It happened again. You start off the day eating a healthy breakfast. Then, despite all your good intentions, you find yourself munching an entire bag of potato chips on the sofa right before bed. What gives?
Don’t worry: you’re not alone. Around the world, the quality of people’s food choices takes a nosedive as the day goes on, according to Eatery, an app that tracks daily snacks and meals from users in more than 50 countries.
That’s not exactly surprising to any of us who have made the daily trip to the office vending machine at 3pm. But what exactly triggers us to make poor food choices throughout the day?
With the help of dietitian Alexandra Caspero here are simple tweaks you can use to quiet your cravings and banish your bulge for good.
8am: after last night’s chip binge, you vow to eat healthy today. You eat a banana for breakfast on your way to work.
The problem: “You need to eat more breakfast,” says Caspero. Your brain runs on carbs. That means you need to consume more fuel in the morning if you want to stay focused until lunch.
The fix: eat an egg sandwich on wholegrain bread. It will give you the brain-boosting carbs you need. Plus, your body digests the fibre- and protein-filled foods at a slower rate, so you stay fuller for longer.
Related: Why You Should Go Big On Breakfast
10am: You’re having trouble concentrating on that Excel file. You guzzle another cup of coffee.
The problem: “Excess caffeine raises the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in your body,” explains Caspero. It can cause your blood sugar to rise and fall too. This may make you crave sugar or refined (unhealthy) carbs.
The fix: limit yourself to one or two caffeinated beverages each day.
12:30pm: your stomach growls. That banana is long gone by now and you’re starving. You head to the cafe and scarf down pizza.
The problem: “No one makes good food choices when they’re famished,” says Caspero. “In order to get quick energy, your brain seeks fast, high-kilojoule food.” But these foods won’t keep you full for long.
The fix: pack a nutritious lunch, Caspero advises. That way you won’t be tempted to grab whatever is fastest and easiest.
3:30pm: you’re hungry and tired, so you eat a muesli bar at your desk.
The problem: Most muesli bars are just glorified candy bars, says Caspero. “They contain lots of sugar, which provides energy for a very short period of time.” But when the sugar effects wear off, you’re just as exhausted and hungry as you were pre-snack.
The fix: eat protein-packed foods that will fire you up for the rest of the workday. Try a few cheese cubes or trail mix, says Caspero.
8pm: déjà vu. You munch on potato chips while watching television.
The problem: since this is your nightly routine, your brain associates watching TV with snacking, says Caspero.
The fix: like any bad habit, you need to quit so it doesn’t rule your decisions. Reprogram your body by stopping cold turkey. No way that’s happening? Grab a low-kilojoule snack like air-popped popcorn sprinkled with curry or chilli powder. And if it’s a little later, just go to bed. Research shows sufficient sleep may prevent overeating the next day.