6 Ways to Spice Up Meals and Feel More Satisfied

Try these delicious tips to bring variety to your meals and help you reach your weight goals.

Woman chopping vegetables

Medically reviewed in November 2022

Updated on November 3, 2022

When you’re working on managing your weight, the process of making meals and monitoring portions can start to feel a bit drab. But even healthy meals don’t have to be boring. With just a little know-how, you can feel more satisfied and less hungry—and have a delicious time doing it. Here are six savvy ways to help you stick with your weight management plan while enjoying what you eat.

Spice it up
Zesty herbs and spices add flavor to your food. They’re virtually calorie-free and may even help you feel more full. One small randomized controlled trial published in the journal Foods in 2018 found that eating as little as 2 1/8 teaspoons of curry powder was associated with reduced hunger and less desire to eat between meals. Curry can come in a range of formulations, but generally the mixture contains turmeric, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, and cloves.

Hit the bar
Just make sure it’s your supermarket's or cafeteria’s salad bar. (Drinking alcohol, on the other hand, can add extra calories, stimulate appetite, and tempt you to eat more).

You can add variety to your meals by trying new veggies or using ones you don't usually have time to prepare at home, like beets or artichokes. While salad bar shopping can be pricier than bulk-buying your own vegetables, you’ll save time on cleaning and chopping and may have less waste from leftover produce that goes bad in the crisper bin.

Pump it up
Air adds calorie-free volume to food, which can help fill you up. Barbara Rolls, PhD, a nutrition expert and director of the Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior at Penn State College of Health and Human Development in University Park, Pennsylvania, says that when you eat foods that are puffed up (like popcorn) or whipped (like egg whites), you consume around 30 percent fewer calories and may feel just as satisfied.

Dull your dinner appetite
After a long busy day, dinner is when many of us tend to overdo it on calories. You can take a quick and easy slice out of feelings of hunger by drinking a tall glass of water about 20 minutes before mealtime. Adding a high fiber whole food like an apple or celery in the form of pre-dinner crudite can help take the edge off your appetite, so you’ll eat fewer high-calorie foods for your main course.

Avoid dried fruit
Water adds weight and volume to food, but zero calories. So as much as possible, eat fresh, whole, water-packed fruit rather than dried varieties, says Rolls. For example, for about 100 calories you can have one ripe banana or one cup of red seedless grapes, one-half cup of diced watermelon, or one cup of whole strawberries.

By comparison, one-half cup of raisins contains 429 calories, and one-half cup of banana chips contains 519 calories.

Savor soup
Foods with a high water content, like soup, help stave off hunger and make you feel full, says Rolls. Opt for broth-based soups or veggie purees like butternut squash or tomato and steer away from cream-based soups that can be high in calories and fat. Read labels carefully for store-bought and pre-made soups, which tend to be overloaded with salt. Choose low-salt versions or get creative and make your own.

Building a habit of choosing high-flavor foods that fill you up can put the fun back into meal prep and dinnertime.  Check out these additional ideas for easy, low-calorie dinners.

Article sources open article sources

Haldar S, Lim J, Chia SC, Ponnalagu S, Henry CJ. Effects of Two Doses of Curry Prepared with Mixed Spices on Postprandial Ghrelin and Subjective Appetite Responses-A Randomized Controlled Crossover Trial. Foods. 2018 Mar 26;7(4):47.
Traversy G, Chaput JP. Alcohol Consumption and Obesity: An Update. Curr Obes Rep. 2015 Mar;4(1):122-30.
Yeomans MR. Alcohol, appetite and energy balance: is alcohol intake a risk factor for obesity? Physiol Behav. 2010 Apr 26;100(1):82-9.

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