I’m a nutritionist by profession. In every other waking moment of my life, I’m a…
You know the drill.
It’s 3 pm in the afternoon. You’re staring at your computer screen, trying to stay focused. And then you hear it.
The box of Cadbury chocolates in the kitchen starts calling your name.
Craving chocolate, sugar or carbohydrates and feeling tired, lethargic and unable to concentrate are all hallmark signs of a strong desire to overeat at the end of the day.
The greatest of weight loss intentions can fall to the way-side when the afternoon cravings and hunger set in. We can very quickly decide that we ‘don’t care anymore’ and just grab whatever we can to eat.
It’s frustrating to swing between the two extremes—one minute you’re dieting and the next minute you’re overeating, only to repeat the process again tomorrow or next week.
The key to successful long term weight loss and healthy eating is not restriction (which often leads to overeating) but consistency.
We overeat for a variety of complex and interrelated reasons, but one of the main reasons we feel like doing it at the end of the day is because of what we’ve eaten in the meals prior to this.
What you choose to eat and drink at breakfast, lunch and your mid-morning snack will have a profound effect on your appetite later on in the day.
The overall point of this article is this: Choose whole, fresh, minimally processed foods as much as you can. When you fill-up on these foods, you’re much less likely to want the unhelpful foods later on in the day.
In saying that, here are three vital parts of your nutrition that will help keep you full, satisfied and consistent with your eating patterns.
H2O is the most abundant chemical compound in the human body.
It’s so vital to our body’s day-to-day functions that even mild dehydration can leave us feeling less than 100%.
Symptoms of dehydration can appear after only a 2% drop in the body’s normal water content. For an average-sized woman, who carries about 30L of water, a 2% loss is only about 600mL.
These symptoms include thirst, hunger, dry skin, constipation, tiredness, irritability, mood swings, and headaches. When dehydration is severe or prolonged, these symptoms become more concentrated and include others like migraines, dizziness, severe fatigue and nausea.
Most of us won’t experience extreme symptoms of dehydration but almost all of us, at some time or another have felt the mild symptoms: headache, grumpiness, lethargy, dizziness and hunger.
If you’ve had your afternoon snack and are still feeling peckish, grabbing a big glass of water should always be your first move. It’s likely to be dehydration that’s the cause of your afternoon cravings.
It doesn’t have to be hot weather for you to be dehydrated. Dry climates and air conditioning can mean you lose water through sweat without actually feeling ‘sweaty’. Drink your glass of water, wait 20 minutes and it’s likely that your sudden hunger pangs will pass.
To check your hydration status have a quick look at the colour of your urine every now and again. If you’re well-hydrated it will be a nice pale yellow colour. If it’s completely clear, you may be too hydrated, and if it’s a dark yellow/orange colour, then you’re dehydrated.
Fill up on fibre
Fibre is the term given to the edible components of plant-based foods that are not digested by or absorbed into the body. As a result, they travel through the digestive tract relatively untouched where they are then partially or completely fermented by bacteria in the large intestine.
What’s the point, I hear you ask, if fibre goes straight through us? Such a fantastic question.
High fibre foods are what nutritionists describe as low energy density. This means that they fill you up on less energy. Research also tells us that consuming a high fibre meal can also help keep you feel fuller for longer. Fibre does this through a number of mechanisms.
Firstly, it binds to water in the stomach and expands and secondly, the presence of fibre in a meal slows down digestion and the absorption of carbohydrates into the bloodstream is slower and more steady.
These two points make fibre a vital part of long term healthy eating and a must for successful, long term weight loss.
Breakfast, morning tea and lunch should contain a portion of carbohydrate. The type of carbohydrate is important as it needs to contain fibre. Not consuming adequate high fibre carbohydrates can lead to digestion problems, constipation and if prolonged, bowel disease. You’ve gotta keep that poo moving on through and consuming enough fibre is the best way to do that.
Good carbohydrate sources that also offer you fibre and help you feel fuller throughout the day include:
- Rolled or steel-cut oats
- High fibre breakfast cereal
- Rye, soy & linseed or grainy bread
- Sweet potato
- Beans (butter, black, kidney)
- Brown rice
- Corn kernel or on the cob
- Potato with the skin on
You also get fibre from:
Harness the power of protein
Including adequate protein in your meals and snacks is a very important part of successful weight loss and long term healthy eating.
Protein-rich foods help you feel fuller from a meal because they take the longest to digest. This is a really important technique for combatting your mid-afternoon binge session or sugar craving.
A lot of people feel hungry and tired at this point in the day because they haven’t eaten enough protein at breakfast and lunch.
Aiming for an adequate serve of quality protein-rich food at every meal, especially breakfast and lunch, will keep you in much better control of your appetite and you’ll feel less inclined to tuck into the crackers and dip or chocolate late in the afternoon.
Appetite is the resulting outcome of a number of factors that are circumstantial, physical and psychological.
One of the physiological factors that will affect your appetite is your blood sugar level and the types of foods that you eat.
Constantly consume high amounts of sugar and highly processed foods and you’ll quickly feel out of control of your appetite and more inclined to eat more of these types of unhealthy foods. Your body’s blood sugar levels will be all over the place making it much harder to maintain a healthy weight.
Research tells us that the addition of protein at our meals, especially at breakfast, helps control your appetite and you end up less likely to overeat over the course of the day.
The best protein rice food choices are:
- Meat: Lamb, beef, pork, kangaroo, game meats, etc
- Fish: Basa, ling, salmon, snapper, barramundi, tuna, etc
- Seafood: Prawns, crab meat, squid, muscles, oysters, etc
- Poultry: Chicken, turkey, duck, etc
- Dairy: Milk, yoghurt, cheese
- Soy: Milk, beans, tofu, tempeh
- Legumes: Beans, lentils, chickpeas
In the end, nutrition is highly individualised. If your diet is working for you and you’re able to stick to it and stay consistent, then keep doing what you’re doing.
However, if you’re battling sugar cravings, feel like you binge eat semi-regularly or overeat at the end of the day, then perhaps it’s time to get some nutrition advice that’s specific for you.