A friend of mine recently asked me if it was normal to feel hungry a little while after eating a meal based mostly on vegetables. She made a vegetarian pizza at home to be exact. I always welcome questions like this because it gives me an opportunity to share what I have learned over the past few years about what it means to be healthy and so on.
Also, with veganism on the rise, you may be wondering, “How can anyone feel satisfied on a diet of plants?” I’d love to help you with this question!
Plants Are Satisfying!
If you are starting out on a plant-based diet, or are just adding more vegetables while minimizing animal protein as my friend is trying to do, you may feel like you aren’t quite full after you eat, or even a little while later. I like to compare it to this. Remember a few years back when everyone drank whole milk? Then all of the sudden health headlines stated we should be drinking skim milk instead-so many people switched to that. When you first switched, the skim milk probably tasted very watery. But your taste buds adjusted and so did your body. Then, did you ever taste whole milk again after getting used to skim? If so, you probably thought it tasted too heavy-like cream, and couldn’t imagine how you ever drank it before. So that’s a good analogy for the change that you might feel.
More importantly, make sure you are eating enough. One of the most common things that people new to plant-based diets do is not eat enough. Don’t limit yourself. Eat until you are really satisfied. 400 calories of meat compared to 400 calories of vegetables adds up differently, as shown below. So eat up! That’s one of the beauties in this lifestyle; you don’t have to count calories if you are simply eating a diet based on beans, vegetables, fruit, grains, nuts, and seeds! Come on, did you really think you were destined to be counting calories your entire life? Nah, not necessary.
Also, it is very much worth noting that feeling “full” on a plant-based diet is different than feeling full eating the standard American diet. Since moving to a plant-based vegan diet, I have noticed how much lighter I feel after meals versus when I was also eating dairy. So going from eating meat, dairy, and processed foods to eating whole food plant foods will feel very different for you. I used to not feel “full” until I was uncomfortable, stuffed, and tired, sitting on the couch-done for the night. Now when I eat, I feel satisfied and still have energy afterwards! There is a real reason for this. Your digestive system is built to break down starches, natural sugars and complex carbohydrates. It is not set up to digest animal protein. Therefore, when you eat animal protein, it takes a lot longer for your body to process it along with a lot more energy focused on it. Plants tend to make a quicker “exit”, as you will notice. This is a great thing that you will come to enjoy, as crazy as that may sound right now!
Hunger Can Be Mental – Pay Attention
The feeling of being hungry is not only physical for most people, but also mental and emotional. We want to eat when we are happy, when we are sad, when we are watching a movie, when people around us are eating, etc. Food is not just a need today, but a want-and we are used to indulging whenever we may feel the slightest “hunger” coming on. So, first and foremost, know that it takes a few weeks for your body to adjust to a diet change. Be aware that you’ll have cravings and may feel odd at times. A certain amount of detoxing occurs when you stop eating the bad stuff and start eating the good stuff. It is normal to experience headaches and cravings when transitioning. Don’t worry, you’ll feel better than ever after a few weeks. Some people experience no detoxing effects and just start to feel great immediately. Everyone is different. I suggest you get to know your body and pay attention to the signals it sends you. Typically, true hunger comes on quite quickly and feels more like a need. Try to learn to pay attention to yourself to figure out if your hunger is real or if it’s more emotionally-charged.
1. Along with fresh veggies, be sure to eat whole grains (brown rice, oats, barley, buckwheat, quinoa, etc), beans, potatoes and other starchy vegetables. Complex carbs are your friend!
2. Eat variety. Explore different fruits and vegetables. The more variety, the more you broaden your taste palette. You’ll eat more once you discover of all the wonderful flavors out there that you haven’t yet experienced. You’ll also develop a true appreciation for the real flavors of vegetables because they won’t be covered in butter or cheese. You’ll be shocked, I promise!
3. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. This goes without saying as an all-around health tip, but it is worth paying attention to. Here is a simple indicator for you-if your urine is clear, you are hydrated. If it is yellow, drink more water!
4. Eat enough! Don’t make yourself uncomfortable or anything-but don’t limit yourself the same way you may have in the past with food. This is a guilt-free zone from now on!
5. Buy a plant-based cookbook! There are TONS of great ones on the market today! Check out Happy Herbivore, Engine 2 Diet, Eat Vegan on $4 A Day, Forks Over Knives Cookbook, The Vegan Table, Dr. McDougall, Veganomicon, the list goes on!