It’s 3pm. Your stomach is rumbling as you sit through your team meeting, anticipating the Italian dinner you’ll be eating at 7pm. You consider the idea of snacking once the meeting ends. After all, the vending machine is around the corner and you won’t be eating for another 4 hours. A bag of candy will hold you over until dinner, right?
Realistically, whether you prefer snacking on a handful of gummy bears or a mouthful of sour patch kids, the rush of sugar will likely give you a temporary burst of energy. This is the result of simple sugars, known as glucose, building up in your bloodstream, causing your blood sugar to spike. Over time, this build up can lead to insulin resistance and may interfere with your body’s ability to process carbohydrates. In the short term, it can cause your energy to quickly plummet, leaving you hangry and tired long before the breadsticks and salad arrive for dinner.
Rather than let your hunger overrule your healthy lifestyle goals, take these tips into consideration the next time the vending machine is calling your name. Not only will you feel more satisfied, but you will have more energy to get through that afternoon meeting, sharing your ideas and insight rather than thinking about which sweet or savory treat you’re going to be snacking on.
Make your meals substantial
If you’re relying on a granola bar for breakfast and a plate of cheese and crackers for lunch, you’re setting yourself up for constant hunger. When your meals do not contain enough protein, carbs and fat, your body will not have the proper ratio of nutrients it needs to function at its best. By referencing the hunger scale found here, you can identify that “Goldilocks spot” of eating neither too much nor too little.
Protein is made up of amino acids, the building blocks which sustain the structure, function and regulation of your body’s tissues and organs. Without enough protein you cannot maintain or build muscle tissue. Muscle is what gives our bodies shape and definition. Another reason to prioritize protein is because it helps keep you full. It is also the most thermogenically active macronutrient. The simple act of digesting protein requires more energy than what it takes to digest carbs or fats. Aim to consume a total of 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight each day or approximately 15-25g of protein at each meal.
Failing to plan is planning to fail. When I travel, I’m notorious for packing things like peanuts and raisins, protein bars and fruit. I would rather have too much food and end up taking some home with me than to be stuck on an airplane after an hour long delay, with nothing to eat, and a 3 1/2 hour flight ahead of me. It’s happened–except I did have snacks! The flight attendants were offering glasses of apple juice (which could easily have been mistaken for beer) as I munched on my trail mix and protein crisps. I also keep food in my work bag and glove compartment, knowing there’s a healthy option on hand if I miss a meal or forget to pack food.
Keep snacking simple
The idea of “meal prep” can be intimidating. You need to know what you’re making, then you need to buy it. Next you need to actually prepare it. Yes, there are a lot of steps involved, but it gets easier over time and is well worth it. Likewise, snacking should be simple. The more complicated you make something, the less likely you are to do it, nonetheless stick with it. Keep in mind that snacking shouldn’t “open the flood gates” and give a green light to eating an entire bag of chips or an entire of sleeve of cookies. Snacks such as fruit are easily portable, as are protein bars. If you have access to a fridge or cooler, I also recommend bringing Greek yogurt or cottage cheese to snack on. Nut butters are another easy-to-store option that will provide additional protein and flavor to fruit or crackers. Another simple way to snack smart? Stay hydrated. Keep a water bottle on hands at all times. Dehydration can reduce the body’s ability to burn fat and function properly when it directs its energy to conserving as much water as it can. Smart snacking (and drinking!) can help you manage hunger levels while working toward those healthy lifestyle goals.