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High Protein Diets and Appetite Control

Answered by Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

Q: I’ve never been tempted to try the Atkin’s diet but I recently watched a TV programme that said high protein diets could help to suppress appetite. Would a high protein, low-fat diet, with reduced rather than eliminated carbs, be a good idea?

A: Let’s start with the facts. A diet high in protein will only help you lose weight if your overall energy intake is below your energy needs. It’s this overall calorie deficit that matters more than the combination of protein, fat or carbohydrate in your diet.

However, some research has shown that protein can help to suppress appetite, therefore helping to control hunger. This in turn means you’ll be more likely take in fewer calories with the result that you lose weight. The reason for this seems to be that protein-rich foods improve satiety – the feeling of fullness you get at end of a meal – and the more satiated you feel after eating, the less likely you’ll be to snack later on in the day. However, more research is needed to prove this conclusively. Meanwhile, there’s also some evidence that high protein diets can help to increase metabolism slightly, so that you burn more calories.

Ultimately, if you want to eat more protein-rich foods, you still need to stick to the calorie allowance set for you by WLR if you want to continue losing weight. The easiest way to do this is to choose low-fat protein-rich foods such as lean red meat, fish, skinless chicken and fat-free dairy products.

The same goes for carbs. Whether you choose to reduce the amount of carbs in your diet is entirely up to you, but you still need to stick to your daily calorie allowance and make sure you get five portions of fruit and veg a day.

Finally, the easiest way to control hunger is to avoid skipping meals and to eat regularly. By spreading meals evenly throughout the day, and perhaps eating smaller, more frequent meals that contain a mixture of fat, protein and carbohydrate, you’ll feel satisfied for longer.

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