August 18, 2022

13 Ways to Help Curb Appetite, According to Science

Hunger and appetite are something each of us knows quite well.

For the most part, we navigate these biological processes continuously throughout the day, even when we don’t realize we’re doing so.

Generally, hunger and appetite are signals from your body that it needs energy or is craving a certain type of food.

While feeling hungry is a normal sign from your body that it’s time to eat again, it’s not fun to constantly feel hungry, especially if you’ve just finished a meal. That may be a sign you’re not eating enough or not eating the right combinations of foods.

If you’re trying to lose weight, living with certain health conditions, or adopting a new meal routine like intermittent fasting, you may be wondering how to reduce feelings of hunger throughout the day (1).

Hunger and appetite are complicated processes though, and they’re influenced by many internal and external factors — which can make reducing either one difficult at times.

To make it easier, we put together this list of 13 science-based ways to help reduce hunger and appetite.

Adding more protein to your diet can increase feelings of fullness, lower hunger hormone levels, and potentially help you eat less at your next meal (2, 3, 4, 5).

In a small study including 20 healthy adults with overweight or obesity, those who ate eggs (a high protein food) instead of cereal (a lower protein food) experienced increased feelings of fullness and lowered hunger hormones after breakfast (5).

Another study including 50 adults with overweight found that drinking a beverage high in protein and fiber 30 minutes prior to eating pizza appeared to reduce feelings of hunger, as well as the amount of pizza the participants ate (2).

The appetite-suppressing effects of protein aren’t just limited to animal sources like meats and eggs either. Vegetable proteins including beans and peas might be just as useful for keeping you satisfied and moderating your intake (6, 7).

Getting at least 20–30% of your total calorie intake from protein, or 0.45-0.55 grams per pound (1.0–1.2 grams per kg) of body weight, is sufficient to provide health benefits. Yet, some studies suggest up to 0.55–0.73 grams per pound (1.2–1.6 grams per kg) of body weight (8, 9, 10).

Still, other studies have found conflicting results when it comes to high protein diets (11, 12, 13).

Thus, it’s important to remember that there may be another type of diet that better suits your dietary habits and personal preferences.

SUMMARY

Protein is a nutrient that helps keep you full. Getting sufficient protein in your diet is important for many reasons, but it may help promote weight loss, partly by decreasing your appetite.

2. Opt for fiber-rich foods

A high fiber intake helps fill you up by slowing digestion and influencing the release of fullness hormones that increase satiety and regulate appetite (3, 14, 15).

In addition, eating fiber helps produce short-chain fatty acids in your gut, which are believed to further promote feelings of fullness (16, 17, 18, 19).

Viscous fibers like pectin, guar gum, and psyllium thicken when they’re mixed with liquids and might be especially filling. Viscous fibers occur naturally in plant foods but are also commonly used as supplements (14, 20, 21, 22).

A recent review even reports that viscous, fiber-rich beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils can increase feelings of fullness by 31%, compared with equivalent meals not based on beans. Fiber-rich whole grains can also help reduce hunger (19, 23).

Still, the methods of studies examining how dietary fiber intake influences appetite have not always been consistent, and some researchers believe it’s too soon to make generalizations about the relationship between fiber and appetite (24).

Nevertheless, few negative effects have been linked to high fiber diets. Fiber-rich foods often contain many other beneficial nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and helpful plant compounds (25, 26, 27).

Therefore, opting for a diet containing sufficient fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds can also promote long-term health. What’s more, pairing protein together with fiber might provide double the benefits for fullness and appetite (28, 29, 30, 31).

SUMMARY

Eating a fiber-rich diet can decrease hunger and help you eat fewer calories. It also promotes long-term health.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that drinking water might suppress hunger and promote weight loss for some people. Animal studies have also found that thirst is sometimes confused with hunger (32, 33).

One small human study found that people who drank 2 glasses of water immediately before a meal ate 22% less than those who didn’t (34).

Scientists believe that about 17 ounces (500 mL) of water may stretch the stomach and send signals of fullness to the brain. Since water empties from the stomach quickly, this tip may work best when you have water as close to the meal as possible (34).

Interestingly, starting your meal with a broth-based soup may act in the same way. In an older study, researchers observed that eating a bowl of soup before a meal lowered hunger and reduced total calorie intake from the meal by about 100 calories (35).

This may not be the case for everyone though. Genetics, the type of soup you eat, and various other factors are all at play. For example, soups with savory umami flavor profiles might be more satiating than others (36, 37, 38).

While the neurons that regulate your appetite for both water and food are closely related, there’s still much to be learned about how exactly they interact and why drinking water might also satisfy your hunger or appetite for solid foods (39, 40, 41, 42).

Some studies have found that thirst status and water intake appear to influence your preferences for certain foods more than it influences hunger and how much food you eat (41, 43, 44).

While it’s important to stay hydrated — drinking water shouldn’t replace your meal. In general, keep a glass of water with you and sip it during meals or have a glass before you sit down to eat.

SUMMARY

Drinking low calorie liquids or having a cup of soup before a meal may help you eat fewer calories without leaving you hungry.

Solid calories and liquid calories may affect your appetite and your brain’s reward system differently (45, 46).

Two recent research reviews found that solid foods and those with a higher viscosity — or thickness — significantly reduced hunger compared with thin and liquid foods (47, 48, 49).

In one small study, those who ate a lunch comprising hard foods (white rice and raw vegetables) ate fewer calories at lunch and their next meal compared with those who ate a lunch comprising soft foods (risotto and boiled veggies) (50).

Another study found that people who ate foods with more complex textures ate significantly less food during the meal overall (51).

Solid foods require more chewing, which might grant more time for the fullness signal to reach the brain. On the other hand, softer foods are quick to consume in large bites and may be easier to overeat (52, 53, 54).

Another theory as to why solid food help reduce hunger is that the extra chewing time allows solids to stay in contact with your taste buds for longer, which can also promote feelings of fullness (55).

Aim to include a variety of textures and flavors in your meal to stay satisfied and get a wide variety of nutrients.

SUMMARY

Eating thick, texture-rich foods rather than thin or liquid calories can help you eat less without feeling more hungry.

Under normal conditions, your brain helps your body recognize when you’re hungry or full.

However, eating too quickly or while you’re distracted makes it more difficult for your brain to notice these signals.

One way to solve this problem is to eliminate distractions and focus on the foods in front of you — a key aspect of mindful eating.

As opposed to letting external cues like advertisements or the time of day dictate when you eat, mindful eating is a way of tapping into your internal hunger and satiety cues, such as your thoughts and physical feelings (56).

Research shows that mindfulness during meals may weaken mood-related cravings and be especially helpful for people susceptible to emotional, impulsive, and reward-driven eating — all of which influence hunger and appetite (57, 58, 59, 60).

Nevertheless, it appears that mindful eating works best for limiting food cravings and increasing your awareness around food when it’s paired with a healthy diet, regular physical activity, and other behavior-focused therapies (61).

SUMMARY

Eating mindfully has been shown to decrease hunger and increase feelings of fullness. It may also reduce calorie intake and help cut down on emotional eating.

When your appetite or hunger levels are high, it can be especially easy to eat more than you planned. Slowing the pace at which you eat might be one way to curb the tendency to overeat (62, 63).

One study found that people who ate faster took bigger bites and ate more calories overall (64).

Another study found that foods eaten slowly were more satiating than those eaten quickly (65).

Interestingly, some newer research even suggests that your eating rate can affect your endocrine system, including blood levels of hormones that interact with your digestive system and hunger and satiety cues, such as insulin and pancreatic polypeptide (66).

SUMMARY

Eating slowly could leave you feeling more satisfied at the end of a meal and reduce your overall calorie intake during a meal.

You might have heard that eating from a smaller plate or using a certain size utensil can help you eat less.

Reducing the size of your dinnerware might also help you unconsciously reduce your meal portions and consume less food without feeling deprived. When you have more on a larger plate, you’re likely to eat more without realizing it (67, 68).

Some studies have found that eating with a smaller spoon or fork might not affect your appetite directly, but it could help you eat less by slowing your eating rate and causing you to take smaller bites (69, 70).

Yet, other studies have found conflicting results.

Researchers are beginning to understand that how the size of your dinnerware affects your hunger levels is influenced by a number of personal factors, including your culture, upbringing, and learned behaviors (71, 72).

The benefits of eating on a smaller plate may have been overstated in the past, but that doesn’t mean this technique isn’t worth trying (73, 74, 75, 76).

Experiment with different plate and utensil sizes to see for yourself whether they have any effect on your hunger and appetite levels or how much you eat overall.

SUMMARY

Eating from smaller plates may help you unconsciously eat less without increasing your feelings of hunger, though the results of this technique can vary greatly from person to person.

Exercise is thought to reduce the activation of brain regions linked to food cravings, which can result in a lower motivation to eat high calorie foods and a higher motivation to eat low calorie foods (77, 78).

It also reduces hunger hormone levels while increasing feelings of fullness (79, 80, 81, 82).

Some research shows that aerobic and resistance exercise are equally effective at influencing hormone levels and meal size after exercise, though it also suggests that higher intensity exercise has greater subsequent effects on appetite (77, 83, 84).

Overall, exercise appears to have a relatively positive effect on appetite for most people, but it’s important to note that studies have noticed a wide variability in the way individuals and their appetite respond to exercise (85).

In other words, there’s no guarantee the results will be the same for everyone. However, exercise has many benefits, so it’s a great idea to incorporate movement you enjoy into your day.

SUMMARY

Both aerobic and resistance exercise can help increase fullness hormones and lead to reduced hunger and calorie intake. Higher intensity activities might have the greatest effects.

Getting enough quality sleep might also help reduce hunger and protect against weight gain (86, 87).

Studies show that too little sleep can increase subjective feels of hunger, appetite, and food cravings (88, 89).

Sleep deprivation can also cause an elevation in ghrelin — a hunger hormone that increases food intake and is a sign that the body is hungry, as well as the appetite-regulating hormone leptin (90, 91).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most adults need 7–9 hours of sleep, while 8–12 hours are recommended for children and teens (92).

SUMMARY

Getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night is likely to reduce your hunger levels throughout the day.

10. Manage your stress level

Excess stress is known to raise levels of the hormone cortisol.

Although its effects can vary from person to person, high cortisol levels are generally thought to increase food cravings and the drive to eat, and they have even been linked to weight gain (93, 94, 95, 96).

Stress may also decrease levels of peptide YY (PYY) — a fullness hormone (97).

On the other hand, some people react differently to stress.

One study found that acute bouts of stress actually decreased appetite (98).

Whether you’ve noticed that you tend to feel hungrier when you’re under stress or often find yourself stress eating in tense situations, consider some of these techniques to alleviate your stress (99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104):

  • eat a healthy diet rich in stress-relieving foods
  • exercise regularly
  • sip green tea
  • consider a supplement like ashwagandha
  • try yoga or stretching
  • limit your caffeine intake

SUMMARY

Reducing your stress levels may help decrease cravings, increase fullness, and even protect against depression and obesity.

Ginger has been linked to many health benefits due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties from the bioactive compounds it contains (105, 106, 107, 108).

When it comes to appetite, ginger actually has a reputation for increasing appetite in cancer patients by helping to ease the stomach and reduce nausea (109, 110, 111).

However, recent research adds another benefit to the list — it may help reduce hunger (112).

One animal study fed rats an herbal mix that contained ginger along with peppermint, horse gram, and whey protein. The mixture was found to help regulate appetite and induce satiety, though the results can’t be attributed to the ginger alone (113).

Still, more studies in humans are needed before strong conclusions about ginger and hunger can be reached (114).

SUMMARY

In addition to adding flavor and settling your stomach, ginger may help decrease feelings of hunger. Yet, more research is needed to confirm this effect.

12. Opt for filling snacks

Snacking is a matter of personal choice. Some people like to include snacks as part of their daily meal routine, whereas others don’t.

If you’re having trouble regulating your hunger and appetite levels throughout the day, some research suggests that eating snacks could help (3).

To promote feelings of fullness and satiety, choose snacks that are high in (3):

  • protein
  • fiber
  • healthy fats
  • complex carbs

For instance, a high protein yogurt decreases hunger more effectively than high fat crackers or a high fat chocolate snack (68).

In fact, eating a serving of high protein yogurt in the afternoon not only helps keep you full but also might help you eat fewer calories later in the day (115, 116).

SUMMARY

Eating a protein or fiber-rich snack will likely decrease hunger and may prevent you from overeating at your next meal.

13. Don’t deprive yourself

The relationship between appetite, hunger, and cravings is complex and includes many biological pathways.

Researchers are still working to understand exactly what happens when you restrict certain foods, and whether doing so is an effective approach to lessen cravings for those foods (117, 118).

Some people tend to experience cravings more intensely and are therefore more susceptible to them than others (119).

For most people, it’s not necessary to completely cut your favorite foods out of your diet. You can and should eat your favorite foods, after all.

If you have a craving for a certain specific food, enjoy that food in moderation to see whether it relieves the craving and lowers your appetite again.

SUMMARY

Enjoying the foods you crave in moderation might be more effective at reducing hunger and cravings than depriving yourself of them completely.

Hunger and appetite are normal bodily functions.

Typically, they’re simply a sign that your body needs energy and it’s time to eat.

The tips mentioned here are just a few simple ways to reduce your appetite and hunger during times when it feels like those sensations are higher than normal.

If you’ve tried these things but still find yourself feeling hungry more than usual, consider talking with a healthcare professional about additional support for regulating your appetite.