The Truth About Why You Crave Snacks In-Between Meals and How To Make It Stop

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It’s only been 2 hours since lunch, so why do you feel hungry again already?

You try to convince yourself to hold off on eating again until dinner, but ultimately, the munchies win.

You swing by the closest convenience store and pick up a bag of chips.

You tell yourself you’ll only have a few, but somehow lose sight of that through all the loud crunching drowning out your subconscious screaming at you to stop.

Next thing you know, you’re down to the last few crumbs at the bottom of the bag.

“Oh well” you shrug as you tip the bag upside down to empty the crumbs into your mouth.

As you sit there with a bloated belly, you feel only partially satisfied.

The saltiness was delicious, sure, but you still don’t feel full.

You may stop there, already knowing you went overboard by demolishing the entire bag of chips. Or you may think, “My diet’s already screwed for the day, might as well go all out.” And top it off with a chocolate bar.

Now, before I tell you HOW to curb these cravings and make yourself feel more full, let me first explain WHY you feel this way.

The reason the bag of chips didn’t satisfy you is because they are highly processed foods.

Processed foods are basically anything pre-cooked, pre-packaged, or artificially flavored (pizza, chips, candy, cereal, ice cream, pastries, crackers, cookies, french fries, fruit snacks, etc.). If it has a long shelf-life, it’s processed.

These are also the first foods we tend to reach for when the inevitable munchies hit us.

Why? Because they’re quick, easy, and convenient. They also tend to be the cheapest because they lack any real, quality ingredients.

Processed foods are sorta the root of all evil.

They are chemically DESIGNED to make you feel hungry and eat more.

The artificial ingredients they use actually trigger your taste buds to make you feel like you can’t stop until you eat every last crumb and lick the inside of the bag.

Kinda messed up, isn’t it?

Not only will processed foods leave you feeling more hungry than when you started (and more guilty for having no self-discipline), they will leave you feeling bloated and lethargic. So much for being productive with the rest of your day.

You feel this way because processed foods are loaded with salt and sugar. The salt will make you blow up like a balloon, and the sugar will give you a temporary spike in energy and then a massive sugar crash.

It’s basically a junk food hangover.

You feel like crap, your tummy is bulging and maybe even a little squirmy, you question your life choices, and just want to curl into a ball and binge-watch Netflix the rest of the afternoon.

So how do you avoid giving in to these cravings AND stop your tummy from growling to be fed in between meals?

It’s simple.

DRINK UP!

Most people aren’t consuming enough water, and usually when you feel hungry between meals, you’re actually just thirsty.

Even in first world countries, where clean drinking water and healthy beverages are in abundance, the people are chronically dehydrated. Studies in the US show that 75% of Americans are dehydrated, for example, and studies in the UK show that less than 1% of the population drink the recommended 8 glasses of water a day.

Here are some simple, every day tips to protect you from your inevitable cravings by drinking more liquids.

When you feel hungry in between meals, drink 16 oz of water before you even THINK about going for a snack!

Wait 20 minutes, and if you still feel hungry (remember, craving something sweet and feeling actually hunger are two very different things) then go for a HEALTHY snack.

Snacking on fruit, vegetables with hummus, almonds, or a protein bar will leave you feeling much more satisfied than processed foods. And best of all, fruits and veggies are actually good sources of water as well so by eating them you’ll be adding extra hydration to your body!

Getting more H20

I’ll be the first to admit, water bores me and I struggle to drink as much as I should.

BUT, if it’s in front of me, I’ll drink it. Mostly out of habit to keep my hands and mouth busy.

Just like how we’ll keep eating even when we’re full if the food is sitting right in front of our face.

So while you’re sitting at your co-working desk, home-office, or kitchen table, make sure you have a full glass of water within reach at all times.

You know the phrase, “Out of sight, out of mind?” Well that’s the main reason we aren’t consuming enough water. We just don’t think about it.

But if a full glass of water is waiting inches from your fingertips, you’re much more likely to go for a sip every once in a while.

Also make sure you have a full glass of water with every meal, and take sips in between each bite. This will help you feel full quicker and eat less during your meals.

The same goes for when you’re dining out or going out to the bars with your friends.

Get in the habit of grabbing a glass of water before you sit down or ordering one from the server as soon as they make their first introduction.

Drink some water before, during, and after your meal.

If you’re going out to the bars with your friends, order your drink AND a glass of water. Alternate sips between your alcoholic beverage and the water.

If double-fisting sounds like too much work, then order a glass of water in between each alcoholic beverage, and don’t allow yourself to order your next drink until you finish your water. Even if that means chugging the glass in under 5 seconds so you can get back to boozing.

Yes, you’ll have to pee a lot. But it will balance out the dehydration from the alcohol, AND decrease your chances of having a killer hangover the next morning. Your future self will thank you.

And if you want to get really crazy (like me), avoid drinking alcohol all together and keep a full glass of water in your hand all night. You’ll drink way more water than you realize that way.

I never drink more water than I do when I go out to social functions, and it blows my mind every time to wake up the next morning feeling super hydrated and refreshed after a late night out.

Make sure you drink PLENTY of water around workouts.

You lose a LOT of fluids through sweat when you’re exercising – even when it doesn’t feel like it (i.e. if you’re surfing or swimming). So it’s important to replenish!

Take a 30 second water break every 10 minutes or in between each set.

You should be drinking at least 2-4 cups of water for each hour of exercise, depending on how much you’re sweating (aka your intensity).

And another 2-4 cups immediately after exercising (1-2 water bottles full).

Water isn’t quite hitting the spot? Drink Tea instead.

Although water can be incredibly refreshing on a hot summer day or after an intense workout, when you’re just sitting at home or in your office and craving something tasty, water just doesn’t do the trick.

Personally, I’m much more of a coffee and tea drinker than I am a water drinker.

Both of which are full of flavor and can help hydrate you.

Coffee and caffeinated tea are diuretics though, meaning they make you have to pee more frequently. While they are still hydrating you in a sense, the more liquids you lose, the more you need to consume. So it’s best to limit your coffee and caffeinated tea to 1-3 cups a day.

I drink one or two cups of black coffee first thing in the morning, and occasionally a cup of green tea in the afternoon when I need an energy boost.

Otherwise, I stick to herbal tea.

Herbal tea is the best alternative if water bores you.

It’s loaded with natural herbs that aid your body in various functions such as digestion, immunity, muscle recovery, hormone balance, detoxification, and relaxation.

I’m a big fan of Yogi Tea because I love the positive quotes on the tea bag tags, plus the blends for specific purposes.

Their Roasted Dandelion Spice Detox tea is my absolute favorite, followed by Green Tea Muscle Recovery, Kava Stress Relief, Purely Peppermint, and Cinnamon Vanilla Healthy Skin.

Drink 4-6 cups of herbal tea per day, and it will be a life-changer in keeping you hydrated and full. Plus, the delicious flavors of tea will curb your cravings!

Other hydrating options to drink in moderation (and with caution):

Coconut Water

Green Smoothies

Protein Shakes

Pressed Juice

Water additives such as Nuun (electrolyte tablets) or Natural Calm (Magnesium powder)

I say to drink these in moderation and with caution because of their sugar content.

If you opt for one of these options, drink it FRESH (not out of a bottle from the grocery store) and limit it to 1-2 a day.

On workout days I usually drink a bottle of water with Nuun before my workout, and a scoop of plant-based protein powder mixed with water immediately after my workout.

If ordering a green smoothie or pressed juice from a store, pay close attention to the ingredients and additives listed on the label. If nutrition information and ingredients aren’t displayed anywhere, ask the cashier for the healthiest option (whichever drink has the lowest sugar and most natural ingredients.)

Drinks to Avoid

I’m sure this is a no-brainer by now, but avoid beverages with a lot of sugar.

Drinks such as soda, juice, energy drinks, favored coffee, iced tea in a can, or pre-bottled protein drinks and smoothies. These highly-processed drinks are loaded with a LOT of sugar and do more damage than good.

Also limit your booze. I’m not saying you should STOP drinking alcohol altogether (unless you want to of course).

If you’ve been following along on my “No Alcohol Challenge” updates, you know that I’m currently four months in to a 12-month experiment of not drinking alcohol. This is a completely self-run and made up challenge I’m doing for no one but myself. There’s no “competition” or “reward”, it’s just for my own curiosity to see how alcohol impacts my life and health. Which is why I document my experiences, challenges, and physical changes each month right here on this blog.

I am in no way suggesting you do the same thing in your own life, but what I DO suggest is tracking your alcohol intake for the next two weeks and seeing if there’s anywhere you could cut back on it.

That doesn’t mean stop going out with your friends or having a glass of wine with dinner.

Just try replacing some of drinks or refills on your nights out with water.

Putting it all in to Action

This was a lot of information about staying hydrated, but it’s actually a lot easier to put into practice than it sounds.

All you have to do is set yourself up for success.

Designate one special water bottle or water glass that you keep out at all times at home and at your workspace, and keep it filled up throughout the day.

Stock up on a variety of herbal tea options, and other healthy beverages or additives of your choice.

For example, I currently have 5 flavors of herbal tea, black coffee, Nuun tablets, plant-based protein powder, and coconut water sitting on my kitchen counter, ready to hydrate me and curb my cravings!

If it’s not a designated meal time, and you’re starting to feel that ping of hunger…grab a drink!

One last tip I forgot to mention above, if you want to add some extra pizazz to your water, throw in some fruit (like lemon or berries), cucumbers, or mint leaves for natural flavoring!

 

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Bre Fowler

Hi, I'm Bre - the founder of The Positive Change Co! Originally from Seattle, Washington, I'm now a digital nomad, currently traveling around Europe. In late 2015, while working remotely and living in Australia, I found my passion for healthy living and plant-based nutrition. After noticing the generally crappy diets of other travelers and digital nomads, I got a nutrition certification and launched The Positive Change Co. to help and inspire other digital nomads to make healthier choices while traveling.

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