The Principles of Good Eating Behaviors and How to Achieve Satiety
August 3, 2023
Written By: Carley Salas MS, RDN, CDN
Some foods can help maintain a feeling of fullness longer than others. Most foods that are high in fiber or protein are typically satiety promoting. Foods that have a high water density can also be more filling. An example of this is comparing dried fruit to fresh fruit. The dried fruit has had the water content removed, so it becomes smaller in size and weighs less, which means it takes up less space in the stomach once eaten. This allows you to eat more of that food before feeling full, which is not a good thing when it comes to weight loss or weight maintenance.
High fiber foods are filling because they take longer to digest, delaying gastric emptying which helps promote fullness. Fiber serves many functions such as helping control blood sugar levels, reducing cholesterol, and preventing diverticulitis. Aim to get between 20-38 grams of fiber each day to help with satiation.
Examples of high fiber, filling foods:
- Broccoli and Cauliflower
- Brussels Sprouts
- Beans and Peas
- Oats and Oat Bran
- Apples and Pears
- Leafy Greens
- Nuts and Seeds
- Whole Grains (Quinoa, Barley, Farro, etc.)
Eating foods that satisfy hunger and promote fullness can help control overall calorie consumption and reduce snacking between meals. High protein foods also have that satiating factor which is another reason why protein is so important! Studies show that protein is the most filling macronutrient, and that it can impact the levels of the hunger/fullness hormones1. As a bariatric surgery patient, all your meals (and snacks) should be focused around protein, so you can reach that 60-80 gram/day goal.
Examples of high protein, filling foods:
- Eggs and egg whites
- Low fat yogurt and cottage cheese
- Skinless chicken and turkey
- Lean cuts of beef and pork
- Protein shakes
What makes us feel full?
Leptin – known as the satiety hormone that is secreted by fat cells, helps regulate the amount of fat mass in the body by stimulating fat cells to either burn energy (if needed) or store excess calories as fat. People that have obesity have decreased leptin receptors and impaired leptin signaling2. This impairment can increase food cravings.
What makes us feel hungry?
Ghrelin – the appetite stimulating hormone that increases when calorie intake is low, and decreases after eating. This “hunger hormone” is mainly produced in the stomach and decreases after bariatric surgery. Other parts of the body like the brain, small intestine, and pancreas also release smaller amounts of ghrelin2.
If these 2 hormones exist to regulate hunger and appetite, why do people over eat and gain weight? Well, this is a very complex question that is still being researched with the continued increase in the number of people with obesity in the world. Some people do not pay much attention to their hunger and fullness cues that their body is trying to tell them which can lead to over eating. Many patients share that when they were young they were always told to “finish their plate” even though they were full and satisfied and no longer hungry. This is not a good habit to develop, as you begin to ignore your body’s natural cues and bypass them. It encourages people to associate that uncomfortably stuffed feeling with “fullness” instead of fullness being the absence of hunger. Over time, a dysregulation can occur with the hunger and fullness hormones. Chronic yo-yo dieting where weight is lost quickly and then regained over and over is also thought to throw these appetite regulating hormones off-track.
Getting more in tune with your hunger and fullness cues is an important tool to develop healthy eating behaviors and weight management. It takes some practice, but over time you will get better at it. Next time you go to grab something to eat, take a moment to pause and check in first and ask yourself, “am I eating this because I am actually feeling hunger or because I know this will taste good/because I am stressed/bored/etc.?”
The problem with Ultra-Processed Foods AKA “Slider Foods”
Ultra-processed foods are foods that contain industrialized ingredients or other substances derived from food, and usually contain many different additives with very little, if any, intact whole food components3. Examples of these foods are candy, sugary cereals, sugary drinks, fast food, pastries, and savory snack foods like chips and cheese puffs. Ultra-processed foods have been linked to insulin resistance, obesity, the development of type 2 diabetes, as well as increased risk of cancer and all cause mortality3.
Despite the lack of nutritional value and known health impacts of these foods, many people still overconsume them. The availability, convenience, low cost, and taste of ultra-processed foods strengthens their appeal. These foods are designed by food scientists to be high in fat, salt, and/or sugar so that they are extremely palatable and therefore, make you crave them more. Here lies the issue - even though these foods are often very high in calories, they do not make you feel full. The reason is because they don’t contain fiber or protein and therefore digest very quickly, so your stomach empties faster, leaving you hungry again shortly after eating.
This is where the term “slider foods” comes from, because the foods “slide” right through. While it may not be realistic to completely eliminate these foods altogether, reducing your consumption of them and trying to eat more foods in their whole or least processed form can help you lead a healthier life.
As you continue to focus on following the principles of good eating behaviors as discussed in this blog post and a healthier eating regimen overall, you will find that you will achieve a much healthier relationship with your food and a much deeper sense of satisfaction with the years of life you have left.
- Anderberg, et al., (2015); Beckman, et al. (2010); Zhang, et al., (2006); Lustig et al., (2016).