If you are like most people, you’ve tried your share of diets. Some have worked better than others. Some have been easier. Others felt perhaps nearly impossible. Nearly all of them focused on restriction—restricting calories, certain macronutrients (like carbs or fats), certain foods or food groups, and/or portion sizes. And many of these diets likely left you feeling hungry, dissatisfied, and downright grouchy, which is probably why up to 95% of diets reportedly fail. The trendy, non-personalized diets involve suffering and just aren’t sustainable over the long term.
Now, a new diet approach is gaining traction. And the initial science is showing it may be highly effective when it comes to helping folks manage their weight and their health—without going to extremes. That is, without severe restriction like avoiding entire food groups (such as dairy, meat, or grains) or certain macronutrients (like fat or carbs) altogether.
It’s called the Satiating Diet, and it was put together by a team of researchers at the Laval University in Quebec City, Canada.
What is the Satiating Diet?
According to Shirin Panahi, Ph.D., who popularized the diet, which was initially put to the test in 2017, in an article in Scientific American, the Satiating Diet is “constructed from healthy foods that are especially satiating. That is, foods that create feelings of fullness and satisfaction.”
In short, this diet, which is also touted as being “non-restrictive,” is all about creatively managing hunger levels. Wait, what? That doesn’t really sound like a typical “diet.” That actually sounds pretty doable. And in fact, in the 16-week 2017 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, those in the control group (who were following a diet based on the Canadian national guidelines for healthy eating) were much more likely to drop out (44.1% gave up) compared to those on the Satiating Diet (only 8.6% dropped out).
So, what types of foods are “allowed” on the Satiating Diet?
The diet recommends eating foods that are higher in protein like meat, poultry, and fish (with 20 – 25% of calories coming from protein) and foods that are higher in fiber like whole grains, vegetables, and fruits (with 45 – 50% of calories coming from carbs). The plan also embraces healthy fats from avocados and nuts (30 – 35% fat) and fermented dairy products that provide probiotics (like yogurt and unprocessed cheese). It also encourages foods that contain capsaicin, a compound found in peppers responsible for their spicy heat (which has also been shown to boost metabolism, reduce appetite, and slow you down as you eat).
During the study, the participants had no caloric restrictions prescribed to them; that is, they ate as much or as often as they desired.
While both the control diet (which consumed about 10 – 15% of calories from protein, 55 – 60% from carbohydrate, and 30% from fat) and the Satiating Diet participants lost weight, BMI, and waist circumference, the Satiating Diet participants lost significantly more fat. And as expected, those following the Satiating Diet felt fuller and more satisfied and thus were more likely to stick to the plan.
Why is the Satiating Diet Effective?
When it comes to losing weight, step 1 is to cut calories (i.e., restrict energy). And let’s face it, to lose weight, there does need to be an energy deficit—no matter which diet you follow. The challenge is that after restricting calories, many people are left feeling hungry and may even obsess over the foods that aren’t on the menu. This can lead to stress, cravings, and throwing in the towel as the body fights to get back to homeostasis (Hello, hunger hormones!) while dieters struggle to maintain their “won’t” power. And bam! As soon as they fall off the diet wagon, the weight comes right back on (and often then some).
The researchers wanted to find a strategy to help folks improve their eating habits (and thus their health) without feeling restricted or hungry.
Instead of focusing on what folks couldn’t eat, they focused on having them eat more foods that naturally support appetite control and thus decrease food intake. So, the foods chosen had specific characteristics that helped:
- Decrease hunger
- Boost metabolism
- Lower body fat
- Improve blood sugar
- Improve gut health
In addition, there’s nothing that is completely off limits. The focus of the diet is on nutrient-rich foods that help you feel fuller (e.g., protein and fiber), but there’s no set of dietary guidelines restricting any foods (like fat, meat, or carbs).
What Can You Eat on the Satiating Diet?
According to the study, the general guidelines were:
- Daily, eat at least 4 servings of whole vegetables, such as leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, zucchini, vegetable soups, etc.
- Daily, eat 4 servings of whole fruits like apples, oranges, bananas, pears, plums, pineapple, grapes, and pears.
- Eat 5 servings of whole grains high in fiber daily (at least 4 grams per portion and 25 grams per day), such as brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, farro, whole-grain bread, etc.
- Eat lean protein as part of every meal, such as 4 ounces of fish (like salmon, tuna, and mackerel), meat, and poultry, or yogurt, cottage cheese, and eggs.
- Consume moderate amounts of healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and avocado as well as olive oil and nut butters.
- Weekly, eat at least one meal made up of legumes (i.e., lentils, beans, peas, and peanuts).
- Enjoy one snack per day (but not mandatory).
- Flavor dishes with hot or red peppers and spices like turmeric, ginger, garlic, etc., and eat more hot peppers.
The diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet, with a slightly greater emphasis on protein. And like the very popular Mediterranean diet, because no food groups are eliminated, it is considered more balanced and easier to follow than other diet plans like Keto or Whole30.
What can’t you eat? As with most diets, remember to focus on whole foods and avoid the processed junk food that is neither healthy nor satiating. In addition, you’ll want to avoid trans fats, hydrogenated oils, and saturated fats found in fried and processed foods.
Mindfulness and getting in touch with your relative levels of hunger and satiety is also a key component of this diet. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being absolutely ravenous and 10 being so stuffed you can barely move, you’ll want to eat when you hit a hunger level of 3 to 4 (hungry but not starving) but stop when you hit 6 to 7 (satisfied but not full). While the diet doesn’t dictate when to eat, in the study, the participants ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner with one snack each day.
The Satiating Diet: A Wrap Up
There are still questions to be answered about the Satiating Diet, including how well it preforms over the long haul, but this diet has potential to be able to stand the test of time as a realistic, sustainable weight-control solution when combined with the other components of a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, quality sleep, and proper hydration. The diet itself is made up of healthy, nutrient-dense whole foods, and it’s safe for just about anyone. It’s also flexible, so it’s easy to fit into most anyone’s lifestyle—without the need to skip family functions and events.