12 Healthy Foods That Fill You Up Best

Dina Cheney
by Dina Cheney
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12 Healthy Foods That Fill You Up Best

We all know the feeling of eating too much food, of being not just full but stuffed, and yet not feeling satisfied.

When we eat, sensors in our mouth, stomach and intestines assess the volume and chemical composition of what we’ve taken in, says Stephan J. Guyenet, PhD, author of “The Hungry Brain; Outsmarting the Instincts that Make Us Overeat.” Those sensors send that information to our brain stem, which then sets our level of fullness, or satiety. Once this feeling builds, our brain decides we’ve had enough food.

The question is, which foods flip that switch?

In 1995, a University of Sydney study found that high-fiber, high-water and high-protein foods were the most filling. It’s all the stuff we know is good for us: fresh fruits and vegetables; chicken and seafood; whole grains, beans and lentils; eggs and yogurt.

“Simple, whole foods similar to what our ancestors would have eaten provide a higher level of satiety per calorie, and may encourage a slimmer body with less effort,” Guyenet says.

Dr. Donald Hensrud, medical director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program and medical editor-in-chief of “The Mayo Clinic Diet,” agrees. “Numerous studies have demonstrated that when people eat foods high in water and fiber and low in fat and processed carbohydrates, they can achieve satiety at a lower calorie intake (but the same weight of food consumed) and, therefore, better manage weight.”

“The most filling foods contain protein, which is slowly digested, so it sticks to your ribs; and fiber, which expands like a sponge in the gut to keep you full,” explains Karen Ansel, MS, RDN, and author of “Healing Superfoods for Anti-Aging: Stay Younger, Live Longer.” “While most fiber-containing foods, such as fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains, are naturally low in calories, protein is a different story. Be sure to stick with the leanest sources.”

Seek out these 12 nourishing basics to get your healthy fill:

1. Beans

Rich in protein and fiber, beans fill you up and are easy on the wallet. Add them to salads, use them to displace some of the noodles in a pasta dish or plop them into soup to add staying power.


2. Broccoli & Other Cruciferous Vegetables

“I love broccoli because it contains the highest amount of glucoraphanin, which supports your body’s own detoxification system, and has very few calories,” says Ashley Koff, RD, founder of Ashley Koff Approved and The Better Nutrition Membership. “I feel the same way about cauliflower. Try frozen cauliflower to thicken smoothies.”


3. Canned Tuna

“Canned tuna is one of the most underrated foods out there,” says Ansel. “A five-ounce can gives you 28 grams of protein, for only 122 calories. Plus, it’s a good source of omega-3 fats, which are key for heart and brain health.”


4. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are rich in slowly digested protein and fiber, nutrients that work together to keep you full for hours,” says Ansel. She recommends swirling one tablespoon of the seeds into iced tea or juice to transform them into filling snacks.

5. Chicken

“Lean proteins, like chicken, aid in satiety by affecting the hormones that control hunger and how quickly food empties from our stomachs,” says Keri Glassman, MS, RD. “Chicken also has the highest thermal effect of food, meaning it burns the most calories during digestion, versus carbs and fat.”


6. Eggs

Eggs are a quick, easy source of protein, and they’re a lot lower in fat than you might think,” says Ansel. “One large egg gives you six grams of protein, with less than five grams of fat and only 1.5 grams of saturated fat.”

7. Greek Yogurt or Skyr (Icelandic Yogurt)

Packed with protein and calcium (Ansel says calcium is believed to help with fat burning), yogurt goes with everything from oatmeal (see below) and fresh berries to natural nut butters. Greek and Icelandic-style yogurt has even more protein than the regular kind.

8. Oatmeal

“Oatmeal contains a soluble fiber called beta-glucan,” says Glassman. “This slow-digesting fiber will keep you fuller for longer, preventing overeating, while it also may improve blood cholesterol and overall heart health.” If you’re burned out on your usual morning oats, try these 15 new ways to make oatmeal.

9. Nuts & Nut Butters

“Nuts and nut butters are satiating due to their protein and fiber,” says Jackie Newgent, RDN, author of “The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook.” “Plus, they can provide satisfying crunch, creamy texture, and rich flavor!” Glassman suggests adding a small amount of natural peanut butter to oatmeal to deliver healthy fats and “give your sweet tooth a fix.”

10. Potatoes

Topping the charts for satiety in the 1995 study by a wide margin was… the humble spud. “Keep in mind that [study participants] ate it plain, without burying it in butter, cheese and bacon bits,” says Guyenet.

11. Quinoa

“Quinoa supplies both protein and fiber,” says Ansel. “And, unlike most other grains, it delivers complete protein.” Use in place of rice or pasta for better filling power.


12. Ricotta or Cottage Cheese

“A quarter cup of either provides a whopping 7 grams of protein,” Ansel says. “Try instead of cream cheese on a whole-wheat English muffin or bagel.”


> 9 Unexpected Ways to Use Greek Yogurt
> Recipe: Easy Cheesy Crustless Quiche
> Recipe: Tart Cherry Chia Pudding

About the Author

Dina Cheney
Dina Cheney

Dina is the author of six books, including The New Milks, as well as a writer and recipe creator for numerous publications and brands. For more healthy living inspiration, visit her dairy-free site, The New Milks, and connect with her on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.


25 responses to “12 Healthy Foods That Fill You Up Best”

  1. Avatar Suewa says:

    I’ve embraced all of these foods and removed white sugars,bad fats, white flour products and processed food from my diet.. With the help of Weight Watchers and plenty of exercise I’ve dropped 83 lbs. Feel better at 64 than I did at 40. This change in your diet brings about a big, big payoff for your mind, body and overall health by switching to healthy food.

  2. Avatar Komrad says:

    I really can’t eat these except on the weekend when I’m not on the go . a list of items that don’t spoil easily that you can bring to work to eat at your desk would be more useful to me.

    • Avatar Erroll Gibson says:

      Just an excuse. If health is actually important to you, you’ll make time for it. Healthy foods are generally whole/unprocessed and perishable (there’s clear reason why most foods in the centre of supermarkets are the most unhealthy).

    • Avatar Cindy Brooks Barker says:

      There were at least 4 or 5 items in that list that don’t need refrigeration. Nuts & nut butters, broccoli & cauliflower, chia seeds, canned tuna. Plus all you need is a lunch bag with an ice pack & you could bring most of the others.

      • Avatar Komrad says:

        Nuts – noisy and disturb co-workers.
        Butters, tuna, seeds etd – messy and noisy since I eat at my desk while working.

        Lunch bag – no room in my work backpack for that , I put sandwiches into plastic contains and slide them in next to my work laptop.

        The only thing that works are quest bars because they have great ingredients , don’t spoil , aren’t messy, and don’t make crunching noises when I eat them .

        • Avatar Cindy Brooks Barker says:

          Noisy!?! That’s a problem too? What do the rest of your co-workers eat? You’re just too picky & like Erroll said…making excuses

        • Avatar Phil Bowman says:

          you win whiner of the year award with that loser attitude,you will be jobless real soon.

        • Avatar Janine Lea says:

          Komrad, we are all busy. Especially in the mornings.
          I make up a pot of steel cut oatmeal (6 servings) on Sunday morning. I have one serving with my breakfast, and put the other 5 into separate Pyrex bowls, which I pop in the microwave every morning. I add sliced banana or a handful of blueberries to the bowl once heated. No need for sugar.
          When I get out of the shower, I head into the kitchen. I put a small saucepan full of water on the stove and take out a clean bowl, spoon, my bowl of oatmeal out of the fridge, along with an egg.
          By the time I’m dressed, the water is boiling for the egg. Cooked to how I like it, I pop the bowl of oatmeal in the microwave while I peel the egg.
          A minute later, breakfast is ready.
          There’s always ways to manage things.
          If you can’t have your veggies during lunch, have them for dinner.

          • Avatar Naveed says:

            I’ve been eating this food long time and maintain my weigh at 180lbs I’m 43 years old but by the grace of my God and all these nutrientions who believes on natural diet rather than recommed unhealthy expensive pills out in the market

        • Avatar Brittanikillgo@gmail.com says:

          Ugh. I work in health and fitness, obesity and chronic pain specifically and nine months later your post radiates excuses… if it matters you’ll find a way, these aren’t impossible foods at all. When you stop making excuses you can start seeing results. It’s not handed to you it’s earned.

        • Avatar CRidenhour says:

          If your nut-eating is so noisy it bothers people then you might be doing it wrong. You could eat a banana – it should not make any sound! Quest bars are not real food.

  3. Avatar Jeff Crumbaugh says:

    Concise and useful. The added links for recipes are especially helpful. My only concern: tuna often contains elevated levels of mercury, a neurotoxin.

  4. Avatar Albert Sain says:

    This is a good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere. Brief but very accurate info… Appreciate your sharing this one. A must read article!

  5. Avatar Laleh Talebian says:

    I just wanted to clarify that Quinoa is NOT a grain but a seed.

  6. Avatar Tony says:

    Everything stated in this blog seems quite palpable and helpful except for the peanut butter reference which is a food that I have grown suspicious of and have completed dispensed from my diet. Too many other great alternatives than to take any chances with peanuts.

    • Avatar Nick Fergadis Giannakopoulos says:

      What’s wrong with peanuts? Genuinely curious.

      • Besides peanut butter being very high in fat and often sugar, peanuts are frequently rotated with cotton as a crop, and cotton is one of the most pesticide-heavy crops in America. It’s completely doused in toxins, so the soil is then saturated with those poisons when peanuts are planted the alternating years. Since peanuts are grown underground they soak up even more of the toxins. Because of that, it’s important to only buy organic peanut butter or peanuts.

        • Avatar Nick Fergadis Giannakopoulos says:

          Really interesting. Had no idea about the cotton thing. Though I’m not sure if it applies everywhere (I’m from Europe btw).
          Now, for the fat part, obviously it’s high in fat, it’s a ‘butter’ after all. But fat by itself isn’t bad, never was. Also, sugar? Sure, there are brands that add sugar to pb, but this applies to almost every store bought item out there. If you read the labels before buing, you’re good to go. Not any more ‘suspicious’ than any other product on the sugar front, really.

    • Peanut butter is high in fat but the biggest problem I have with it is that apparently it is frequently rotated with cotton as a crop, and cotton is one of the most pesticide-heavy crops in America. It’s utterly doused in toxins, so the soil is then saturated with those toxins when peanuts are planted the alternating years. Since peanuts are grown underground they soak up even more of the toxins. Because of that, it’s important to only buy organic peanut butter or peanuts.

  7. Avatar Jennifer Nanek says:

    I eat plenty of these items regularly. None of those fill me up at all.

  8. Avatar Robibop says:

    This message brought to you by the American Dairy Council.

    This article fails to mention that fat and cholesterol have not yet been officially added as healthy food groups. There are plant based alternatives to everything on this list that died in its creation.

    Those options will not only save their lives, but may also save yours. Three ounces of seitan has comparable protein to three ounces of chicken, but does not have other deal associated with it. You can even drop it on your countertop and not have to worry about detoxification of you kitchen.

    • Avatar Jared Getwell says:

      Out of 12 items, only 2 are from dairy. 3 ounces of seitan is not comparable to 3 ounces of chicken when looking at proper amino acid balance. Seitan is concentrated gluten. Getting your protein intake with an item like that is asking for allergic, autoimmune and /or inflammatory problems at some point in your future. A mostly vegetable diet may have some great benefits but elimination of animal products is not for everyone and should be approached with caution and education. Considering that cholesterol is a base for human hormone production, the roles of fat and cholesterol in in the diet need to be carefully considered instead of discounted based on outdated, partially debunked, and food industry-pushed nutritional information.

      • Avatar TARDIS says:

        Nonsense. Gluten allergies as well as the autoimmune and inflammatory responses you mention are rare. There is no science behind the panic, and much evidence to the contrary.

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