You're hitting away numbers at work and suddenly the clock strikes 4 p.m. Before you can say "clean eating" you're midway through a massive block of chocolate or those bag of oily greasy chips.
Unless you're a kale-eating unicorn, this has happened to us all. Many, many a time!
But why do we crave junk food in the afternoon -- and what can we do about it?
There are a few lifestyle and physiological reasons why we feel particularly nibblish at around 4 p.m is what dieticians say.
If your daily afternoon routine is to indulge in cookies and chips, then it's only natural for you to want and crave that every time. Also, those are usually easily available and cheaper too.
The best way to reduce cravings for such kind of foods is to slowly adjust our selections by introducing more whole foods in the diet. Pack tiny meals like nuts, seeds and fruit for you to snack on at such times of the day.
The best way to reduce cravings for junk foods is to slowly modify our choices by introducing more whole foods in the diet. For example if you are used to eating a packet of chips a day, reduce that to just a handful. This will keep you satisfied at the same time reduce your intake.
Irregular blood sugar levels
Food cravings occur for a variety of reasons, but usually, as the day tends to end, our energy levels have a tendency to slump due to a drop in our blood sugar levels. What we are actually craving is some food or drink to bring our sugar levels back up to normal. That’s why we end up snacking on high-calorie sugary foods.
However, these foods we're craving don't give us the long-lasting energy we need. However, those cream biscuits or that bar of chocolate aren’t going to give you the energy to keep going which means you will be more likely to eat more of it till you are full.
Often when we get to that 4 p.m. slump, we're looking for a fast fix. When we consume food with a high glycaemic index (GI) our blood sugar levels shoot up really high but come down soon after.
It's a catch-22 situation because you might feel good and full for a short period of time, but soon after you’ll be hungry again and feeling even less satisfied – and you tend to indulge in even more unhealthy food.
Skipped breakfast? Without that first important meal in the day, one often makes up for those missed calories more intensely later through the form of a quick, unhealthy on the go snack.
When you don't eat habitually, your blood sugar levels are not kept and your body is not sustained by nutrition. This causes the body to crave something to eat and that’s where one reaches out for unhealthy, high-calorie comfort food.
You are less likely to have a slump if your bodies are fuelled well beforehand.
Irregular Sleep Patterns
Having irregular sleeping patterns not only affects your mood and concentration but also affects the food choices you make the next day.
This is because irregular sleep increases ghrelin which is the hunger hormone and decreases the satiety hormone – leptin, which can cause one to reach for fatty junk foods.
To help you avoid junk food cravings in the afternoon, we recommend the following tips:
If you have your healthy afternoon snack handy with you, you're less likely to choose chips and chocolate. Your snack should be a good combination of protein, carbs and good fat.
Mixed seed crackers and cheese (in limits!), nuts, or peanut butter on wholegrain toast are great mid-afternoon nibbles. These foods can curb a craving without added sugar and saturated fats and keep you full for longer
Eat Regular Meals
Having a proper breakfast and lunch -- and eating healthy snacks in between -- massively reduces the need to reach for junk foods later.
According to nutritionists, the best way to evade an afternoon energy collapse is to eat a well-balanced lunch, including whole grains, lean proteins, good fats and lots of vegetables,
Keep Yourself Hydrated
Sometimes, one confuses thirst with hunger. Make sure you stay hydrated. Drinking water before a meal has also been shown to reduce the amount of food you eat while also increasing the amount of energy your body burns. A total win-win!
Choose low GI snacks
It is inevitable to feel hungry in the afternoons, So the best snacks to choose are those with a low glycaemic index. These kinds of snacks help keep the sugar levels stable without rising too high or falling too low – thus making one feel energized throughout the day. So switch your afternoon chocolate bar to a bowl of yogurt or fruit or even a handful of mixed seeds.