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How To Eat Really Healthy And Feel Full And Satisfied

How I went from being a healthy eater who was always starving to one that was full and satisfied.

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels

Years ago I completely overhauled my diet in an effort to reduce the number of migraines and headaches I was getting, fix my digestive issues, alleviate some joint pain, and a few other things. It worked, and it was amazing! Except for one factor - I was always starving and never really felt fully satisfied after a meal.

I never understood why. I was eating impeccably clean - I'm talking plain-chicken-breasts-and-steamed-broccoli-clean. I ate three meals and had at least one snack every day. Yet I always felt hungry, particularly at the end of the day. I'd eat dinner and then two hours later I'd be starving again.

The hunger would come on quick and I'd go from being full and pleasant to starving and hangry. As a result, I would go rummaging through the fridge and pantry looking for a quick fix to get rid of my hunger. I'd grab that protein bar, pour myself a bowl of cereal, or heat up some gluten free waffles from the freezer. All of these things would give my body a large influx of sugar off-setting the healthy meals I had eaten all that day.

I struggled with this for years. I felt great on my new healthy diet and lifestyle except for this one thing I couldn't figure out. It wasn't until I learned about our hunger hormones and how to properly combine macronutrients in a meal that I was finally able to feel full after a meal.

Our hunger levels are regulated by various hormones in our body. Ghrelin and leptin are two of these hormones. According to the Society for Endocrinology, leptin is released from our fat cells and tells our brain that we are full. Ghrelin, on the other hand, is produced in our stomach and tells our brain that we are hungry. Ghrelin is commonly referred to as the "hunger hormone" because it stimulates our appetite and increases our food intake.

To feel fully satiated after a meal it is crucial to include protein, fat, and fiber with every meal. This combination of macronutrients will calm your hunger hormones telling your body that you are full, and that feeling will last for more than a few hours.

It has been proven in studies like this one that protein-rich meals reduce the amount of ghrelin in the body. Protein also takes the longest to digest of all the macronutrients keeping you full longer.

Consuming fiber also reduces ghrelin levels in the body as shown by this study. Our stomach is lined with stretch receptors that effect our ghrelin levels. The more our stomach is stretched, the more our ghrelin levels decrease. Fiber adds bulk to our food causing our stomach to physically stretch out. That's one of the many important reasons to include lots of fiber-rich vegetables in your diet.

Lastly, studies have shown that the consumption of healthy unsaturated fat has a positive effect on satiety. Fat decreases ghrelin in our bodies and slows down the digestion of our food. This slowed digestion time also helps make us feel full longer.

So now with each meal I am sure to always include these three macronutrients: protein, fiber, and fat. The protein is easy - I will cook up some turkey burgers, chicken sausages, or maybe some pulled chicken. For fiber that is where my vegetables come in. Broccolini, brussels sprouts, cauliflower rice, or an arugula salad are some of favorite options.

As far as the fat goes, one of my go-to's is simply adding a half an avocado to my meal or eating a handful of nuts. Other times I might make a nice cashew-based cream sauce, or pesto-sauce to go with it.

Including these three macronutrients doesn't mean you have to cook anything fancy! Most of my meals are quite simple and easy. And, by doing this I am no longer that healthy eater who is always starving.