I’ll admit it, I need to eat pretty regularly in order to stay…agreeable. If you’re in my camp, this is for you. Below, I round up my top three tips to help you avoid feeling hangry for good.
Why do we get hangry?
Hanger (anger due to hunger) is essentially a product of low blood sugar levels. That is, when we don’t eat anything for a number of hours, our blood sugar levels start to dip and we may feel a variety of not-so-nice symptoms as a result.
Common signs and symptoms of low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, include weakness, fatigue, dizziness, and difficulty concentrating. Feeling hangry due to low blood sugar only makes sense, then. After all, who feels their best when they’re tired, brain foggy and unfocused? Not me.
The good news? There are simple choices we can make to avoid becoming overly hungry to the point of being, well, pissed. Below, I share my three top tips to avoid feeling hangry.
Have you ever skipped lunch and then totally over-stuffed yourself at dinner? That’s a completely normal physiologic response. When we haven’t eaten for hours, our bodies send signals to the brain to refuel itself, and fast. While it may feel like a loss of “self control,” it’s really just your body’s innate reaction to the threat of starvation. The problem? You may feel hangry before a meal, then continue to be irritable because you’ve now eaten to the point of uncomfortable fullness.
To avoid this vicious cycle, aim to eat every three to four hours throughout the day. Eating regularly helps ensure that our blood sugar remains stable instead of dipping and spiking when we fast and then feast.
However, that doesn’t mean grazing all day long is best for blood sugar stability. Overeating can send our blood sugar levels in the opposite direction, potentially leading to insulin resistance and heightened type 2 diabetes risk if levels chronically remain high. Plus, our digestive systems actually benefit from rest periods so they can go to work digesting and absorbing the food we consume.
Break Up with the Clock
Consider this permission to deviate from social norms when it comes to mealtimes. In other words, if it’s 11:15 a.m. and you’re ready for lunch, go ahead and eat lunch. Don’t delay eating just because your coworkers typically break for food at 1:30 pm. Ignoring natural hunger cues is a sure way to induce hanger.
If you’re starving at 5 p.m. and have dinner plans at 7:30 p.m., opt for a smart snack that won’t wreck your appetite but will tide you over until you’re ready for the full meal. Speaking of snacks…
Build Better Snacks
Smart snacks that contain protein and/or fat along with high-quality carbohydrates can prevent you from feeling hangry.
Why? Fat contains more calories by weight (9 kcal/gram) compared to protein and carbs (4 kcal/gram), so it’s bound to fill you up a bit more.
High quality carbs are key because they provide glucose, which is the body’s preferred source of energy, and fiber. Certain types of fiber can expand in the stomach and slow gastric (stomach) emptying, helping you stay full for longer. Fiber also helps keep those all-important blood sugar levels in check by slowing down the body’s absorption of sugar from foods.
Here are some basic smart snack examples:
- Olives (fat) + cheddar cheese (fat, protein) + whole wheat crackers (carbs)
- Greek yogurt (fat, protein) + fresh fruit (fiber, carbs) + nut butter (fat, protein)
- Guacamole (fat) + veggie sticks (carbs)
- Carrots (carbs) + hummus (fat, protein)
- Peanut butter (fat, protein) + banana (carbs)
- Hard-boiled egg (fat, protein) + popcorn (carbs)