If it seems like you're always hungry, it might be a good idea to reconsider what you're snacking on, as well as what you're eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on a daily basis. While you're likely doing what you can to have three square meals a day, and adding in a few snacks in between, you might be interested to know that some common foods that make you hungrier after eating them, instead of working nutritional magic to make you feel satisfied.
So, why are you always starving at 10 a.m., even though you ate breakfast? And why does your stomach rumble on the way home from work, even though you just had a snack? This can be explained, mostly, by the way some foods can affect your blood sugar. "Many foods digest quickly — like simple carbohydrates — and make your blood sugar spike and then crash, which can make you feel tired and hungry much faster than if they were paired with fiber or protein or fat, which slows digestion," registered dietician and nutritionist Deborah Malkoff-Cohen tells Bustle.
Some foods also have little sustenance (like the rice cakes mentioned below), meaning they're basically nutritionally void. So even though you "ate" them, to your body, that might not feel like the case. It can be incredibly frustrating, especially when all you want to do is fuel up and move on with your day.
Here are 15 foods experts say will leave you feeling hungry after you've eaten them.
1. Breakfast Cereals
Cereal may be a popular choice for breakfast, but it isn't always the best choice. "Cereals are typically refined grains that are digested and absorbed quickly," Zach J. Cordell, MS, RDN tells Bustle. And that can lead to the blood sugar spikes mentioned above, and hunger soon after.
To feel nourished longer, go for protein in the morning. "Try things like steel cut oatmeal with peanut butter, a homemade egg sandwich, avocado toast, or cottage cheese with fruit," he says. If you want to have cereal, that's perfectly fine, too. Just pair it up with a protein, and it should keep you feeling energized all morning long.
Bread can make you feel super full right after you eat it. Same goes for donuts, croissants, bagels, etc. And yet, they're not always a great idea if your goal is to feel energized for a few hours. "Those foods ... cause a blood sugar spike," says Cordell. "As a result your body releases enough insulin to cover the spike in blood sugar." And that can make you hungry, even though you just ate.
So, if you're going to nosh on a bagel, be sure it's paired with a protein, like an egg. (Breakfast sandwich, anyone?)
3. Fruit Juices
Has your energy ever crashed after drinking fruit juice? Maybe you felt all shaky and drained? This is, again, all thanks to your blood sugar.
"Fruit juice is all of the sugar in fruit without any of the beneficial fiber," San Diego-based nutritionist Adalise Jacob, RD tells Bustle. "When you eat a whole apple, its fiber helps slow down the absorption of its fructose by your blood stream. When you take the fiber out and make apple juice, you are essentially drinking liquid sugar that will make your blood sugar spike, then slump." And that can leave you feeling super hungry.
4. Low Fat Yogurts
While we all think of yogurt as healthy and filling, many brands ruin that by trying to create low fat versions. "Low fat yogurt is marketed as a healthy snack, yet will contain added sugar via flavor or via a preserved fruit topping to help cover up its actual flavor," says Jacob. "There are usually 15 to 20 [grams of] sugar in these types of yogurt, which gives you an energy spike, followed by a sugar slump, and [it can] leave you searching for another sugary or carb heavy snack to counter it."
That's why you're much better off grabbing brands that aren't labeled "low fat," in order to avoid that extra sugar, and help keep your energy levels even. "The fat ... helps your body absorb more of the vitamin D in the yogurt," says Jacob. "Full fat yogurt is creamy and easy to eat. Add a sliced banana or a diced apple for a healthy wholesome snack that will tide you over until your next meal."
5. Granola Bars
Did you know that the sweet taste of a granola bar can actually trick you into feeling hungrier, instead of fuller? "[M]ost sweet foods end up making you feel hungrier for more time, unless they are properly paired with protein, fat or fiber," says certified health coach Robyn Youkilis, author of Go With Your Gut and the upcoming Thin From Within. "Why is this? Well your body burns through the sugars quickly — you get a little boost of energy but then it needs more to keep on going. This is why you may feel great one hour after eating that granola bar, but ravenous 90 minutes later."
Granola bars may work in a pinch. But make sure you eat a real, balanced meal soon after, if you really want to keep your energy levels up.
6. Rice Cakes
Rice cakes are a go-to snack for many people, because they're light and crunchy. But they aren't going to do much in the way of filling you up — if that's your goal — because they don't provide much in the way of satiety, nutrition expert Elizabeth Ann Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT tells Bustle. "If you really do enjoy a rice cake, load it up with cottage cheese or another protein source like a nut butter to satisfy and satiate you longer," she says. And that will magically turn it into a much healthier snack.
Crackers, all by themselves, aren't great either. "Simple carbohydrates, [such as crackers] can cause a spike in blood sugar initially and then quickly plummet," says Shaw. "When this roller coaster occurs your body becomes ravenous for anything in sight!" And that's not a fun way to spend you're day, especially if you're trapped at work with nothing better to eat.
If you're going to snack on crackers in order to fuel up, be sure to pair them with a protein, such as cheese or pieces of deli meat.
8. Chips & Pretzels
Chips and pretzels are fine to munch on occasionally — especially if you're super busy and can't find anything else at the corner store. But do keep in mind that they have the tendency to leave you feeling hungrier.
Again, this has to do with the fact carbs are digested very rapidly, Russ Barton, MS, CNS, CISSN, a senior nutrition scientist at USANA, tells Bustle. "This often results in a feeling of hunger soon after the meal or snack." So go for something more substantial whenever possible, like peanuts or almonds, which are chock full of protein.
9. Sodas (Diet And Regular)
When going about your usual day-to-day business, grabbing a soda when you're thirsty can make you feel hungry soon after. "Full sugar soda will spike blood sugar and results in the concurrent insulin release and blood sugar crash to keep blood sugar under control," RJ Kayser, a nutrition coach at Olórin Nutrition, tells Bustle.
And the same is true for diet soda, but for different reasons. "There is ... evidence that the sweet taste, even without the actual sugar from diet soda, will trigger an insulin release, resulting in blood sugar dropping (because we didn’t actually consume any sugar)," says Kayser. "And so your body will feel hungry and 'crave' more food to provide nourishment and balance your blood sugar back out." The best choice when you're thirsty? Water. All the way.
10. Anything With MSG
MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is another one to watch out for. "The all-too-common flavor enhancer has been proven to chemically trigger appetite," Caleb Backe, a health and wellness coach at Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. "MSG affects leptin ... a hormone which helps regulate the body by inhibiting hunger. It is produced by the fat cells of the body, and it tells the brain that we have enough fat stored. In other words, it tells our bodies that we don't need to eat more, thereby making us less hungry." Mess with that message by eating MSG, and you'll be in for quite the rumbling stomach — even after you ate.
11. Light Snack Packs
Many of us reach for these little snack packs when we're looking for something quick. And that's totally fine. But keep in mind many of them are pretty much pointless nutritionally.
"For example, a [small] snack pack of pretzels is literally just flour, water, etc., so your blood sugar is going to be spiked and you’re going to be hungry 30 minutes later," NYC-based nutritionist Vanessa Rissetto tells Bustle. "It’s better to pair it with two tablespoons of hummus, which is a decent serving of protein and fat." That will help slow down your digestion, and give you energy for longer periods of time.
While it's smart to grab an apple when you need a quick pick-me-up, it shouldn't be the only thing you snack on during the day. "Apples are of course good for us to eat but they are still a simple sugar and cause a glucose spike, insulin release, and a quick drop as it gets digested quickly," registered dietician Justine Roth, MS, RD, CEDRD tells Bustle. "This is a good thing for your body but not so much for your hunger levels. I always recommend adding peanut/almond butter or another source of protein, like [cheese.] This will help slow down the glucose spike, less insulin will be released to break down the sugar, and you will digest it slower, thus keeping you fuller longer."
13. Fast Food
Fast food is OK in a pinch. But if you're looking to fuel up for the day, it may be smarter to skip it. "These highly processed foods are filled with things like preservatives, trans-fats, HFCS, and salt," says Kayser. "In particular, the high levels of preservatives and trans fats interrupt the stomach's ability to communicate with our brain. Satiety-related hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain aren’t produced, and therefore the brain loses its ability to recognize that we have eaten."
That's why Kayser recommends cooking at home, as often as possible, so you can have more control over what goes into your food. And actually feel nourished and satisfied once you're done eating.
OK, so gum isn't food. But did you know that chewing on it can trick your body into feeling hungrier? "Chewing gum can get your body's salivary glands working, which is the first process of digestion," dietitian Kerry Clifford, MS, RD, LDN, of Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, tells Bustle. "Your body may think that a meal is coming and make you feel hungrier than you thought."
That's why, when you're stuck somewhere and don't have a filling snack on hand, chewing a stick of gum to "tide you over" may not be the best idea.
15. Sugar-Free Snacks
As with diet soda, sugar-free snacks can trick your brain, too. "When we begin eating our brain sends signals to our body to start digestion," says Roth. The stomach then thinks it's receiving nourishment, but instead receives the artificial sugar it can't actually digest, resulting in a possible stomachache and feeling hungry later on, says Roth.
That's why, whenever possible, it's always best to eat foods like nuts, eggs, quinoa, meats, and colorful vegetables, as well as meals that are balanced nutritionally. If you've been feeling hungry, take a look at your protein intake. And, whenever possible, avoid foods like the ones experts mentioned above, since they may leave you feeling hungrier than when you started.