We’ve all been there before, you’re working away at your desk, the clock strikes 3:00 and all of a sudden a craving hits you that you can’t ignore. You need sugar and you need it now! You either reach for the stash of candy in your desk drawer, find someone who can give you your fix or walk out with a co-worker to grab some creamy ice cream.
This situation may feel like it has turned into a habit, or maybe it’s a good way to take a break. In any case, there are ways to overcome these cravings.
Eat a well-balanced meal at breakfast and lunch:
Setting yourself up earlier in the day with a controlled blood sugar will help reduce cravings later in the afternoon. Eating a mix of vegetables, protein and healthy fats will help keep you full for longer. The mix of these three types of foods will also keep you satiated.
Focusing on eating a nutrient-dense breakfast will make you feel full and allow you to make it to lunch without needing a snack. It may feel like a bigger portion than normal but that’s OK since you will probably end up eating less through out the day. You can also make lunch the biggest meal of the day to help your body stay energized.
Incorporate naturally sweet flavors into your lunch:
Eating a lunch that incorporates sweet foods will help calm cravings, including:
- Root vegetables such as beets, fresh or roasted carrots, sweet onion, sweet potato, pumpkin or butternut squash. These foods can be roasted and added to your salad, or can be eaten as a side.
- A great winter option is to make a soup with sweet potato, pumpkin and/or squash.
- Add a minimal amount of dried fruit to your salad, such as raisins. Some dried fruits have quite a bit of sugar so you want to limit these but they can be a nice treat.
Identify what you’re really craving:
There are many reasons we may be craving something sweet. For instance, sugar may be a stand-in for something else, such as:
- You may eat something sweet every day at 3:00 because it’s a ritual. You’ve been reaching into the candy jar at that time for a year so it has become part of your routine.
- You use the time to connect with co-workers. Many people will take that time to go for a walk and stretch their legs while catching up with friends.
- It’s used as a stress reliever. The pressure from the day can build up and turning to something sweet is a way to step away and get a little pick-me-up.
Regardless of the role sugar is playing for you, there are strategies you can use to help calm the craving.
- Find a new ritual that doesn’t revolve around food. For example, you could go for a short walk which will provide the break you need, while also getting some exercise.
- If you are truly hungry in the middle of the afternoon, keep a healthy alternative at your desk that will soothe the sweet tooth. It’s ideal to pair something sweet with a protein and/or good fat to alleviate a blood sugar spike. A good option for this would be an apple and peanut butter or a single serving of dark chocolate covered almonds, for example.
- Find an alternate way to relieve the stress from the day. A few examples include, stepping out for a breath of fresh air, going for a quick walk, venting to a co-worker or writing in a journal.
The first step to overcoming the 3:00 craving is to identify where it’s coming from. Just having the awareness empowers you to make a choice on how to address the cravings. Not all of these strategies will work for everyone, so it is important to try different ones until you find what works best for you.