Hunger Vs. Appetite. What's the difference?

hungervsappetite Dec 02, 2020

Hunger and appetite. Two very complex processes, fighting for our attention and driving what we eat and drink. But what is the difference, and why do we need them?


The feeling of ‘hunger’ drives us to eat. Our brains require energy, which is derived from the foods and fluids we consume. Without enough energy, our brains cannot run effectively, and our bodies begin to shut down.  


Appetite is based on pleasure, and is influenced by what we see, smell, taste and even think! You may be familiar with the concept ‘Pavlov’s dog’ which describes a process of conditioning dogs to salivate when exposed to the idea of food. This same concept applies to humans, as when we’re tempted with something tasty, our bodies react and prepare by increasing saliva and excitement levels.


Challenges relating to appetite

  1. Sugar accessibility. We have CONSTANT access to high-density, sugar-type foods. Whether it’s at the chemist, fuelling up our cars, even opening a magazine…there’s always sugary treats in sight! These foods light up our hedonic eating system (aka the system that controls our feelings around food).
  2. Stomach stretching. Our stomachs are elastic and can expand significantly. When you repeatedly consume energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods and fluids, our stomach is at risk of stretching, making it more challenging to manage hunger.


Suppressing appetite

Below are three quick tips to take control of your appetite and avoid overeating!

  1. Eat more protein-dense foods, like meat, eggs, or tofu. Protein triggers a hormone that gets sent to the brain and “turns off” our appetite. However, this message takes 15-20 minutes to deliver. This short time interval is a ‘danger period’ where we need to occupy our senses and avoid overeating. Strategies to distract our senses include putting leftovers away, drinking water or sipping on tea. If you’re still hungry after the 15-20 minute mark, you can snack on something nutritious, like a piece of fruit.
  2. Bulk out your meals with fruits and vegetables. This will increase the volume of food, improve its nutritional quality and lower its energy density.
  3. Be mindful whilst you eat.  Try to slow down your eating speed, by chewing your food more thoroughly and appreciating what is in front of you. This gives your body more time to send messages to the brain to stop eating. People also find that putting cutlery down between mouthfuls can be an effective strategy to slow down eating.



With these tips in mind, we can come up with a semi-structured “ideal plate”. This baseline is designed to reflect the above recommendations whilst also managing both hunger and appetite. We want 25% of the plate to be carbohydrate-based, 25% of the plate to be protein-based and the rest of the plate to be covered by colourful vegetables.


For personalised information regarding how to control hunger and appetite, book a consult at CQ Nutrition. The lovely dietitians will be able to determine what foods will satiate your hunger, as well as strategies to minimise appetite cravings.


Here is a link to book in with one of our expert dietitians at any of our locations https://www.cqnutrition.com.au/booking/ 

Want an online consultation? Book in on my calendar and in comments write online: https://bit.ly/AnnieROK 

Written by Annabel Johnston, BAppSc&MDietPrac



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