I am 35, from India, and raised on a staple diet of cereal, grains, meat, and fish. I am trying to migrate to a completely plant-based food diet as I realize why I should. This is my question: if I pack soaked white gram (chickpeas), horse gram (lentils) with lettuce and flax seeds, it sounds great but does NOT satiate my hunger. In fact, I have to eat something wholesome shortly to feel that I had a meal. What can I do to satiate a raging hunger?
Quantity of Food: When you eat whole plant foods, the first and most important thing to factor in is eating enough food. Most people who go plant-based, vegan, or vegetarian make a common mistake in that they do not eat enough food. Plant foods are much lower in calories, and even though they are actually more filling and much richer in nutrients, it takes people’s bodies some time to adjust to the different calorie to nutrient ratios. Consider that you may need to eat larger portions of your daily meals and/or eat more frequently throughout the day, like every 3 hours, to help satisfy your body as it adjusts. For more help with this and to understand how naturally satisfying plant foods are, once your body adjusts, here is a valuable article with images about The Calorie Density Approach to Nutrition
Quality of Overall Diet: Secondly, an example of 1 meal does not provide any context to the overall quality of your diet and cannot alone be blamed for the hunger you are experiencing. This is where, in addition to the quantity of food you are eating, you must consider the overall quality, meaning variety, of your diet. In the Eat Real Food, I teach that for whole food plant-based eating you must focus your diet on the following each day: fruits, vegetables (both starchy and non-starchy), grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Otherwise, you risk not getting or giving your body all the different nutrients it requires, and your body will give you clues of this by asking for more food.
Personal Metabolic Needs: Finally, the third most important thing to keep in mind is that different bodies have different metabolic needs, and what may be a very satisfying meal for one person won’t be for another. The meal you described can be just fine, assuming one eats enough of it, as the legumes provide both, lots of starch and protein, and the flax seeds some fat. White gram (chickpeas) eaten alone are extremely filling and satisfying, assuming one eats enough of them, like 2 cups. However, such a meal will not work for everyone. Some people need more grain-based starch, while others need a higher proportion of fat in the meal. For example, most people will benefit from having a starchy vegetable, like a potato, or grain, like brown rice, added to the meal you mentioned, and other people would benefit from having an avocado or nut butter or a nut-based sauce added to the meal. For those who are very active, both of these meal additions may be required.
Summary: If you are hungry on a plant-based diet, you are either not eating enough food for your needs and/or are lacking some nutrients due to a lack of variety of different plant foods in your diet.
To properly assess any meal’s adequacy and resulting health symptoms, the portion of the overall meal and its different ingredients is always required, and so is the person’s overall diet, health, and lifestyle needs. This is where personalized solutions require personalized nutrition consults. But for more general tips, be sure to consider how you are handling the 3 areas described above. These are the most important and the most common areas that people neglect when they transition to plant-based eating. Then, just be sure to allow yourself some time to adjust your new eating habits as you continue to learn more, and allow your body to adjust to a new way of eating.