By Ali Lopez
Laura: I have a question about hunger. I am very hungry all the time. I run, walk and bike regularly. I hydrate fairly well during the day. I eat yogurt, granola and berries for breakfast, a huge salad for lunch and a healthy meal at dinnertime. My snacking tends to be dark chocolate (too much) and other sugar items. I think I need other snack suggestions that will help fill me up and keep me full throughout the day. I was hoping you would have some suggestions for me to get rid of the hunger in a more healthy way.
Such a great question, Laura! Being “rungry” is a thing for sure, and if left unfed, leads to hangry. No fun! I thought instead of just a quick answer, I would spend a little more time and make a blog post out of it. I looked back and can’t believe in 4 years I haven’t written a whole post on snacking, since that is a big part of my daily life (and most athletes).
The first thing to think about and consider is what your meals look like, as well as the timing of your workouts and your meals. Do you work out first thing in the morning on an empty stomach? Or after breakfast? Or later in the day? Either way, you want to make sure that your first meal of the day (and actually all your meals) is full of carbs, good fats and protein.
Your breakfast seems like a good choice, but depending on the type of yogurt and the type of granola you are eating, it also could be loaded with sugar, so check labels (plain yogurt that you sweeten yourself is best!) Some granolas have more sugar than typical “sugary” breakfast cereals. Check out my maple syrup-sweetened homemade version here. Oatmeal is always a breakfast that keeps me full for a long time, especially when I add some good fats and protein to it. Check out my oatmeal post here and my power-packed oats here for some ideas.
What to eat the rest of your day
A big salad is a great lunch. But just make sure it is more than veggies. Add a good source of protein (beans, eggs, tofu, lean protein, fish) and some healthy fats (avocado, nuts, seeds, olives) and of course pile on the veggies. Check out my how to make a great salad post here and my kale salad post here.
And you say a “healthy meal at dinnertime,” and that is great. But if you eat lunch at noon and dinner at, say, 6 p.m., then of course you will be hungry in between. So it is important to look at the timing of your meals. I know for myself that three meals a day doesn’t usually work — I am a big snacker. And you are right in asking for healthier suggestions for snacking ideas. Dark chocolate is great. But I like to limit myself to one square of really good chocolate. You mention “other sugar items” and that is definitely something to steer clear of. So what to eat? In order for snacks to hold us over and not keep us reaching for more, snacks need to have some fiber (fullness) and protein as well as healthy fats (again fullness). And keep up with the hydrating, as often when we think we are hungry we are actually thirsty!
Here are some of my favorite snack ideas:
- Fruit and nuts, nut butter or small amount of cheese
- Veggies (raw or roasted) and dips Prep the veggies in advance so they are ready for you to grab from the fridge. Check out my hummus recipe here.
- Whole grain toast or a rice cake with avocado, nut butter, hummus.
- Hard boiled eggs.
- Popcorn (best to pop your own, air popper or in olive oil, and then add seasonings like salt, parmesan cheese, nutritional yeast, garlic powder…)
- Baked Sweet Potato topped with nut butter (check out my sweet potato post here).
- Baked White Potato topped with bean salsa.
- Protein packed smoothie (watch the sugar content!) and check out my smoothie post here.
- Leftovers from dinner or lunch are always a good choice, too.
I hope this has given you some good suggestions for healthier snacking options. Snacking can definitely be part of a healthy diet as long as you make smart choices. Get creative!
Anyone else have some favorite snack ideas? Comment on the post or send them along. Also, keep those questions coming! Email MRG here!