Has this happened to you? You skip lunch and a couple hours later, your energy starts to drop, you have difficulty concentrating and small things start to irritate you. You are “hangry.” For those who haven’t come across the word yet, “hangry” describes the feeling of irritability and anger that can happen when you are hungry. With all the causes of irritability, being hungry is usually preventable. Keep your hunger under control with these three tips.

1. Eat three meals

per day

There are many reasons people skip meals. Some people don’t feel hungry in the morning and others just get absorbed in their work and forget to eat lunch. Whatever the reason, skipping meals can lead to low energy levels and excessive hunger. To avoid getting hungry and grumpy, eat within an hour of waking and every three to five hours throughout the day.

2. Make your meals last

“How long will this meal keep me satisfied?” This is not a question that everyone asks themselves when preparing a meal. However, if you want to avoid getting hangry it is something you should consider. Some people eat meals consisting mainly of refined carbohydrates such as chips, white bread and soda. These meals lack fiber and protein, which causes energy levels to rise quickly and crash just as quickly. This can leave you feeling lethargic or cranky a couple hours after a meal.

Other people eat meals of mainly non-starchy vegetables such as a plain lettuce salad, a low-calorie kale smoothies, or celery and carrot sticks. Meals like this lack protein, carbohydrate and fat. These meals, although well intentioned, do not provide your body with the calories or energy that it needs to get to the next meal.

These two different types of meals might seem completely different, but they will both cause you to run out of energy before your next meal. Build a meal that contains at least three food groups including a source of complex carbohydrate, such as whole grain crackers or brown rice, and a source of protein, such as meat or beans, to make sure you stay fueled and satisfied between meals.

3. Snack, as needed

If you are hungry and your next meal is still hours away, listen to your body and have a snack. Don’t let arbitrary diet rules dictate when you can eat. That being said, remember a snack is fuel to get you to your next meal, not a treat. A large cookie or syrupy coffee drink may cause you to crash again in a couple hours or leave you feeling uncomfortably full when you do eat your next meal. Look for food that will nourish your body, such as a piece of fruit or a small handful of nuts. A good rule of thumb is to have one food group for every one to two hours before your next planned meal.

At first it may be challenging to plan meals and have snacks available to keep hunger at bay, but the potential benefits are great. Stay energized and avoid getting “hangry” by eating three meals per day, building balanced meals and snacking as needed. If you would like more help with improving your eating habits, Gundersen registered dietitians can help. For an appointment, call (608) 775-3447.

Halley Molstad is a Gundersen Health System registered dietitian.

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