Nutrition with Jane McClenaghan: How to shift the 3pm sugar cravings

You don't have to reach for the biscuits and chocolate if you hit an afternoon 'sugar slump' - there is a better, healthier way...
Jane McClenaghan

DO you get a 3pm sugar slump and need a chocolate hit mid-afternoon?

If your energy levels are on a rollercoaster, leaving you hangry and hitting the biscuit tin for a solution, then I have some ideas to help you curb your sugar cravings.

1. Eat enough at lunchtime

Sometimes we get cravings because we are hungry, not hangry. When I look at people's food diaries, often lunch is a very light meal - maybe a small salad, a yoghurt and some fruit or a light sandwich.

That might not be enough to keep you going right through the afternoon until teatime, so try eating a little extra at lunchtime.

Of course, it matters what you eat, so...

2. Pack in enough protein

Protein will help you to feel fuller for longer, as it is released very slowly from your belly.

It also has the benefit of helping to regulate blood glucose and insulin levels, so reducing blood sugar fluctuations that end up leaving us craving carbs and sugars.

Aim for a palm-size portion of protein at each meal.

For example, swap wraps and sandwiches for a protein packed seasonal super salad, or some lentil soup with oatcakes and cheese and see if that hits the spot.

3. Add extra fibre

The other nutrient that will keep you feeling fuller for longer is fibre, so make the switch to low GI wholegrains and ditch the white, refined and processed white breads, rice, pasta and other white carbohydrates.

4. Add a little fat

Fat leaves us feeling satiated, so popping a little full-fat mayo, olive oil based dressing, a handful of nuts and seeds, or some oily fish in your lunchbox can make all the difference.

5. Limit processed and sugar foods

The more sugary stuff we eat, the more we want. White, refined, processed and high sugar foods do not satisfy us at all. When we eat this sort of food, we get a sharp, rapid increase in blood sugar, followed by crash soon after. That leaves us wanting more and more of these high GI junk foods, not to mention the accompanying lows in mood and energy.

Making the switch to better quality food with stacks more nutrition will make you feel a whole lot better almost immediately.

6. Take time to sit and eat meals

Our brain needs time to tell our belly that we have eaten. If we eat on the go, while mindlessly scrolling social media, or watching TV, then we are unlikely to feel satisfied after eating. Switch off your screens, sit at the table and enjoy your food.

7. Make a healthier choice

Pop a few healthier alternatives into your trolley so that when the need strikes you have a nourishing snack that will leave you feeling more energised.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Two oatcakes with sugar-free peanut butter.
  • Dark chocolate (at least 70 per cent cocoa).
  • Medjool dates and a few Brazil nuts.
  • Natural yoghurt and some berries.

8. Allow yourself a treat

Total denial is not the answer to curbing cravings. Instead, decide how often you are going to allow yourself a little of what you fancy. For example if you are eating a chocolate bar every day, then set yourself a realistic goal of having chocolate twice a week.

The key to success is to name the days that you will have your treat. You might decide that Wednesday and Saturday works best for you. When it comes to the day, buy your treat, sit down and enjoy every mouthful.

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