Have you noticed a trend in the time of day your appetite begins to surge?
For most of us, it’s not in the morning. It’s actually later in the day, in the early-to-late afternoon, that we feel our stomach start to rumble. In these moments, you might feel intense cravings for comfort food that weren’t there just a few moments ago. What’s going on in your body?
Why We Want to Snack Later in the Afternoon
There are both physiological and psychological causes behind the afternoon snack attack:
- Your blood sugar levels may have dropped. This can also cause a drop in energy. You may be craving certain foods to bring your sugar levels back to normal.
- You haven’t eaten enough during the day so far. As a result, your stomach is looking to make up for missed calories as soon as possible.
- You’re tired. A lack of sleep can increase your hunger hormone (ghrelin) and tempt you to reach for unhealthy comfort food.
- You’re stressed or burned out. Emotional changes or shifts in your mental state can increase your appetite as a coping mechanism.
Strategies for Managing a Surging After-work Appetite
Sometimes a snack is a good idea. It can help you refuel, manage your appetite and stay focused for the duration of the day before dinnertime. However, after work especially, the urge to snack can turn into a feeding frenzy. You might find yourself unwrapping a full-size chocolate bar or tearing through a bag of potato chips without fully realizing it.
However, mindless snacking can add up to almost 500 – 1,000 extra calories a day! For help managing your appetite and fighting the after-work snack attack, consider these strategies.
Eat More, Earlier in the Day
Don’t just eat more calories – eat foods that are nutritionally dense. Instead of loading up on packaged convenience foods, pay more attention to what you are eating. Foods rich with fiber and protein can help you stay fuller, longer. Consider apple slices and peanut butter, cheese on whole-grain crackers or Greek yogurt without a bunch of added sugars.
Bring a Snack for the Commute Home
If your urge to snack arrives on the ride home from work or the moment you walk in your front door, try eating a nutritious snack in the car. Prepare a Ziploc baggie in advance to grab from when you’re at a red light or stopped in traffic. Fill it with nutrient-dense foods like dried fruit, trail mix (without the chocolate), homemade energy bites or baby carrots.
Plan to Eat Dinner Sooner
It might be easier to move up your dinner plans. If you regularly have a large appetite after work, try eating dinner during this time. This will also give your food more time to digest and open up your evening for personal or family time. If you can’t manage an earlier dinner but you also can’t hold off, then go ahead and grab a snack – but make it healthy. Try whole grain toast with peanut butter, a small handful of nuts or hummus with snacking peppers.
Get Active as Soon as You Get Home
You can often combat cravings by distracting yourself. Use the time after work to exercise, run an errand or help your child with their school work. If you can shift your focus away from food, intense cravings will often subside.
For more information on beating cravings (a sweet tooth in particular), CLICK HERE for more OAC practical health and wellness education.