Do you ever ask yourself, “Why am I still hungry after eating?” Or do you finish a meal and somehow still always make room for dessert? I know I have.

We’ve all been there – you polish off a substantial meal and still feel like you could demolish three scoops of gelato.

Feeling hungry and unsatisfied after a decent meal is more common than you think. It’s also confusing and, frankly, pretty annoying. Here are some likely reasons for your unexplained hunger post-mealtime: 

1. You crave new flavours

There’s something called sensory-specific satiety – and it may have something to do with why you always have ‘room for dessert’. 

When you eat something – a few things will make you decide it’s time to stop eating. One of the main factors is fullness and hunger. But another really important factor is how ‘interesting’ you find the food. 

After eating a plate of savoury food with one kind of flavour profile, you may eventually get bored of it. And this can contribute to why you decide to stop eating. However, your body craves variety. So it wants a new flavour (let’s say something sweet…. like ice-cream or chocolate!) simply because it’s ‘new’ or different. 

So how do you get around this? 

I’d recommend your main meal eat until satisfaction… this means you stop eating before you’re full (there’s more on this as part of my program Keep It Real).

And if you get the craving for something sweet, you choose something like a piece of chocolate or a little fruit or yoghurt. Even just a mouthful of something ‘new’ should help take the craving away. For me to feel satisfied, it might be a few squares of chocolate, eaten with enjoyment – without a side serving of guilt.

Back in 2010, I was still struggling with binge eating. Now I help others learn how to stop binge and emotional eating for good with Keep it Real Program. Image: Lyndi Cohen

2. You feel deprived

When you feel emotionally deprived of food, you can eat, and eat, and eat … and never really feel satisfied.

If at the back of your mind, you feel like you’re not allowed to eat a certain food (like pasta or peanut butter straight from the jar), it will always seem ‘interesting’ to you. This is why creating a list of ‘bad’ or ‘forbidden’ foods backfires.

Even ‘trying to be good ‘ is mindset creates a sense of lack, leaving you feeling unsatisfied, no matter how much you eat. Feeling guilty about eating seriously sucks – I’ve been there – and completely strips the joy from mealtimes and delicious food. 

I used to be a binge and emotional eater – but only because I was ALWAYS trying to be good. If you feel like you can just eat and eat and eat (something that can be described as binge eating) then go have a chat with your doctor about binge eating disorder. 

3. You need more balance

But there’s a reason dietitians recommend including each of the key food groups in each meal. Drumroll, please… It’s because eating balanced meals may keep your tummy fuller for longer, your body energised and your brain brilliant. So next time you’re whipping up dinner or eating out, check if your meal includes: 

  • A serving of healthy fat – e.g. avocado, extra virgin olive oil, nuts
  • Some slow-burning carbs – e.g. sweet potatoes, brown rice, wholegrain bread
  • A little bit of lean protein – e.g. fish, chicken, beans, nuts, tofu

Then load the rest of your meal with veggies. 

Hello Middle Eastern Mezze Plate from my Back to Basics app. Image: Lyndi Cohen

This humble hat-trick will help keep you feeling satisfied for a lot longer than avoiding carbs or fats altogether – and it’ll also make sure you’re getting the nutrients your body needs to be healthy.

If you want some easy, healthy and fast recipes that include all the key food groups, try getting Back to Basics with my app.

4. You’re not eating enough

Here’s one thing (of many) I know to be true: If you under eat at one meal, chances are you’ll end up eating more at the next meal. The problem with under-eating at breakfast or lunch (there’s that pesky “trying to be good” fallacy again), is that you’re way more likely to overeat or binge because you’re completely burnt out and starving from running on empty.

You’re better off eating a substantial lunch full of healthy fats, slow-burning carbs and lean protein, a powerhouse trio that’ll keep you energised while you’re running around being your best self. A solid lunch means you can happily enjoy a lighter (albeit balanced) dinner before laying horizontally for ideally 7+ hours. 

5. You’re not eating enough vegetables and fruits

You’ve heard it 86,000,000,001 times before – eat your veggies, people! Only 5% of Aussie’s eat enough fruits and vegetables. Vegetables bulk out your meals, giving you plenty of roughage to fill your stomach… This helps you feel full. What’s a serving size of vegetables? 1 serve = the size of your closed fist.

Dietitians (and pretty much every health care professional) recommended you get at least 5 servings of vegetables a day. It’s a lot of vegetables, I know!

This teriyaki salmon one bake from Back to Basics is served with half a plate of veggies to boost your daily servings. Image: Lyndi Cohen

When it comes to fruit, the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends aiming for 1-2 serves daily. Bulking up your breakfast, lunch and dinner with a few sneaky vegetables and fruits will add more roughage, fibre and volume to your meal, helping you feel more satisfied.

Here’s a couple of sneaky hacks you can try today to up your fruit and veg intake:

BREAKFAST

  • Sprinkle banana coins on peanut butter on toast
  • Pop a handful of spinach or frozen zucchini into your smoothie
  • Serve your eggs with a side of cherry tomatoes and avocado

LUNCH

  • Bulk up Thai takeaway by asking for extra veggies
  • Chop up any and all veggies in your fridge, open a tin of tuna and adorn with your favourite dressing
  • Snack on a carrot between meals – or pickles! 

DINNER

  • Whip up a quick and healthy one-tray dinner like this one or this one.
  • Stew a giant batch of lentil Bolognese with carrots and mushrooms and freeze leftovers (access my fave recipe on Back to Basics!).
We’re all about that one tray life at Back to Basics, like this Bolognese. Image: Lyndi Cohen

6. You may be thirsty

It’s easy to confuse hunger with thirst. The sensations are similar, especially after eating. To avoid confusion, I like to drink water with my meals. And carrying a water bottle with you everywhere you go also helps. I prefer a thermo style water bottle to keep my water cold all day.   

I will add – that diet culture often tells us just to drink something if we feel hungry. I think this is unhelpful, disordered advice. If you’re hungry, eat food. But also try to keep your lovely body hydrated.

Not sure if you’re drinking enough? Urine luck! It’s super easy – just check your pee:

  • If it’s light yellow or clear and has no smell, you’re drinking enough.
  • If it’s very yellow and has a strong smell, you need to drink more.

7. You’re always craving something sweet

Sometimes you might notice that you have sweet cravings after a meal… even though you’re not actually hungry. If this feels familiar, check out my blog post about how to stop sugar cravings after main meals.

If you’re looking for quick and healthy recipes that will make your taste buds do a little dance AND satisfy your hunger for longer, check out my lifestyle app Back to Basics.