We all have days where hunger decides to linger: our stomachs grumble, our cravings light up or, sometimes, we get hangry.
Shahzadi Devje, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator based in Toronto, told Global News that feeling constantly hungry could be a symptom of a health condition.
“Persistent hunger is a typical symptom of diabetes, which is also accompanied with increased thirst, frequent urination and fatigue,” she said. “An increase in appetite has been observed in depression and other psychiatric conditions. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor if you suspect you have these.”
Author and registered dietitian Abbey Sharp of Abbey’s Kitchen in Toronto added that sometimes, the reason why people feel hungry all the time is that they’re not eating foods that will keep them full.
“I recommend all meals and snacks should contain one or more of what I call the ‘hunger-crushing compounds,'” she explained. “That is protein, fibre and fat so if you want a banana, great — put it on top of a piece of whole-grain toast with peanut butter. If you want pasta, pair it with a lean meat sauce with lots of high-fibre veggies.”
Devje agreed and added that some also zero in on a single nutrient.
“Instead of focusing on a single nutrient, strive for a balanced eating pattern,” she said.
“Opt for sufficient amounts of protein — beans, lentils, tofu, fish, eggs, lean poultry — at meals. Protein helps control your appetite by stimulating release of hormones that help you feel full and reduce hunger.”
Devje added: “Don’t fear healthy sources of fat, such as olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocados and fatty fish. Fat helps to delay digestion, meaning that food stays in your stomach longer — keeping you full.”
Below, both experts explain why some people always feel hungry, even after they eat a meal.
Reasons you’re always hungry
You’re eating too quickly: Some people eat too quickly and savouring meals at times is key, Devje said.
“When you gobble down your food, your body doesn’t get much time to signal to your brain that you’re getting full. This process can take 15 to 20 minutes to kick in,” she explained.
You need more sleep: Both experts agree sleep can interfere with your hunger signals, causing some people to overeat.
“Research indicates that inadequate sleep has been linked to overeating, especially junk foods,” Devje said.
“There’s no doubt about it: a decent sleep routine can help to prevent excessive hunger and overeating at meal times.”
You’re not eating enough: “Despite what a diet article says or your mother-in-law does, you may need more calories to just maintain your weight,” Sharp said.
You’re not eating the “right” foods: Carbs can be filling, but we should also fill up on fibre, protein and fats.
“We may see an uptick in our blood sugar followed by a crash, which leaves us ravenous,” Sharp explained. “I recommend always pairing any simple carbs with a source of fibre, protein or fat.”
You are stressed out: “Excessive amounts of stress can increase your appetite due to the higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol,” Devje said, adding that cortisol is shown to increase hunger and cravings.
You’re not drinking enough: Sharp said that sometimes thirst is confused with hunger.
“If you’ve recently eaten, have a big glass of water before eating again to see if that quells the discomfort,” she suggested.
You keep drinking your calories: Devje said our bodies don’t detect calories from liquids the same way they detect calories from solid food.
“Despite providing a caloric punch, you’re less likely to feel full for longer after a shake versus a balanced meal,” she said.
“Not to mention, liquids pass through your digestive tract faster than solid food, meaning you’ll be hungry sooner.”
Meal ideas to keep you full
Devje said for breakfast, skip white bagels and low-fibre cereal, aiming for homemade oatmeal instead.
“Sprinkle with a handful of almonds and your favourite seasonal fruits,” she added.
If you love fries (who doesn’t?), replace them with baked sweet potato fries, and if you’re looking for a healthier pasta option, try spaghetti squash.
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Sharp said it’s about choosing the right ingredients for a meal.
“Think whole grains, pulses and legumes, nuts, seeds, avocado, veggies, lean meats and fish,” she said.
She recommends avocado toast with white beans for a super satiating breakfast as well as this chicken, veggie and cauliflower coconut curry.
“If you’re hungry, eat,” she continued. “Your body is trying to communicate messages to us, and if we chronically ignore it, it’s very easy to blow past our satiety signals when we do allow ourselves to eat.”