Ever eat a snack or meal and end up feeling completely unsatisfied? That even though your stomach is full, your mind is not?
Contentment from food is linked from several things, including both what we eat and how we eat. If we're distracted. If we don't really want or crave the food we're eating in that moment. If we're with good friends or poor company. If we ate just an English muffin or an English muffin with an egg.
All of these factors can play a role in whether we walk away from the meal feeling great... or just 'eh'.
Problem #1: Mindless Eating
Our society is so 'go-go-go' that many times we're too rushed to pay attention to what we're shoveling into our mouths. In reality, we simply cannot multitask. The brain can only handle concentrating on one thing at a time. So when we focus on the computer, TV, or work, our brain isn't receiving the signals that we're eating... or that we're full.
All of a sudden the food is gone and we're left staring at an empty plate or bag thinking: "Did I just eat that all? But I'm still hungry..." And we may feel this way even though we've consumed all the nutrients and calories our body needs at that time. Feeling dissatisfied and, well -- disappointed or sad -- we begin to look for other things to eat... chocolate things... or salty, crunchy things. Something else to fill that void that was still left in our gut.
Then comes the guilt. And the over-eating cycle continues.
Solution: YOU Time
Even though we have bills to pay, work to do, emails to write, and kids to watch - there needs to be time in the day for you. Because without a healthy you, nothing else matters.
So give yourself 3 minutes when you want to eat a snack and 10 minutes (at least!) when it's time for lunch. Eat mindfully. Turn away from the computer. Turn away from work or chores. Look at what you're about to eat. Smell it. Taste it. Eat it slowly. Enjoy it. It's only 3 to 10 minutes out of your day; give yourself the time you need to be satisfied.
During dinner, make the commitment to your family to eat at the table. Enjoy the meal.
It takes time to learn to eat more mindfully and slowly, but once you're able to give yourself that gift of time to enjoy your food, you'll be much more satisfied and energized once you go back to your day.
Problem #2: What to Eat?
Ever notice how when you eat that bagel for breakfast you get hungry 45 minutes later? That's because carbohydrates will give you immediate energy, yet they break down so quickly that all of a sudden you feel hungry again!
When our blood sugar dips low, our body sends signals for us to eat. The first thing we crave are carbohydrates (bread, pasta, candy, sugar, chocolate, chips, pastries, soda), which our body knows can give us a quick boost. So we want to reach for the donuts, bagels, and candy... but resist the urge! You'll simply end up hungry and with cravings again.
Solution: Combination Foods
Think of each eating occasion as a mini balanced meal. You do want carbohydrates for that quick rise in blood sugar and energy, but you also want protein, fiber, and perhaps some healthy fats (from nuts, nut butters, and oils). All three of these foods take much longer to break down, keeping us feeling much more satisfied. They give us the lasting energy to make it through to dinner... Or our next snack!
To help prevent that dip in blood sugar which makes us ravenous with cravings, try to eat every 2 to 3 hours.
Here are some tips for choosing great food combinations:
- When choosing carbohydrates, go for whole fruits and vegetables first, then whole grains (and refined/processed carbs last). Quick, easy foods in this category include: Apples, Bananas, Oranges, Berries, Baby Carrots, Sugar Snap Peas, Edamame, Bell Peppers, Whole Wheat English Muffins, Beans, Whole Wheat Toast, or whole grains such as Quinoa.
- When choosing proteins, go for lean ones such as: Low fat or Fat free Dairy (Greek yogurt, yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese sticks), Eggs, Nuts, Seeds, Nut Butters (peanut butter/almond butter), Beans/Hummus, Poultry, and Fish.