The 6 Worst Things to Eat When You're Starving
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Why you shouldn't eat it right now: If your stomach is growling because you missed lunch and you can't wait to dig into a dinner with some heat, hold off. Eating spicy dishes on an empty stomach increases the odds that you'll feel some stomach irritation, says Lisa Ganjhu, MD, a gastroenterologist at NYU Langone Medical Center. "There's nothing else in there to mix with the spices and take the edge off when they come into contact with your stomach lining," she explains. That means dishes with cayenne, jalapeño, chili peppers or hot sauce are best saved for when there's at least a little something in your system.
Make it better: Dairy is particularly good at coating the stomach and cutting the heat from chili peppers (that's why Indian main dishes often come with a yogurt-based side, says Ganjhu), so try drinking milk or snacking on yogurt before a pepper-heavy meal. And you don't have to settle for bland food. Just opt for spices like coriander or cumin when you can, which, Ganjhu says, are less irritating to your digestive system.
Why you shouldn't eat it right now: An apple or a pear alone won't quash hunger, says Tamara Melton, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the founder and director of LaCarte Wellness, in Atlanta. Even though the sugar in fruit gets digested more slowly than the sugar from candy, due to the fruit's fiber, "a piece of fruit isn't going to take you far." For that, you need to add some protein—it's digested slowly, and, research shows, it suppresses ghrelin, the "hunger hormone" that tells your brain to keep eating.
Make it better: Add nuts, string cheese or a nut butter. Or try mixing fruit with cottage cheese or Greek yogurt and you'll feel the hunger pangs start to fade.
Why you shouldn't eat it right now: Despite what we all want to believe, 100 calories of anything isn't likely to satisfy when you're really hungry, which is the main problem with these types of mini-pack snacks, says Melton. They're usually foods like crackers or chips, made with simple carbohydrates, which get digested the fastest, leaving you hungrier soon after.
Make it better: You're better off eating a little bit less at your next meal and having a satisfying 250-to-300-calorie mini-meal right now, with a mix of carbs and protein, like half a turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread.
Why you shouldn't eat it right now: These are all examples of foods that make your stomach produce acid when you eat them, which may lead to irritation and inflammation of the stomach wall, says Ganjhu. (It's a bigger problem when your stomach is empty, because there's no other food in there to create a buffer between the acids and the stomach lining.) Caffeine can be particularly irritating for people with gastritis, an inflammation of the stomach lining.
Make it better: Most vegetables don't trigger acid production in the stomach. (They also have a ton of fiber, something that's recommended for those dealing with gastritis.) Try a classic veggie-and-hummus pairing for a filling snack. A lentil or chicken meal is filling and unlikely to upset your stomach, like this incredibly easy roasted chicken recipe.
Why you shouldn't eat it right now: The combination of white rice (usually ½ cup to 1 cup per roll, says Maria Bella, RD, founder of Top Balance Nutrition in New York), and the soy sauce you dip it in, makes sushi a doubly bad choice for satisfying serious hunger. The rice will lead to a crash because it lacks fiber, and the soy sauce, sky-high in sodium, will leave you thirsty. "Our brains confuse thirst with hunger, so you'll eat more to try to fill up when all you really need is some water," says Bella.
Make it better: Pick naruto rolls, which are wrapped in cucumber instead of rice, and start with a seaweed salad or a serving of edamame (sprinkled with lime juice for flavor instead of salt). And here are seven other thirst-inducing foods to stay away from when your stomach is basically empty.
Why you shouldn't choose it right now: You know that drinking on an empty stomach will make the booze hit you sooner, but it'll also leave you craving food, and not just because being a little tipsy leaves you vulnerable to rationalizing bar food and late-night pizza delivery as the best idea you ever had. Research shows that alcohol leads to lower levels of leptin, the hormone that lets your brain know when you've had enough to eat. Levels dropped by nearly 30 percent after subjects had three drinks in a small study in Alcohol and Alcoholism.
Make it better: If you're heading to happy hour on an empty stomach, stay away from the mixed nuts on the bar, as they're probably loaded with salt, and order an appetizer like veggies and dip or grilled chicken tenders before you start imbibing.