Its 9 p.m. and you know just where that bag of peanut M&Ms isits stashed in the pantry behind the ultravirtuous oatmeal and seriously fortified cereal. Out of sight, but not out of mind. How can you be hungry, you wonder, when you ate a mere hour-and-a-half ago? The answer isnt so simple. Everything from stress to hormones to people, places, and situations can kick your appetite into overdrive. The good news: Whatever the cause, you can beat your hunger pangs. Here, the latest stay-full strategies from the experts.
Whip up a side of potato salad
Surprise! White potatoes arent the dietary demons Atkins devotees led us to believe. Potatoes contain a type of starch known as natural resistant starch that acts a lot like fiber once its in your digestive system, according to Katherine Beals, PhD, RD, a nutrition professor at the University of Utah. That means they make you feel full longer, keep your blood sugar level after a meal, and may even reduce body fat.
But theres a trick to maximizing this benefit: Chilling cooked potatoes nearly doubles the amount of natural resistant starch in a serving. Try an Italian-style potato salad. Boil peeled, sliced potatoes until theyre fork-tender; drain, and toss them with salt, pepper, and your favorite red wine vinaigrette. Cool the salad in the fridge and garnish it with chopped parsley before you dig in. Not a spud fan? Try black beans (or any other bean) or split peas, warm or cold, for the same benefit.
Front-load your days calories
We all know that breakfast helps keep your waistline trim, but heres more solid proof: In a recent study, University of Texas at El Paso researchers found that people who ate breakfast took in 5% fewer calories over the course of the day. Thats only about 100 calories (if you typically eat the 2,000 calories per day recommended for adult women), but, over time, it adds up. Saving 100 calories a day for one year equals a loss of more than 10 pounds. Experts estimate most of us eat 20% of our daily calories at breakfast, 30 percent at lunch, and 50 percent at dinner. “You would probably be better off shifting more of your total daily calories to the morning,” says lead author John de Castro, PhD. If you cant stomach a bigger breakfast (keep it healthy with a combo of low-fat protein, whole grains, and fruit or veggies), add a midmorning snack (a container of yogurt, some fruit with a few whole-grain crackers, or half a sandwich).
Pull out the blender
Froth beats fat. This is one of the best and least-known discoveries of professor Barbara Rolls, PhD, author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan. Rolls found that study subjects who drank smoothies and other drinks blended for at least twice as long as necessary ate 12% lessand felt fullerthan those who drank beverages blended for a shorter period. Why? Blending is a no-calorie way to increase serving size by adding air. Adding low- or no-cal ingredients to entrees (such as lettuce and tomato on top of turkey burgers or alongside broiled fish) has a similar effect: They work by increasing the amount of water instead of air.
Fool your sweet tooth with scent
A whiff of vanilla may be the antidote for your craving for a double dip of Ben & Jerrys New York Super Fudge Chunk ice cream. Heres the theory, according to experts: The inherent sweetness of vanilla sends neuropeptides (gut-to-brain messengers) into a kind of sensory overload that fools you into feeling like youve satisfied your sweet tooth. Any vanilla scent?extract, body lotion, or a candlehas a similar effect. A special spray designed to curb appetite may work, too. One to try: Scentologys Crave Control (read more about here), which was developed by Rachel Herz, PhD, a psychologist at Brown Universitys Medical School and author of The Scent of Desire.
Stock up on lentil soup
According to a new study from The Cochrane Collaboration, an independent health research organization, people on diets that call for fiber-rich, complex-carb-loaded foods such as lentils, sweet potatoes, and apples lost a little over two pounds more in five weeks, compared with people on low-fat or other types of diets. These foods rank low on the glycemic index (GI), which means theyre less likely to cause blood sugar spikes and leave you feeling hungry.
By now you know that snacking doesnt have to be a bad thing for your waistline. But did you know that the right snacks can actually suppress ghrelin, the hunger hormone? James Kenney, PhD, nutrition research specialist at the Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa in Florida, says low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods like strawberries (49 calories a cup), broccoli (20 calories a cup), and sweet potatoes (103 caloriesand ready in a microwave minute) are your best defense. “They make you feel satiated on a lot fewer calories than Pringles do,” Kenney says.
Breathe hunger away
Stress causes your body to pump out cortisol. And this, ultimately, creates a resistance to leptin, a hormone that helps you feel full. As a result, says Mark Hyman, MD, integrative medicine specialist and author of Ultrametabolism, the more stressed out you are (and the more often you feel that way), the less able you are to tell when youre full. Short-circuit the problem with this stress-reducing breathing exercise: Exhale fully, counting to five as you release tension from your body; let your shoulders slump as if youre a deflated balloon. Then count to five as you inhale gently, fully, down through the lungs into your belly; hold for a four-count. Exhale again, repeating the first step. Continue for five minutes; practice a few times each dayor whenever you feel inclined to make tracks to the snack stash.