How to Curb Hunger

We know it can sometimes be tough to stick with a healthy eating plan, but fortifying yourself with nutritious, filling foods throughout the day can really help control your hunger. That’s why, on the South Beach Diet, we stress eating nutrient-dense, fiber-rich carbohydrates, such as vegetables (including beans and other legumes), good unsaturated fats, and lean protein (on all Phases) as well as fruits and whole grains (Phase 2). It’s also why we tell you to avoid highly processed baked goods, breads, and unhealthy snack foods and other convenience foods, which have virtually no fiber and don’t fill you up.

High-fiber foods, good fats, and lean protein (as well as acidic foods) all help to slow the digestion of the sugars in carbohydrates. When you include a variety of these foods in your diet, your body produces less insulin, which means fewer swings in blood sugar levels. It is these swings that are the cause of cravings and hunger in the first place. Curb your hunger with healthy foods that are filling:

  1. Fiber-ful foods. The role that fiber plays in digestion is to slow the absorption of sugar. The more fiber in a food, the greater its effect. That's why many brands of highly processed instant oatmeal, for example, aren't as good for you (or for your weight loss) as the steel-cut variety. The latter (including the new quick-cooking variation) has all its fiber still intact, while most of the fiber in many instant varieties has been stripped out. Therefore, before your stomach can digest the sugars in the steel-cut oatmeal, for example, it has to separate them from the fiber. Once isolated, the fiber passes undigested through your system, slowing down digestion. In other words, fiber is an obstacle to digestion, and a good one, because it promotes satiety.

  2. Good fats. It’s not just fiber that moderates your digestive process. Fat slows the speed at which your small intestine accesses the sugars you've eaten. When you eat a piece of bread, for example, drizzle it with a little monounsaturated extra-virgin olive oil or pair it with some reduced-fat cheese rather than eating the bread alone or with a lot of butter or full-fat cheese. Likewise, having an occasional baked white potato topped with reduced-fat sour cream on Phase 3 is better than eating the potato plain. The calorie count might be higher with the sour cream, but the fat contained in the sour cream will slow down the digestive process, thereby lessening the amount of insulin that the potato prompts your body to make. Good fats also make food taste better, helping you to feel more satisfied. Mono- and polyunsaturated fats are the best kind.

  3. Lean protein. Because protein foods are digested slowly, they do not produce the spikes in blood sugar that stimulate hunger and overeating. On the South Beach Diet, you can get your protein from fish and shellfish, skinless chicken, turkey, and duck breast; game meats like bison and venison; lean cuts of beef and pork, and lamb on occasion; vegetarian meat alternatives like tofu; beans and other legumes; eggs; nuts and seeds in moderation; and fat-free and low-fat dairy products.

  4. Acidic foods. Interestingly, acidic foods, such as lemon juice, lime juice, and vinegar, also slow the digestion of carbs and the rate at which your stomach empties, thus promoting a feeling of fullness. You can dress salads or vegetables with them, or use them in marinades, and enjoy the additional benefit.

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