Turning Off the Hunger Alarm

(The Monterey County Herald/MCT) -

I am wakened from my deep sleep by a chirp … chirp … chirping noise coming from the fire alarm on the ceiling above my head. Not a terribly urgent alarm that would spring me out of bed to call 911. This was an intermittent yet irritating “chirp” to remind me to change the battery in the fire alarm … at 5:30 in the morning.

I tried to ignore it and return to sleep mode, burying my head in the pillows. But the signal continued to prod until I got up, hauled a ladder upstairs and changed the battery. The chirping — thankfully — stopped.

Our bodies can wake us to other signals as well. Some are necessary and some can be annoying. Like when we think we’re hungry … but we really don’t need to eat. If only we could change the batteries so our hunger alarms would not chirp incessantly. Here are some proven strategies from a recent article in the newsletter Environmental Nutrition:

Choose solid foods over beverages. Form really affects how a food turns hunger signals off or on … even when calories remain the same, say researchers. A whole apple, for example, turns off hunger cues better than applesauce or apple juice. And don’t trust those chirps that urge you to pack in more food even when you’ve gulped down several hundred calories in a soda or other high-calorie drink. Research has shown that the body becomes confused and may continue to sound the hunger alarm when we drink our calories instead of eating whole foods.

Begin meals with foods that take up more room and less calories — salad, or vegetable-based soup, for example. When we fill our tummies with high-volume, low-calorie foods, guess what? Our hunger alarm stops chirping, making it easier for us to eat sensibly. Careful though. To lose weight, we need to eat these lower-calorie choices in place of — not in addition to — higher-calorie fare.

Eat more fiber-rich foods. Recent studies confirm that higher-fiber diets help turn off hunger signals and help us to eat less when we need to lose weight. And remember, boys and girls, fiber is only found in foods that began life in the ground … plant-based foods such as whole grains, fruit, vegetables, legumes, and nuts.

Get your protein. It may be the most helpful of all the nutrients for turning off hunger signals, say experts. Besides including protein-rich foods with meals — lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and low-fat dairy — plant some protein into snacks to prevent between-meals hunger chirps.

That ought to wake us up.


Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.