11 diet mistakes that make people feel hungry all the time

Woman looking in the fridge. (Getty Images)
Experts have revealed there are many reasons why you could be constantly hungry. (Getty Images)

It's 10am and your stomach is grumbling. You're trying to focus on work but you're already thinking about what you're going to have for lunch. But first you need a snack because despite only having breakfast an hour ago, you're absolutely starving.

If your day is peppered with feeling constantly hungry, you're certainly not alone. A recent survey found one in four Brits find themselves uncontrollably hungry by 10.30am, with a further 27% getting peckish by mid-morning and a third admitting to getting out of bed for a midnight snack when the hunger takes hold.

Hunger, by definition, is a physiological need for nutrients to provide fuel for your body.

Dr Nabeetha Nagalingam, a microbiome expert and lead scientist at OMED Health and Owlstone Medical, says a complex system of physical and hormonal signals causes what we know as hunger and involves many parts of the body, including the brain, nervous system, stomach and intestinal tract.

"Hunger occurs because of biological changes in the body, which signal that you need to eat to maintain energy levels," she explains.

There are two main hormones involved in hunger signals: ghrelin and leptin.

"Typically, when you haven’t eaten for some time, the stomach produces ghrelin, which increases your appetite," Dr Nagalingam continues.

"And when you have eaten enough, your fat cells produce leptin, which interacts with the brain and lets it know that you have enough calories in the body, stopping hunger signals."

But persistent hunger can be indicative of potential lifestyle and dietary imbalances that, if unaddressed, can not only disrupt daily energy, focus and productivity, but also pose risks to long-term physical and mental health.

“Constantly feeling this way is a reminder to check how our body's needs align with our daily routines," explains Anna Tebbs, nutritionist from Green Chef.

"Fixing this isn't just about stopping the hunger; it's a crucial step towards a healthier, more balanced life. When we understand and address why we're always hungry, we can regain control and prevent feeling unnecessarily hungry.”

There are several reasons why you’re always feeling hungry and understanding them can help you get back on the path to better health.

Woman eating snacks at her desk. (Getty Images)
Constantly hungry? Experts have uncovered some of the most common reasons you're not feeling full. (Getty Images)

Not meeting calorie intake - especially if you’re doing increased exercise

An adult body needs around 2000 calories a day for women, and 2500 calories for men – "More if you're exercising regularly, so check you’re eating enough calories each day," advises Beeson.

Lack of protein, fibre or healthy fats

We should be eating a diet that's balanced with adequate amounts of protein, fat and fibre in order to feel satisfied.

“Even if you’re cutting calories to lose weight, certain foods will fill you up more than others," explains Beeson.

"Protein, fibre and healthy fats keep you fuller for longer as they take longer to digest than refined carbs like white bread and pasta. Protein reduces levels of ghrelin, the hormone that makes you feel hungry, whilst boosting the production of hormones like peptide YY, which reduces appetite."

Protein should make up around 25-35% of each meal to keep your stomach satisfied.

"Aim for at least 20-30g per meal," Beeson continues. "It can be useful to meal prep, so you can pre-plan your daily intake of important nutrients."

Meanwhile fibre adds bulk to meals and promotes a sense of fullness. "Opt for wholegrains, legumes, fruit and vegetables to increase your fibre intake," Tebbs advises. "Not only does this aid in satiety, but it also supports digestive health."

Healthy fats also contribute to a feeling of satiety and support various bodily functions. "Incorporate sources of healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, into your diet for a balanced and satisfying approach to eating," Tebbs adds.

Healthy meal. (Getty Images)
Your meal composition could be impacting your hunger. (Getty Images)

Skipping meals, or eating too fast

It takes a while for satiety hormones to be released so Beeson advises not to eat ‘on the go’.

"Always chew your food slowly and eat mindfully," she adds. "If you’ve missed a meal or two, when you do eat, you may feel hungry again soon after as your body tries to make up for the missed calories.

"Keep to a regular meal routine and if you don’t have time to eat, have a healthy snack rather than missing a meal.”

Eating foods that cause blood sugar imbalances

Quickly digested foods like white bread or pasta don’t fill you up.

"They can also cause blood sugar peaks followed by dips which can make you crave sugary foods again shortly after eating,” Beeson advises.

Not drinking enough water

The body can sometimes signal that you’re hungry when it really needs hydration.

"Drinking enough water (around two litres daily) can help to fill us up and stop us feeling so hungry," Beeson says. "Drink a glass of water half an hour before eating.”

Changes in hormones

In women, hormonal changes can cause increased appetite. "Women are especially vulnerable to over-eating and food cravings before their periods, when appetite-stimulating progesterone levels are high," Beeson advises.

"Higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol during menopause can also cause increased hunger.”

Drinking alcohol with food

Drinking alcohol with a meal can reduce your sense of control and cause you to over-eat.

"Alcohol also inhibits the production of the satiety hormone leptin so you don’t feel full after eating,” Beeson explains.

Woman having a glass of wine with her meal. (Getty Images)
Drinking alcohol with your dinner could impact your hunger levels. (Getty Images)

Not snacking mindfully

Avoid reaching for less nutritious snacks out of boredom or habit. "Instead, choose nutrient-dense options such as fruit, nuts or legumes, and pay attention to portion sizes," Tebbs advises.

"Practising mindful snacking can help regulate your appetite and contribute to a healthier approach to eating throughout the day."

Stress and emotional eating

For some, stress can lead to emotional eating, typically involving high-calorie comfort foods. "Combat stress by practising effective stress management techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation," Tebbs advises.

Lack of physical activity

Sedentary lifestyles can contribute to increased feelings of hunger. "Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week to not only support overall health but also help regulate appetite and promote a healthy metabolism," Tebbs suggests.

An underlying health problem

Some digestive conditions can also impact appetite. "For example, irritable bowel syndrome can cause symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhoea that can reduce desire to eat," Dr Nagalingam explains.

"Sometimes, our body doesn’t have the capacity to recognise signals from our gut correctly. It’s important to be aware and recognise if your body isn’t responding to hunger signals properly, and speak to a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.”