There's being hungry, and there's being hungry.
The latter refers to that insatiable, unquenchable, indestructible hunger that leads you to down an entire bag of Doritos, a bowl of Rocky Road and two slices of pizza—and somehow still be hungry! We know the feeling, and we hate it.
Here's the thing—when your hunger is burning like wildfire, junk food probably won't extinguish it. Junk food often comes in the form of quick-digesting simple carbs, which may stave off hunger momentarily, but it can come raging back stronger than before. Ultra-processed foods can also play tricks on your brain chemistry, suppressing fullness and encouraging you to eat more food that intensely activates the reward centers in your brain, like Oreos.
When you feel like your stomach is a bottomless pit, junk food just ain't gonna cut it. That's why we've put together a list of six easy-to-make, healthy snacks that contain the perfect cocktail of nutrients to stop hunger in its tracks.
1. Sweet Potato
If you're looking for a simple, satisfying snack that can do a number on your hunger, a sweet potato could be the perfect pick.
If you down a medium sweet potato with the skin, you're ingesting roughly 5 grams of fiber, about 20 percent of the recommended daily value. Fiber is perhaps the single most important nutrient for corralling hunger. In addition to controlling blood sugar, fiber slows down digestion, which helps you feel fuller for longer after you eat. Like most fruits and vegetables, sweet potatoes are largely composed of water. Foods high in water take up more room in your stomach, enhancing fullness. A raw sweet potato contains roughly 77 percent water. Sweet potatoes are also high in vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium, making them a very complete food. Cooking a sweet potato is really simple—just wash it down, poke some holes in the skin with a fork and stick it in the microwave for 4-6 minutes.
2. Carrots and Hummus
Carrots and hummus are a dynamite duo for crushing hunger cravings.
Let's talk about carrots first. Like sweet potatoes, they are high in fiber. One cup contains about 14 percent of the daily recommended value. Carrots are also about 87 percent water. High-water foods not only make you feel fuller, they also fend of dehydration. One of the biggest symptoms of mild dehydration is hunger.
Carrots' high fiber and water content makes them a perfect pairing with hummus. Hummus is packed with both fiber and protein. Protein also helps you feel full, because it activates the release of hormones that promote satiety.
3. Whole Wheat Toast With Nut Butter
Looking for a slightly sweet snack that hits spot while also filling you up? Whole wheat toast with nut butter will do the trick.
Whole wheat bread is bread made with flour milled from whole or almost-whole wheat grains. This results in fiber and protein content that's superior to white bread. Two slices of whole wheat bread pack 14 percent of your daily recommended value of fiber and over 7 grams of protein. Whole wheat bread is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, which take longer to digest and provide longer-lasting energy than simple carbohydrates—the kind you often find in junk food.
Spreading peanut butter or almond butter on your toast is a great idea if you're dealing with Herculean hunger. Two tablespoons of peanut butter packs another 7 percent of your recommended daily value of fiber, plus another eight grams of protein. Peanut butter also has healthy fat, which can help keep your appetite in check in addition to conveying a host of other benefits (such as reduced inflammation and lower cholesterol). One of the longest running research projects around, the Nurses' Health Study, discovered that women who ate peanut butter at least five times a week weighed about 10 pounds less on average than women who avoided peanut butter. Just opt for the all-natural stuff when you can.
4. Scrambled Eggs (With Hot Sauce)
Eggs are a fantastic food for fighting hunger.
Though they contain zero fiber, they're packed with protein—a single scrambled egg contains 8 grams—and healthy fats. Do you doubt the appetite-fighting capabilities of eggs? Consider this: a 2008 study from Saint Louis University found that those who ate eggs for breakfast consumed 330 fewer calories through the day than those who had a bagel.
Hot sauce is optional, of course, but there's a growing body of research suggesting that spicy foods can help people eat less. Capsaicin, the main compound in chilies, has been shown to help the body burn extra calories once a meal is over.
5. Avocado and Anything
Based on my own estimate, the popularity of avocados has risen roughly a billion percent over the last five years. That's a good thing, because avocados are a very well-rounded food. A single avocado contains an astounding 52 percent of your daily recommend value of fiber, in addition to a boatload of healthy fats and a hearty helping of protein. A 2014 study from Loma Linda University found that having a serving of avocado with their lunch helped participants cut down on their afternoon feelings of hunger by 40 percent.
Avocado is a versatile food, and there are lots of possibilities for including it in a snack. You can spread it on toast, put it on a sandwich, mash it into some guacamole or just eat it plain.
Yes, the way popcorn is often served in movie theaters qualifies as junk food. It's drowned in an ocean of artificial butter flavoring. But popcorn eaten plain or lightly seasoned is quite a nutritious food. For one, it's a whole grain, meaning it offers the benefits of a complex carbohydrate. Second, its high fiber content (14 percent of the daily recommend value per one-ounce serving) can keep you full for hours. Popcorn is also stuffed with polyphenols, the same antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables that help battle chronic disease.
If you're looking for a filling popcorn topping, try a drizzle of olive oil. The abundant amount of healthy fats will help you crush your hunger. If you're looking for a cheesier taste, give nutritional yeast a shot. It's a popular vegan seasoning that's high in protein and B vitamins.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock