don’t skimp on the fat or protein. Watch out for diet-friendly, low-calorie cereals, too. Even if they’re low in sugar and calories, they tend to be low in fiber and protein as well,” she advises.
AKA white bread, crackers, etc. “Fiber plus water equals ‘bulk,'” offers Hever. “In your diet, fiber-rich whole foods promote satiation and satiety. Because fiber is stripped away when refined, these foods can easily be eaten in excess. This is why chewing your way through a bread basket is way easier than finishing off a bucket of brown rice.”
“It’s true that you can never eat just one. That’s because salty snacks contain excessive amounts of sodium, and are often devoid of fiber or protein,” says St. John. “The high-salt content of these foods is dehydrating and can trick your body into eating more of the snack instead of reaching for a glass of water. The lack of protein and fiber means that the snack is carbohydrate-heavy and unbalanced, leading to an inevitable blood sugar spike.” Hayim chimes in: “Brain scans show that sodium triggers dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. That means the more salt you eat, the more you want it!”
Now here’s a category of food you should swear off altogether because they’re scientifically proven to be one of the worst foods that make you hungry. And remember, just because it’s “sugar-free” doesn’t give you license to dive in. Always check a label to see if artificial sweeteners were slipped in. “Artificial sweeteners trick your brain into thinking it is getting a pleasurable food. When you don’t eat the real thing and your body is expecting it, you’re likely to be left craving that sugary food even more,” comments Funk. An added reason to stay away? Artificial sweeteners can lead to abdominal pain and discomfort.
You’re not imagining things when you think that you’re hungrier than before eating after chowing down on that chow mien. “Chinese food is often loaded with MSG. Monosodium glutamate is used as a flavor enhancer and is found in other types of food such as soups, processed meats, and more. Some research suggests that the chemicals in MSG cause a drastic increase in appetite, which seems appropriate as people who consume the most amounts of MSG are more likely to be overweight compared to those that have no MSG in their diet,” warns Hayim.
True or false: Soups can be a huge win for fast, effective weight loss. True, when you’re making your soup from scratch. When you’re picking it up at the grocery store? Typically not the case. “Soups oftentimes contain more sodium than any other food. The sodium in these [seemingly harmless cans] causes that feeling of addiction and wanting more and more,” states Hayim.
“Many dieters try chewing gum to take their mind off eating food. Unfortunately, this trick doesn’t usually work,” comments Hayim. Pen chewers ought to listen up: “The chewing action actually tricks your body that food is coming down, which means that gastric juices are prepared in the stomach. When no food comes down, the stomach begins to churn with nothing in it. Not only does it cause pain, but also makes you more conscious of your need to eat.”
“Many of the foods that cause us to be hungry right after we’ve eaten them are overly processed, refined, and stripped of the benefits of fiber,” says Lewis. “And why is fiber so important? Because fiber is what slows the absorption of the foods we eat from the stomach into the bloodstream. When foods are low in or fiber-less, they travel quickly through the stomach and into our blood causing that crazy blood insulin spike. Insulin is released in order to start the digestive process and remove the sugars from the blood (where if they remain becomes dangerous). So eating foods that speed up the insulin response are the ones that end up making us hungrier in the long-term.”
“Although both of these options appear to be nice in size and satisfying, they are made up of white sugar and flour. They have [barely any] fiber or nutrients,” says Hayim. “As a result, your blood sugar leaps high and then comes crashing down, causing you to feel hungrier than before you started these treats.”
If you like piña coladas and getting lost in a calorie-bombed blender vortex, go right ahead. Everyone else? Skip ’em. “When smoothies have no protein or vegetables, they are just fructose. The result is a rapid rise in blood sugar, followed by a crash. In addition, they are usually too low in calories to actually fill you up, compelling you to want more food after,” suggests Hayim.
We know, we know. It’s not food. But it’s worth a reminder that it will seriously spike your hunger: “Our bodies have no capacity to store alcohol (unlike our unlimited capacity to store fat). The process of removing alcohol from our body causes us to quickly run through our storage of glycogen (which comes mostly from carbs). So when we drink in excess (more than 2 drinks for women and more than 3 drinks for men), we crave carbs to replace the stores of glycogen lost to alcohol,” explains Lewis. “Sadly, with the impaired judgment alcohol also causes—those cravings are often for the wrong type of carbs; simple, processed, and fried.” Drink in moderation, and if cravings strike after one too many, “Reach for healthy, complex carbs (like nuts and seeds) available for that late-night snack attack.”
Keep on driving right along if you want to hold on to that flat belly body you’ve worked so hard for. “These highly processed foods are filled with things like preservatives, trans fats, HFCS, and salt. The reason you should care about this is because preservatives and trans fats interrupt our stomach’s ability to communicate with our brain,” explains Lewis. “Satiety related hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain aren’t produced, and therefore, the brain loses its ability to recognize that we are full, so we just keep eating more. And all that added salt in fast food causes our bodies to retain water, making us feel dehydrated and bloated. Often, when we think we are hungry, it is really just our bodies reminding us to rehydrate!”
“Overeating leads to more overeating. Excessive consumption of calorie-dense foods stimulates a response in your brain similar to opiates, promoting addictive behavior, says Hever. Instead of repeatedly reaching for these foods that make you hungry, try one of the best foods to combat overeating, or seek professional help if you think you may suffer from bingeing.
As hard as it may be, don’t be lured in, even by healthier-sounding donuts. (A vegan doughnut can still be deep-fried and filled with sugar, hence landing a spot on our list of foods that make you hungry). “It’s no surprise donuts are made completely out of sugar. Donuts break down into sugars, causing the boy to release more insulin. When there is a lot of insulin, too much of the sugar enters your cells, leaving none for your blood. The result is actually a low blood sugar that makes you feel hungry shortly after consumption.” C’mon, that’s why they have all the dozen deals, anyways. Steer clear.
Ever wonder how a simple craving that’s super specific can sometimes spiral out of control when you reach for something else? “If you are craving something and then try to quell that craving with something else, you are likely going to continue searching for the original food you desired,” says Hever. “Thus, it is usually better in the long run to have a small serving of whatever it is you want so you can move on with your day. In other words, if you really want chocolate, have a square of dark chocolate instead of eating low-fat chocolate ice cream.”