How to Build a Healthy Meal That Actually Keeps You Full
Do you ever eat a healthy lunch only to find yourself starving by 3 p.m.? You're not alone. This a common frustration and the reason is simple: The meal was missing at least one key element that plays a major role in satiety, satisfaction, and energy. Luckily there's an easy fix, and even better, these meals are best served and eaten hot.
- Add fiber-rich veggies
I highly recommend working vegetables into every meal (even breakfast!). They're nutritious, full of antioxidants, provide very few calories per portion, and are packed with fiber—which is filling because it takes up space in your digestive system. Fiber also slows digestion, which means you'll have a steadier supply of energy over a longer period of time.
For breakfast, veggies can be added to an omelet, whipped into a smoothie, or eaten as a side. All veggies provide some fiber, but a few top sources include artichokes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and kale.
Studies show that when cooked at temperatures higher than 70°C (158°F), the structure of the fiber is altered which improves digestibility [Holm et al. 1988, Lee et al. 1985].
Cooking veggies also makes them taste better. More of the flavonoids, indoles, and other phytonutrients bound to the fiber of many veggies and fruits are released and can be better absorbed when they’re cooked. (Hofmekler, Ori; 2011)
- Choose lean protein
Aside from boosting metabolism, lean protein also wards off hunger better than carbs and fat, according to research. Be sure to include a lean source (think eggs, seafood, poultry) in each meal. If you’re vegan, reach for lentils, beans, and peas, like chickpeas and black eyed peas. Studies show that eating them hot enhances this effect.
Processing conditions may also alter the food structure on a cellular level, enabling digestive-tract enzymes to gain physical access to the protein.
From Bradbury , the protein digestibility of the aleurone layer and grain coat from raw rice was only 25%, but increased to 65% from cooked rice, due to the disruption of the cellulose cell walls at 100°C (212°F), which was shown by electron microscopy.
And that full feeling lasts longer. It’s not just in your head, it has actually proven: Warm and cold drinks appeared to empty from the stomach more slowly than the control drink. The initial rate of gastric emptying of the cold drink was significantly slower than the control drink (p less than 0.05) and the difference in emptying rates between cold and control drinks were significantly correlated with the differences in intragastric temperatures (p less than 0.01). (Sun, WM, 1988)
Eating warm food often brings more satisfaction than cold food. The thermogenic (warming) effect slightly increases the temperature in your brain, so you feel satisfied and happy with your meal sooner. Again, this is beneficial to those concerned with their weight or weight loss.
- Don’t forget a plant-based fat
There’s no doubt about it: Fat is satiating. If you’ve ever eaten a salad with fat-free dressing versus one with olive oil, you’ve experienced the difference. Plus, the notion that eating fat makes you fat is seriously outdated.
- Toss in a "good" carb
By now you probably know that eating a low-fat blueberry muffin for breakfast isn't exactly good for you. But did you realize it will likely leave your stomach grumbling an hour later despite the whopping 400 calorie count? That's because refined carbs and sugar cause a surge in blood glucose that triggers a quick insulin response; the insulin spike then results in a drop in blood sugar, which means the return of hunger pangs.
But, that doesn’t mean you need to nix carbs altogether. Just opt for a small portion of a fiber-packed, whole food source. Good choices include whole grains like oats or quinoa, starchy veggies like skin-on potatoes and squash, fresh fruit, and legumes.
Experimental results show cooked starch to be 2 to 12 times more digestible than raw starch. Kataria and Chauhan  provide a direct comparison of starch digestibility in raw vs. cooked mung beans. Here, starch digestibility was measured in milligrams (mg) of maltose released per gram of food. The data from this study indicate that digestion of beans soaked 12 hours yields 25.3 mg maltose/gm, mung beans sprouted 24 hours yield 75.0, mung beans soaked and subjected to ordinary cooking yield 138, while mung beans soaked and pressure-cooked (for 5 minutes) yield 305 [Kataria and Chauhan 1988, Tables 1-3, pp. 54-56]. This is solid evidence that the starch in cooked beans is much more readily digested than the starch in soaked or sprouted beans, by a factor ranging from about 1.8 (i.e., 138 ÷ 75.0) to 12 times more efficient (305 ÷ 25.3), depending on differences in methods of preparing raw vs. cooked starch. We thus conclude here that overall, certainly at least in the case of beans, cooking greatly improves starch digestibility.
- Be generous with herbs and spices
Natural herbs and spices are another category of satiety enhancers. I’m talking fresh or dried basil, cilantro, oregano, rosemary, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, zest, and pepper. Even vinegars like balsamic, and hot peppers like chili or jalapeno, count. Use them to add aroma and flavor, and raise your satisfaction level at each meal.
The benefits of healthy eating include increased mental acuteness, resistance to illness and disease, higher energy levels, a more robust immune system, faster recuperation times, and better management of chronic health problems – so be sure to make them hot and tasty.
Now you may be wondering what a "complete" meal that follows all five rules would actually look like. If so, here are a couple of examples of easy, stick-to-your-ribs, energizing dishes:
Sauté Brussels sprouts in low-sodium vegetable broth, along with more of your favorite veggies like onion and grape tomatoes, along with seasonings, such as a dried Italian herb mix, turmeric, and black pepper. Add one whole egg and three to four whites or one whole egg and three quarters cup whites to scramble. Serve over a half-cup of lentils, topped with half of a sliced avocado.
Turkey veggie stir-fry
Brown about four ounces of extra-lean ground turkey and set aside. Sauté broccoli florets and other veggie faves like bell pepper and mushrooms in low-sodium vegetable broth with minced garlic, fresh grated ginger, and minced chili pepper. Add the turkey back in to re-heat, serve over a small scoop of brown or wild rice, and top with sliced almonds.