Getting hungry or losing energy between meals?

An anonymous reader asks for some help.

J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth

Breaking news: Jason, Lisa and I will have a 4Leaf table at the VegFest in Worcester, MA, this Sunday from 11 to 5. Dr. Campbell and Kathy Freston will be speaking.

When I first moved to 100% plant-based eating back in 2003, I found out right away that eating just things like fruit, greens and other high-water content produce will leave you feeling ravenous after an hour or two. Although these are among the most nutritious foods, they also pass through your stomach quickly and leave you feeling hungry long before it’s time for your next meal.

What to do? In my case, it was a simple matter of listening to my body, adding more grains and starches, and planning my daily routine so that I always felt comfortable between meals. Occasionally, I hear from a reader who is experiencing some transitional challenges as he/she moves to this superior way of eating. I got one such note this week:

Hi Mr. Hicks. For breakfast I have Quaker old fashioned oats (boiled in water), sometimes a few raisins, Uncle Sam’s flaxseed, Kashi nuggets, Mom’s Best Toasted Wheat-fuls. I eat a good amount. I go to work and I am flat energy wise. I looked at your posting for your special oatmeal and have concluded that I must be missing something.

I have no energy spark after eating. I am hungry when I get to work. I feel like my breakfast has plenty of grains or starch but no spark and I am still hungry. I’ll eat a sandwich, carrots, apple, cheerios and raisins.  Still no spark. Do you have suggestions on what I am missing.  Thank you!

My response. Thanks for writing. I recommend that you continue to experiment until you find the routine that works for you. Speaking for me and my son, Jason; we both do a similar oatmeal routine each morning. Like you, Jason goes to work each day and must plan accordingly. A strapping young man of 38 years, he is well over 6 feet tall, is super trim, and his very active lifestyle requires between 3,000 and 4,000 calories per day.

Advanced planning makes oatmeal at work "easy."

He has a little fruit on his way to his office at 0600 each day. Then he brown-bags to work—all of the ingredients for his version of my daily oatmeal and prepares it in the company lunchroom. If you eat it cold like I do, you don’t even need a microwave to make his method work for you. He describes his oatmeal routine in detail in one of my blogs last year: Oatmeal the Staples way…”That was easy!”

As you may know, my morning routine begins with a large bowl of fruit at 0730 followed by my Sailors Daily Oatmeal whenever I get hungry—usually around 1030 or 1100. Again, my next meal takes place when I get hungry—usually my largest meal of the day at around 2:30 or 3 p.m.

You mentioned Dr. McDougall’s upcoming book, Starch. I think you’re on the right track with his teaching; we do need to eat a great deal of starch in order to provide the energy we need between meals. Since I began eating this way, my weekly consumption of whole grain rice and various legumes has increased about 100 fold. In the old days, although I ate a ton of fruits and vegetables, I also ate a lot of meat and dairy and not so much healthy grains and legumes. So I guess in my case, the healthy starches took the place of meat and dairy in my diet.

My son's office at work features a 4Leaf poster along with an exercise ball replacing the conventional office chair.

Speaking for me and my son—this diet style is working great for us. We have plenty of energy all day long and simply eat all that we want—whenever we want. I hope this information is helpful for you.

Maybe I could provide more input if I knew a little more about your daily eating habits. Have you taken our 4Leaf Survey? If so, please send me a summary of your answers and I perhaps I can suggest a few more things that you might try.

Perhaps my son will add his own “two cents” in the form of a comment on this blog. Again, keep experimenting; I am totally confident that you will find the routine that works best for you. Thanks again for sharing.


Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Diagnostic Survey It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to

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J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page or some great recipes at Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

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Blogging daily at…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks, Board of Directors…

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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5 Responses to Getting hungry or losing energy between meals?

  1. Michelle says:

    Full disclosure: I follow Dr. Fuhrman’s dietary guidelines because they focus on the nutrient density of foods. Thus, I feel compelled to say that also filling, but more nutrient dense, would be adding beans rather than grains to ones diet. My personal opinion is that Dr. McDougall’s focus on starch may help some people lose weight (didn’t help me significantly) , and is better than SAD, but cannot be as health promoting as Dr. Fuhrman’s dietary guidelines since grains and starchy vegetables are not as nutrient dense as green vegetables, other non-starchy vegetables, fruits, legumes and small amounts of raw nuts and seeds.

    If someone is not feeling satisfied with oatmeal for breakfast perhaps a bowl of beans, or beans and some sort of grain, would be more filling.

  2. Bill K. says:


    Just to add another opinion: I have been eating fruit in the morning for over 7 years and do not at all feel hungry. For about the first year I did get a sensation which I attributed to hunger but later learned that this was more of a withdrawal symptom from some of the bad foods that I used to eat. After a while you begin to know the difference between true hunger and withdrawal. The trick is in teaching your stomach to accept larger quantities of food (fruit). Most people are used to eating foods with higher calorie densities such as animal foods and as such their stomachs actually shrink a bit. Over time (about a year or two) you can re-expand your stomach to get the calories you need. I hover around about 2500 per day. I use to get an estimate of my daily intake. Currently I eat either a large papaya or 6-7 bananas for breakfast. Sometimes I will blend up a smoothie with fruit and greens. At lunch I will eat a few pounds of grapes or some apples or whatever is in season. For dinner I usually have some more fruit or a salad of mixed greens. Sometimes I will have an avocado in the form of guacamole with tomato, lemon and cucumber. On very rare occasions I will cook a potato but not often. I stay away from most spices as un-cooked foods have a lot of flavor without anything added. I know this sounds a little restrictive but really it is not. Most of the standard foods and even some of the vegan foods are not really all that good for you in reality. I don’t completely disagree with your diet and the cooked vegan team (McDougall, Esselstyn, Campbell, Fuhrman etc…) as you can get some good results at that level. But personally I have found, from trying both ways, that low-fat raw vegan foods can give you even better results. When you consider the fact that humans are the only creatures that cook their foods, including our near relatives the primates, you have to wonder why we are doing so. Also, another thing to consider is the fact that every grain needs to be processed in some way in order to be edible. If you have tried to eat any quantity of raw wheat or rice without milling or cooking you will see that it is very un-edible in that form. It leads you to wonder whether our digestive tract was really designed to eat these foods whereas, a bird would have no problem at all as grains are their natural diet. This may be why we have so many problems with gluten. Like I said this is just another opinion. If you would like to learn a little more go to or (Swayze Fosters site) or (Dr Grahams site) as they have some good info and articles on the subject.

    Have an excellent day!!


  3. Lisa says:

    My suggestion for this person’s breakfast would be to add some fruit. This breakfast doesn’t seem like enough at all, no wonder they are hungry! For my breakfast I chop up 1 apple. On top of that I add 1 measured cup of frozen blueberries, then 1/4 cup frozen fresh cranberries. On top of that goes 1 measured cup of old fashioned oats and then 1 measured cup of warm water. It goes into a spill-proof pyrex container and when I get to work an hour and a half later I microwave it for 2 minutes. Sometimes I add 2 TBSP chopped walnuts and always sprinkle it with cinnamon (if I have this meal on the weekends, I first rinse the berries under warm water to thaw them before microwaving, as it’s not sitting out for over an hour). For lunch today I will have a version of Happy Herbivore’s Chickpea tacos – but as a salad. I cut up 1 entire heart of romaine and about 1 cup spinach. I add 1/3 of an avocado, about 1/2 cup diced cherry tomatoes, 1/4 cup cilantro, 1/2 cup frozen corn microwaved just until warm (about 1 minute), top it with the seasoned and baked chickpeas (1/2 of the can) from HH’s recipe, and then fresh squeezed lime juice. Later for snack I will eat an orange. Dinner will be a portabella mushroom stuffed with chopped tomatoes (seasoned with soy sauce, lemon juice, minced garlic and some Italian spices), quinoa, broccoli, and a kiwi for snack. I hope this helps your reader get some ideas to get some spark!

    • jmorrishicks says:

      Lisa, Thanks so much for your input. Lots of great ideas for eating 4Leaf whether at work or at home. So, you’re actually cooking that fruit along with your oatmeal? That Chickpea Taco salad sounds great. Thanks again for sharing. Best, Jim

      • Lisa says:

        Hi Jim. I do cook the fruit with the oats, since I’m transporting to work and the berries are from the freezer it just all goes in one big bowl. Cutting the apple in bigger bite-size pieces and putting it on the bottom seems to help keep it crisp (honeycrisp apples work great, it also provides a nice sweetness). I cook just until warm (microwaves vary, my home microwave only needs 1 1/2 minutes). Be well. – Lisa

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