How to Feel Full With Fewer Calories

You've laid out your daily meal plan and stuck to it dutifully—until the mid-afternoon munchies hit. Here are some ways you can stay full without the need to add extra calories.

Go For Volume

It may seem counterintuitive, but you can eat more of certain foods and still shed pounds. Foods that get a lot of their volume from fiber and water, such as produce, are more satisfying than smaller portions of foods packed with sugar, fat, and salt—so you can fill your plate. Go for several cupfuls of fruit instead of a glass of fruit juice.

Slow Down

It can be difficult in our always-in-a-rush society to grasp the idea that a meal can and should take more than a few minutes (and should be eaten at a table, not behind a steering wheel). Experts say it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal that your stomach is full. If you wolf down your food, you may think you're still hungry well before that 20 minutes is up, making it much too easy to keep eating. Try putting your fork down between bites and conversing with your dinner companions. At the very least, swallow each bite before taking the next one. Not only does slowing down give the brain a chance to catch up to the stomach, it also helps you enjoy the taste and texture of what you're eating. When you enjoy food, you'll be more likely to be satisfied with less.

Cut Down on Variety

Eating a wide range of foods is wonderful in general, but for individual meals it's best to stick to one or two things. Why? Research suggests that too many different flavors in one sitting can keep your appetite revved up. You might fill up on the roasted chicken, but your brain will want to have your fair share of the pasta primavera as well. And some of that crème brulee for dessert. Limiting your meal to one type of flavor helps promote satiety.

Spice Things Up

Be liberal in your use of flavorful spices, herbs, and garnishes such as basil, cilantro, mint, cinnamon, garlic, pepper, and ginger. The reason? Foods that are intensely flavored are inherently more satisfying than bland foods—and you'll find yourself stopping after one portion. The best spices are fresh, so hit the farmer's market or grow them yourself. Another bonus: Fresh spices and herbs are a great alternative to salt.

Alison Massey reviewed this article.



University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County, Food Reflections. "Eat Smart: How to Fill up, Not Out!" Web. March 2003.

Yale University Office of Public Affairs. "Losing Weight by Controlling Flavor Variety." Web.

American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Swap Out Salt for Spices." Web.