10 Ways to Turn Down Your New Year's Appetite

Shake off the holiday hungries and get back on track

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

So maybe we got a little off track during the holidays. Let's just say our appetites seemed to get bumped up a few notches due to irresistible party and holiday fare.

But now that it's January, many of us are in the market for a way to tame those out-of-control appetites without resorting to popping appetite suppressants or smoking cigarettes.

As luck would have it, there are food choices we make daily that can help cut our appetites -- and the number of calories we consume. Here are 10 tips to help you get your appetite back under control.

10 Tips to Turn Down Your Post-Holiday Appetite

1. Bulk up your meals. There is a lot of evidence that bulk -- that is, fiber -- reduces appetite. So turn up the volume with higher-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans.

2. Cool off your appetite with hot soup! Have a bowl of broth- or vegetable-based soup (hot or cold) for a first course, and you'll probably end up eating fewer total calories at that meal. Creamy or high-fat soups need not apply for this job -- stick to the low-cal, high fiber choices like minestrone or vegetable-bean type soups.

3. Crunch your appetite away with a big salad. A recent study found that when people had a large (3 cups), low-calorie (100 calories) salad before lunch, they ate 12% fewer calories during the entire meal. When they had a smaller (1 1/2 cups and 50 calories) salad before lunch, they ate 7% fewer calories overall. You can make the same salads they used in the study: Just toss some romaine lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, celery and cucumbers together, and dress with fat-free or low-fat dressing.

4. But beware high-fat, high-calorie salads! Eating a high-calorie salad, even a small one, can encourage us to eat more calories at the meal than if we ate no salad at all. People in a recent study who had a large, high-calorie salad (400 calories) with a meal took in 17% more calories overall at that meal. People who ate a small, high-calorie salad (200 calories) ate 8% more calories.

5. Stay on course. A little bit of variety in our meals is good and even healthful. But having several courses during a meal can lead you down the wrong path. Adding an extra course to your meal (unless it's a low calorie salad or broth-type soup) usually increases the total calories you consume for that meal.

6. An orange or grapefruit a day helps keep appetite away. Research suggests that low-calorie plant foods that are rich in soluble fiber -- like oranges and grapefruit -- help us feel fuller faster and keep blood sugars steady. This can translate into better appetite control. Of the 20 most popular fruits and vegetables, oranges and grapefruits are highest in fiber!

"Don't eat standing up. Your brain and stomach are more likely to register that you are eating if you're relaxed and enjoying the meal."

7. Get milk (or other low-fat dairy foods). Increasing your intake of low-fat dairy foods is a great way to get more of two proteins that are thought to be appetite suppressors -- whey and casein. And drinking milk may be especially effective. A recent study found that whey -- the liquid part of milk -- was better at reducing appetite than casein.

8. Have some fat with your carbs -- but not too much! When we eat fat, a hormone called leptin is released from our fat cells. This is a good thing when we're talking about moderate amounts of fat. Studies have shown that a lack of leptin (due to a very low-fat diet) can trigger a voracious appetite. Obviously, we want to do the opposite of that. But that doesn't mean we should opt for a high-fat meal. Research has found a higher frequency of obesity among people who eat a high-fat diet than among those who eat a low-fat diet.

9. Enjoy some soy. Soybeans are a well-balanced plant food that offer protein and fat along with carbohydrate. That alone would suggest that soybeans are more satisfying, and more likely to keep our appetites in control, than most plant foods. But a recent study in rats suggests that a particular component in soybeans has definite appetite-suppressant qualities.

10. Slow down, you're eating too fast. It takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to get the message that your stomach is officially "comfortable" and that you should stop eating. If you eat slowly, the brain has a chance to catch up with the stomach, and you're less likely to overeat.

Here are some tips to help slow you down during your meal:

  • Chew slowly, and pause between bites.
  • Don't eat standing up. Your brain and stomach are more likely to register that you are eating if you're relaxed and enjoying the meal.
  • Drink a 12-ounce glass of water before eating.

Originally published Dec. 26, 2003
Medically updated Nov. 18, 2004.

SOURCES: Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 1997; vol 16: pp 423-428. American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology 285, 2003; pp R992-R998. Journal of Nutrition, August 2003; vol 133: pp 2537-42. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, July 1997, Supplement; vol 97. News release, North American Association for the Study of Obesity. News release, Harvard Medical School. Rolls, Barbara & Barnett, Robert A. The Volumetrics Weight Control Plan, 2003. Barbara Rolls, PhD, Pennsylvania State University, State College. Harry R. Kissileff, PhD, associate professor of clinical psychiatry, Columbia University, New York.

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