By Mareya Ibrahim
You get to work. No time to leave for lunch. Stomach starts to rumble. Get distracted. Feel incredibly lethargic all of a sudden. Start to yawn. Chug a bunch of coffee or energy drinks. Rub your eyes. Desperation hits. Grab a bag of chips from the vending machine. Reach into your desk drawer and fish out a bag of year-old Halloween candy you pillaged from your kids and proceed to go into a caffeinated sugar and salt coma in the middle of your manager’s meeting, then fall face first into your co-worker’s lunch. Or maybe, just bite his head off and chew slowly.
The hunger beast emerges.
How does the vicious cycle begin? The idea of three ‘square meals’ a day was engrained in us from day one. Snacks were something that would sabotage your diet and consisted of a lot of fried, sugary stuff. The real scenario plays out like this…you skip a meal, like, say breakfast or lunch, the snacking goes awry and your hunger dominoes like a pack of rabid wolves that will do anything for survival, including picking off of carcasses, donuts, fries and any other office meeting remnants or infinite shelf life, processed items that might present themselves from behind a vending window with lots of buttons. Willpower is not your wingman that shoulders you on to good health when a sugar-and-fried-food-fest feels a lot more like a party.
The body loves routine in what it eats and when. It wants to know it will receive energy on a regular basis to operate, just like a car. If you let the tank run dry and keep trying to drive, you’ll probably have to hitch a ride home no matter where you are. It just won’t go anymore. Plus, it takes a lot more energy to get it running in tip top shape again and don’t even think about giving it the cheap gas, unless you want to gunk up the engine.
White flour, refined sweeteners, chemical additives and processed foods are perfectly designed to gunk up your engine.
So, here’s my secret. The key to staving off hunger and managing blood sugar is to eat better, more often. Food affects our mood, energy level, how we handle stress, our ability to sleep, how we deal with relationships, and ultimately, governs our decisions. Have you ever seen the shirt that says ‘I’m sorry for what I said when I was hungry?’
Eating regularly seems like such an easy concept but one that’s not always given priority in our go, go, go lives. As a health coach, I hear it all the time. “I forgot to eat.” “I don’t always have time to go grocery shopping.” “I’m on a diet, so I’m skipping lunch.” The fact is, your body needs you to eat right, regularly. Not eating right will come back to bite you in the derriere. You won’t just gain fat, you’ll also drag down your system, and just like that car, you will break down.
You’re not only encouraged to eat often, choosing a combination of protein with slow burning carbohydrates and essential fatty acids can actually stoke your metabolic fire and help you burn more calories, even in your sleep. Clean foods + smaller portions at regular intervals = higher metabolism. If that doesn’t sound like a license to eat, I don’t know what more a fit foodie could ask for!
Quick meal ideas can help keep the hunger beast from rearing its ugly head. Eat a few each day:
- Nitrate-free turkey breast, arugula and tomato rolled in a whole grain tortilla
- Oatmeal made with old fashioned oats, flax meal, fresh fruit and unsweetened nut milk
- Sushi hand rolls made with toasted seaweed, vinegar-seasoned brown rice, avocado, seared tuna and cucumber
Smart snacks can also help you avoid a food emergency. Eat a couple each day:
- Protein shake made with high quality protein powder, spinach, coconut water and berries
- Sprouted toast topped with almond butter and sliced apples
- Homemade trail mix with unsalted cashews, dried cranberries and dark chocolate chips
- Bell pepper, Jicama and cucumber sticks with avocado hummus
- Crunchy chickpeas, baked with cumin (see recipe below)
A little bit of planning goes a long way. Make sure you’ve got some meals prepped and snacks packed before heading into the week. I like to keep a bag in my car that travels with me, full of transportable snacks like raw cashews, packs of wild-caught albacore tuna, coconut water, low sugar bars and apples with individual packets of nut butter so that I’m never seduced by the blinking lights of the fast food drive through. I figure as long as I’m armed, I’ll never have to succumb to a food 911.
Try out this great, high protein snack that satiates your need to crunch.
Crunchy Cumin and Chili Chickpeas
4 cups garbanzo beans, canned, rinsed
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground Chili powder
1/2-teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Pre-heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
- Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients until evenly coated.
- Spread the chickpeas in an even layer onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 30 to 40 minutes.
- Package in individual portion sizes in paper bags to keep crunchy.