han·gry ˈhaNGɡrē/adjective informal 1. bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger.
Soaring and crashing blood sugar levels can create a roller coaster of hormone spirals and fat-storing surges that put us on the fast track to a metabolism “bad hair day.” Strategies to stabilizing your blood sugar levels and avoiding hanger do more than just improve your mood. They keep hormones like ghrelin, leptin, cortisol, and insulin in balance. Ghrelin is the hunger hormone that is produced by the stomach and can drive you to eat quick-energy foods [aka processed carbs.] Leptin is the appetite suppressing hormone that signals satiety. Cortisol is a stress hormone that promotes storage of belly fat and insulin is released to utilize blood sugar as energy. Hunger can trigger these hormones to fluctuate wildly and create a vicious cycle of bad mood, poor sleep, and weigh gain.
Here are six simple strategies to keeping hunger [and hormones] under control:
- Low-glycemic Index: Follow a dietary pattern that stabilizes your blood sugar levels, AKA low-glycemic index
- While there is limited research to suggest that a low-glycemic index diet is better for long-term weight maintenance than calorie restrictive or low-fat diets, we love it for the simple fact that you can eat MORE food. Most low-glycemic index vegetables and fruits are naturally less calorie-dense.
- Fiber: Consume plenty of fiber-rich food [remember, fiber is the skeleton of plants and is not found in animal products] – so, eat your veggies!
- Protein: Have protein [animal or plant] with every meal and snack. Protein helps with satiety by lowering the hunger hormones often triggered by high carbohydrate meals.
- Snacks: Have two whole-food snacks per day [ ~200 calories] that are a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Our faves:
- apple, banana, celery + nut butter + flax meal
- hummus + vegetables [carrots, cucumbers, celery, steamed broccoli]
- plain Greek yogurt + berries + raw nuts or seeds
- hard-boiled egg + tomato + slice of avocado
- Mindfulness: Listen to your gut – by simply pausing and checking in with your inner voice by asking,”How hungry am I” you can prevent overeating by selecting an appropriate amount of food.
- Plan: Be prepared! Planning your snacks and meals as much as possible is the best strategy to avoid reaching for a quick fix to out-of-control hunger. At work, keep portioned nuts, nut butters, small yogurts, and long-lasting fruits [apples, oranges, bananas] handy to reach for when hunger strikes. At home, make sure your environment is “light” on processed carbohydrates and heavy on whole, low-glycemic index foods like fresh cut vegetables, fruits, hard-boiled eggs, avocado, plain yogurt, nuts, and seeds.