“My kid is ALWAYS hungry!”
That’s something I hear from a lot of parents. And I know the struggle is real. My 15-year-old has been known to complain about being hungry while he’s eating. Growth spurts at any point, especially during puberty, can significantly boost appetites.
But my hunch is that sometimes kids are “always hungry” because what they’re eating simply isn’t filling them up.
Consider the typical “kid foods” like crackers, granola bars, and pretzels. They offer calories but aren’t very filling. Those foods are fine occasionally, but it’s important to feel satisfied by meals and snacks so you’re not rooting around in the cupboard 30 minutes later–or complaining to mom about still being hungry.
Foods that are especially filling tend to be ones that are rich in things like protein, fiber, healthy fats, or fluid. Here are six that are particularly satisfying:
In a special ranking of foods based on how satisfying they are (called the Satiety Index), boiled potatoes actually beat out every other food tested. And in a study with kids, those who had boiled or mashed potatoes as a side dish reported being more satisfied after the than those who had rice, pasta, or French fries.
Potatoes contain fiber, and you’ll get more if you leave the skin on. They’re also rich in vitamin C.
They’re a high-quality, affordable protein source–just don’t throw away the yolk! It packs nutrients the white doesn’t. In one research study, people found eggs a lot more satisfying for breakfast than a bagel (and they ate less at lunchtime because they weren’t as hungry).
Make it: Boil a batch of eggs at the beginning of the week for easy snacks.
Fresh fruit is naturally filling because it’s high in fiber and contains a lot of fluid. Foods that contain a lot of water (like fruits and veggies and meals like soup) activate stretch receptors in the tummy, sending a message to the brain that you’re getting full. Pears are one of the highest-fiber foods, with six grams in a medium pear.
Make it: These Caramel Pear Slices make a fun dessert or special snack
This may not seem like a particularly filling snack, but fiber’s special power (beyond being a natural whole grain) is volume. Popcorn takes up a lot of space and takes a while to eat, which the brain translates as being satisfying. In one study, adults said they were less hungry after eating popcorn than they were after eating potato chips.
Make it: Here’s my fail-proof way to make popcorn on the stove (my boys love it sprinkled with nutritional yeast!)
Oats are rich in soluble fiber, which slows digestion and makes you feel full. The Satiety Index ranked oatmeal higher than any other cereal tested (even the high-fiber boxed kinds).
This smooth, creamy fruit is rich in satisfying, heart-healthy fats. In one study, people who had avocado with their lunch were less hungry even five hours later than those who didn’t have it.
Make it: Blueberry Avocado Smoothie