Raise your hand if you’ve ever been hangry before. I’m sure all of us have experienced that knowing gut pain and moodiness when extreme hunger strikes. Today, we’re going to talk about simple solutions for beating the mid-day hangry, the nutritious way!
Have you ever found yourself ravenous (or even hangry…yes, that is an official word in the English dictionary) after not eating for several hours? The next thing you know you are standing in-front of your refrigerator consuming food in excess, feeling like a bottomless pit. You get to a point of feeling stuffed and think to yourself, “Wow, I have NO self-control1” The truth is…there is no such thing as self-control when you haven’t eaten for several hours. Your blood sugar has dropped, and your body is going into survival mode, eating everything in sight. Let’s talk about some other scenarios that lead to uncontrolled hunger or overeating…
- Only eating carbs for breakfast (Example: bagel or bowl of cereal)
- Lack of hydration (Example: chugging coffee all morning trying to “boost” your energy)
- No mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack
- Skipping lunch or eating “diet food” aka salad with chicken and no carbohydrate source (trust me you are not a rabbit)
Many people find themselves reaching for anything they can get their hands on as soon as they walk in the door. This binge is usually caused by one or more of the habits that I just mentioned. So, when it comes to taming your hunger, stick to the 3-3-3 Rule. This golden rule states:
- Eat 3 meals per day.
- Include 3 food groups per meal.
- Leave no more than 3 hours between meals and snacks.
Food is our body’s fuel source that keeps us energized. Whether you’re using your brain at work or running five miles, you NEED fuel. The 3-3-3 Rule ensures that your body is constantly receiving fuel and converting it to energy all day long.
Infants cry when they want to be fed. Adults experience those same hunger cues, but our reaction is different. Instead of crying, we make a conscience decision to either listen to these hunger cues or ignore our body’s hunger. Think of hunger as the warning light that comes on in your car when your tire pressure is low. You know that you can keep driving but your car is telling you it is time to put air in the tires right NOW. When we feel hunger, our body is saying EAT NOW. We can choose to ignore that, but it will never lead to a good result. If you want to tame your cravings and avoid overeating…listen to your body and provide it with nourishment!
So now you may be thinking to yourself, ok, I’m going to stick to the 3-3-3 rule… but what do I eat? And what time do I eat at? Let’s break this rule down into some simple strategies!
- Let’s begin by making sure we are eating three meals per day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Try that for one week, and if you still feel those hunger cues in between meals after one week, then add in a protein rich snack between lunch and dinner.
- Make sure to include three food groups per meal. The best way to do this is to choose 2 food groups that will be consistent through every meal. For example, protein and veggies. Make sure to have an adequate amount of protein and veggies at all three meals, and rotate your third food group option between carbs, fats, and fruits! And remember to always stick to the proper portion size for that specific food group.
- Do not go more than 3 hours between meals and snacks. Now, this always seems to be the tricky one! Think about your normal, average day… what time do you wake up? For the sake of making things easy to understand, let’s say you usually wake up at 7am. Within 1 hour of waking up, you should be eating breakfast. This is going to help spike your metabolism and blood sugar to an awake and burning state, especially if you have a nutrient dense and nutritious breakfast. So you ate breakfast at 8am, what do you do now? Well, if we are abiding by the 3-3-3 rule, you should have something to eat around 11 am. Since 11 am is fairly close to lunch time, listen to your body. If you body is telling you that you are hungry, then have a light snack that is protein dense along with a carbohydrate or a fat. For example, a handful of almonds and some fruit, a Greek yogurt cup and some granola, or a small serving of cheese and some whole grain crackers. This small snack should hold you over for a few hours, bringing your lunch time to around 1pm. You can follow this same time sequence throughout the day by having another snack around 4-5pm, and then eating dinner within 2 hours after that!
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