Having trouble passing the vending machine without swapping some quarters for an afternoon candy bar? You could try a new route to the copy machine. Or maybe a blindfold (don’t run into the boss!). But there is a simpler solution: Put a little super-satisfying lean protein (like a few toasted walnuts on your cereal, or protein mix in your green drink) on your breakfast plate. Reinforce it at lunch (just 1 ounce of salmon added to your salad). You’ll crave-proof your appetite for hours.
Protein gets its powers from two things. First, your body digests it slowly, keeping your blood sugar levels low and steady. Result: You feel full and satisfied longer. Second, lean protein in the morning also seems to dial back the way your brain lights up when you see foods you wish you didn’t have a crush on (chocolate-glazed doughnuts, salty chips, whatever floats your junk-food boat). Translation: You’ll make it past the desserts and fries without caving.
When you snack properly, you will lose weight, improve energy, stabilize blood sugar levels, sharpen your mental skills and even prevent heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. A study from the medical school in South Africa measured it this way: One group of healthy men ate breakfast in a single meal, while another group was given the same identical meal, but at intervals throughout the morning. When both groups sat down to lunch, the snackers were less hungry and ate smaller lunches than the big-breakfast group. And even better, they felt just as satisfied as if they had eaten a high-calorie lunch.
Another study found that when a group of French adults ate 2.7 meals and 1.3 snacks each day, the satiety ratio was higher for the snacks. Other studies have also found that people who ate four meals a day had a better metabolic profile, with a reduction in the secretion of insulin, an improvement in insulin resistance, and better blood glucose control.
And here’s a surprise: Despite the many high-protein diets and America’s reputation for devouring burgers, odds are you’re skimping a little on this important food group. Nearly two-thirds of women (63%) and one-third of men (32%) don’t get the recommended daily protein dose: 5 to 7 ounces.
So bump it up at breakfast. Some additional suggestions: two scrambled eggs (one whole egg plus one egg white) . . . peanut butter on whole-grain toast . . . even some beans (an old-timey New England breakfast classic that deserves a revival). Who knew the stealth weapon against inch-adding hunger cravings could be so easy?