Planning Meals to Maximize Energy and Control Hunger
We are born with the skill to eat when we are hungry and stop when we have had enough.
Somewhere along the way, many of us lose this ability. We learn to eat when we are bored,
angry, or stressed. We learn to eat out of habit. We eat because we were taught to be members of
the “clean plate club.” Whatever the reason, it is vital to get back to the basics and listen to our
Hunger is the physical need for food. Hunger cues arise with an empty or growling stomach.
Some people are cranky, have ‘hunger pangs,’ fatigue, and even a decrease in blood sugar levels.
Wanting to eat for reasons other than hunger is called appetite.
Appetite involves the eating experience. It may involve seeing or smelling a tempting food
after eating a full meal. There may be times when you are hungry but do not have an appetite,
such as when you are sick. Both hunger and appetite affect what, when, why and how much we
The opposite of hunger and appetite is satiety (sa-TIE-eti). This is the physical and mental
feeling of “fullness” that comes after eating and drinking. Feeling full seems to be a function of
the amount and how long you take to eat.
Use the scale below as a guide to help you learn to listen to your hunger. Post a copy on the
refrigerator, on the cabinets, and in your bedroom. Make a list on the back of this handout of
things to do instead of eating when not hungry (reading, walking, drawing, etc.).
1—Starved: hunger pangs are severe, feeling these for at least 30 minutes or more.
2—Very hungry: hunger pangs on and off for at least 15 minutes.
3—Hungry: beginning to feel somewhat intense hunger.
4—Somewhat hungry: could eat or wait.
5—Could either eat or not eat.
6—Beginning to feel satisfied with snack or meal.
7—Satisfied with meal or snack, could maybe go another hour or more before being hungry.
8—Starting to feel full, could maybe go another 3-4 hours without being hungry
9—Very full, feeling uncomfortable.
10—So stuffed, you are sick.
*If you are a 5 or greater, you do not need to eat a meal or snack.
*If you are a 7 or 8, that is a good place to stop eating.
The type and timing of meals and snacks affect hunger and appetite. The helpful hints below are
a guide to creating a well-balanced meal plan.
ξ Breakfast is key – It gives your metabolism, your body’s engine, a boost and provides needed
ξ Eat often - Try to eat a balanced meal or snack every 3-4 hours. Avoid waiting longer than 4
hours to prevent overeating later in the day.
ξ Load up on veggies - Fill half of your plate with vegetables at meal time for a heavy dose of
vitamins, minerals and fiber.
ξ Avoid sweetened drinks - They provide calories without lasting energy.
ξ Do not deprive yourself - Enjoy the foods you love in moderation. For example, enjoy a
single serving of a sweet treat or salty snack one time per week.
ξ Practice proper portion control - Use smaller plates, bowls, and glasses to help keep serving
sizes in check.
ξ Avoid impulse eating - Plan ahead to have healthy foods on hand wherever you are.
Aim for this Plate
Grain - Starch –Carbohydrates
ξ Bread, buns, rolls
ξ Hot cereal (oatmeal, grits, cream of
ξ Cold cereal
ξ Pancakes, waffles
ξ Tortillas, pita bread
ξ English muffins, bagels
ξ Rice, Barley, Quinoa
ξ Spaghetti, Noodles
ξ Corn, Peas
ξ Beans, Lentils, Baked beans
ξ Potato, Sweet potato
ξ Crackers, Chips, Pretzels, Popcorn
ξ Fresh fruit
ξ Fruit canned in light syrup or fruit
ξ Dried fruit
ξ Frozen fruit
ξ Fruit juice (4-8 ounce glass)
Protein - Including healthy fats
ξ Fish (salmon, tuna, cod, haddock,
ξ Herring or sardines
ξ Chicken, turkey
ξ Lean pork, beef, ham
ξ Veggie burgers, tofu
ξ Cottage cheese
ξ Low-fat cheese (String, Mozzarella,
ξ Low-fat yogurt
ξ Low-fat or skim milk
ξ Egg (up to 4 yolks per week)
ξ Beans, peas, lentils
ξ Peanut butter
ξ Nuts (any type), Soy nuts
ξ Sunflower or sesame seeds
ξ Olive, canola oil
ξ Beans (green, wax, Italian)
ξ Bean sprouts
ξ Brussels sprouts
ξ Greens (mustard, kale, turnip, Swiss
ξ Pea pods
ξ Salad greens (lettuce)
ξ Summer Squash
ξ Water chestnuts
Now, use what you learned to build a meal plan that works for you!
Meal Planning Guide
Meal # 2
Meal # 3
What is the most important thing you learned from this handout?
What changes will you make in your diet/lifestyle, based on what you learned today?
If you are a UW Health patient and have more questions please contact UW Health at one of the phone
numbers listed below. You can also visit our website at www.uwhealth.org/nutrition
Nutrition clinics for UW Hospital and Clinics (UWHC) and American Family Children’s Hospital (AFCH)
can be reached at: (608) 890-5500.
Nutrition clinics for UW Medical Foundation (UWMF) can be reached at: (608) 287-2770
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you have
any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This is not
medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each person’s health
needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using this information. If you
have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 1/2017 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All
rights reserved. Produced by the Clinical Nutrition Services Department and the Department of Nursing. HF#509