You don't have to go hungry on your low-carb diet. While these diets often omit a few food groups, the foods most prominent on the diet are also the most filling. If hunger is getting the best of you on your low-carb meal plan, consult with your doctor to discuss hunger control strategies.
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Low-Carb Sources of Protein
According to a 2008 report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, protein does a better job than carbs or fat when it comes to helping you feel full. And animal protein may be even more satisfying than plant protein. The study found that amino acids in protein foods stimulate hormones that suppress appetite.
Make protein the focal point of all your meals to feel full on your low-carb diet. Eggs any style, salmon or steak work perfectly at breakfast. Stay satisfied at lunch and dinner with meals full of chicken, pot roast, pork chops, tuna or shrimp. Not only are meat and fish filling, but they're also carb-free.
If you don't eat meat, you can choose from a number of high-protein vegetarian options, such as tofu, tempeh or soy-based meatless products like meatless chicken. These vegetarian options aren't carb-free, but, per serving, have 3 grams or less of net carbs -- the amount of digestable carbs.
Quantity counts when it comes to hunger control. Low-carb veggies have a low energy density, which means you get to eat a large portion without it costing too many calories or carbs. People who eat more low-energy-dense foods get full fast and stay satisfied longer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Alfalfa sprouts, endive, escarole, watercress, lettuce, raw spinach, turnip greens, bok choy and radishes have less than 1 gram of net carbs per 1/2-cup serving size, making them the most filling on your low-carb diet. Other low-carb veggies that keep you feeling full include broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, portobello mushrooms, bell peppers and tomatoes.
The fiber in these veggies also helps keep hunger pangs away. Fiber adds bulk, so it fills you and takes longer to digest, helping you stay full. A half-cup of cooked broccoli has 2 grams of fiber, cauliflower 3 grams of fiber and turnip greens 6 grams of fiber. Raw spinach has 2 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup.
Nuts, Cheese and Dairy
Add a handful of almonds or peanuts to your meal plan to keep hunger away. These nuts are rich in protein and fiber, both of which increase satiety. An ounce of almonds has 3 grams of net carbs, while a quarter-cup of peanuts has 5 grams of net carbs.
The protein in dairy foods also keeps you feeling full. A cup of milk or yogurt, with 12 grams of carbs per cup, may be a tough fit on a very restrictive low-carb plan, but may work on a more permissive plan. Hard cheese and cottage cheese, however, fit most low-carb diets. Hard cheeses such as cheddar, mozzarella and Gouda have less than 1 gram of carb per ounce, while cottage cheese has 4 grams per half-cup.
Filling Low-Carb Snacks
Filling your low-carb meals with all these foods doesn't mean you won't be hungry in between. If you're in need of a snack to stave off hunger, try one of these. To keep it carb-free, consider a hard-cooked egg, steamed shrimp, rolled roast beef or beef jerky cured without sugar. Celery sticks filled with goat cheese, button mushrooms stuffed with bacon and Parmesan cheese, or olives with cubes of cheese work well if you have a few grams of carbs to spare. Or, try a small green salad with ranch dressing, turkey-wrapped asparagus or cucumber slices topped with a tuna and mayonnaise mix to keep you going until your next meal.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Atkins: Phase One List of Acceptable Foods
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Protein, Weight Management and Satiety
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Tofu, Meatless Chicken, Tempeh
- Atkins: What Are Net Carbs?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Low-Energy-Dense Foods and Weight Management: Cutting Calories While Controlling Hunger
- The British Journal of Nutrition: Differential Effects of Dairy Snacks on Appetite, But Not Overall Energy Intake
- HealthAliciousNess.coom: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Almonds, Peanuts, Cottage Cheese
- Lightlife: Organic Soy Tempeh
- Helpguide.org: High-Fiber Foods
- Mount Sinai: Fiber Chart
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Milk, Yogurt