We all know the feeling of being painfully hungry, “hangry” as some like to call it. You get home and you know you need food, and you need it RIGHT NOW. When we’re in this state, it’s rare that we make a healthy choice. If there are chips or cookies in the pantry, these foods are usually what we go for. Because the hunger runs so deep in this state, many of us overeat to the place of not feeling well, and to the point of feeling guilty about eating half a bag of chips and not remembering what they tasted like (also called mindless eating).
This can happen for three reasons:
If there has been too much time in between a meal or snack, our bodies simply get hungry, and need calories and nourishment.
If the previous meal/meals was not well balanced. For example, if a meal is lacking healthy fat and/or protein, the need for more food takes over.
A true blood sugar drop, hypoglycemia.
Getting a handle on this, and not letting yourself get to the point of dire hunger, is life changing for many. When we plan ahead, and anticipate eating and hunger, we can avoid these blood sugar crashes and keep both our mood and hunger stable.
Think of your energy as a fire - the logs on the fire are fats and protein, and the kindling is carbohydrates. Most of us need all three, but if we eat a meal that is largely made up of carbohydrates, our fire is going to burn out quickly. For long sustaining energy (at least 3-4 hours between a meal) be sure your meal has plenty of fat and protein, balanced with some healthy carbohydrates.
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner Examples:
Typical Breakfast: A bowl of oatmeal with and brown sugar or maple syrup, maybe a few nuts tossed on there. Many people who eat this breakfast are hungry 2 hours or so later, indicating there was not enough fat and protein in the meal.
----> Balance It Out: Add 1-2 TBSP of grass-fed butter or coconut oil, a spoonful of nut or seed butter, and a dollop of yogurt or kefir, and it will keep you full AND energized much longer. The fats and protein will provide more calories and nutrients, hence keeping you full until lunch AND keeping you from having a mid morning cookie or pastry.
Typical Lunch: A salad with chicken, chopped veggies, lite dressing, and a few sunflower seeds.
----> Balance It Out: Make a batch of my dressing once a week and use a generous amount on your salad. Add ½ to 1 avocado for healthy fats, 2 TBSP+ of nuts or seeds, and if tolerated cow, goat, or sheep milk cheese. Throw some fermented vegetables on there for a real power packed meal!
Typical Dinner: Chicken, sweet potatoes, and green beans.
---->Balance It Out: Add 1 TBSP of grass-fed butter to the potatoes - always pair a carbohydrate like rice, quinoa, bread, oatmeal, potatoes, fruit with fat. Drizzle some olive oil on the green beans and/or the chicken. Consider adding a serving of fermented vegetables and/or a small salad on the side.
Many people get an afternoon crash around 2 or 3, and go looking for a cookie or something sweet to make it through the day. If this happens to you, it’s a clear sign from your body that your meals have not been balanced enough. If you know this always happens to you at 3pm, anticipate that by having a cup of tea with coconut oil, a handful of nuts and an apple, or some hummus and veggies around 2:30pm. Next, work on how you can add more to your meals - many of us are simply not eating enough. If you fuel your body first, 9/10 of you will prevent those cravings/blood sugar crashes.
These are simple changes that have a HUGE impact. After 8+ years of nutritional counseling, this is hands down the change that my clients feel helps them the most. And, the results are almost instant!
Look for part II of this post, including my list of make-ahead snacks, coming soon!