Foods that make you hungrier

By Charlie Williams
Published September 14, 2020

Key Takeaways

No matter what we eat, hunger is seldom more than a few hours away. Though sometimes it can feel like hunger is seldom more than a few minutes away, even after we just ate.

Why? When we give our bodies high-quality nutrients, we receive enduring energy that wards off hunger. Low-quality nutrients burn more quickly, requiring us to eat again sooner. These four foods can contain more calories, but may make you hungrier.


Yogurt is consistently touted as a healthy snack, and by itself, it typically is. However, most commercial yogurts are a dessert-like hybrid of yogurt and sugar. For example, Dannon Fruit on the Bottom Blueberry yogurt has 20 g of sugar per 5.3-oz container—that’s about 28% of your daily recommended value (DRV) of sugar and more than half of the sugar you’d find in a 12-oz can of Coke. On top of that, it has relatively little protein, just 5 g per serving.

The combination of high sugar and low protein means a cup of sweetened yogurt will leave you feeling hungry again in no time. Added sugars are notorious for being “empty calories”—foods that do a poor job satiating hunger because they are high in calories but offer few or no other nutrients. Protein, on the other hand, is incredibly effective at satisfying hunger. Unfortunately, you won’t find much in most sweetened yogurts.

Luckily, you can still enjoy some yogurts and rid yourself of hunger—just mind the nutrition label. A 5.3-oz cup of Chobani non-fat plain Greek yogurt has 14 g of protein (28% of your daily recommended intake) and just 4 g of sugar. For those who can’t do without the sweetness, experts recommend adding some fresh fruit to the mix.


The bad news: Like yogurt, most cereals are a dessert-like hybrid of cereal and sugar. For example, a single serving of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes has 12 g of sugar (24% DRV), just 1 g of protein, and <1 g of fiber. Studies have shown that while fiber doesn’t pack much of a nutritional punch, it reduces feelings of hunger by increasing digestion time and slowing the emptying of the stomach.

The good news: Like yogurt, it’s all about reading the nutrition labels and making a smart choice. Some cereals are effective at reducing hunger, like Kashi Go Original. It packs 12 g of protein (17% DRV), 13 g of fiber (46% DRV), and 8 g of sugar (14% DRV). Pouring whole milk over cereal adds another 8 g of protein to the mix.

Refined grains

Refined grains like white bread and white rice might feel filling at first, but they lack the sustainable hunger-fighting powers of whole grains, such as whole wheat bread and brown rice. In one study, researchers found that people who consumed three or more slices of white bread daily were 40% more likely to be obese than those who ate just one portion of white bread weekly.

“The issue is that white bread is made with highly refined flour, which is rapidly absorbed as sugar,” the study’s lead author told The Independent. “Essentially it is equivalent to a high consumption of sugar. The problem is similar to what we see with soft drinks, their sugars are rapidly transformed into fat.”

Another issue? The refining process removes the bran and germ. This gives the grains a finer texture and improves shelf life, but also removes dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins present that are much more effective at satiating hunger. Even enriched grains—those that have been refined but subsequently “enriched” with some of the vitamins they lost in the process—are not re-enriched with fiber.

Foods high in sodium/salt

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer, notably used in many Americanized Chinese foods, but also common in chips, condiments, frozen meals, and soups. If you’ve ever consumed any of these foods and felt hungrier afterward, MSG could be the cause. In one study of 24 men, 1% added MSG in soups significantly increased flavor but resulted in a much smaller decrease in hunger. Added MSG also resulted in reduced feelings of fullness immediately after consuming the soup, even though it was high in protein.

Other studies, however, suggest that MSG has little effect on appetite. Another potential explanation is that all of the aforementioned foods are high in salt, which studies have shown induces body water conservation, decreases fluid intake, and can also increase feelings of hunger as a result, leading to weight gain.

“It makes sense that on a high-salt diet, the body wants to prevent water loss,” Jens Titze, MD, told “So the kidneys have to find a way to increase water content—and if you have more water content in your body, you’re going to be less thirsty.” All of that extra water retention consumes significant energy, which could be the cause behind increases in appetite.

Bottom line

Whether a snack or meal is satiating comes down to its nutrient content. Protein and fiber go a long way toward long-term satiety, while empty calories like sugar and refined grains can make you feel hungrier—or hold you over for short periods, at best. 

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