Post-lunch hunger happens to everyone. Whether you enjoyed a raw vegan burrito bowl and a cold-pressed green juice or you hurriedly ate a slice of pizza (or two) while your files were uploading to the Cloud, we’ve all been there — standing in front of the fridge just an hour after lunch.
Maybe it happens right after you take your last bite. Or it’s 45 minutes later when you’re mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, drooling over all the food porn and realizing you need a snack. The truth is, even if you ate a healthy, balanced lunch, there are a few reasons your stomach might be rumbling soon after.
If this has ever happened to you (I know it happens to me more often than I’d like to admit), you’re not alone. Here are four super common reasons your lunch might not be keeping you full and easy ways to fix each one.
1. You didn’t eat enough.
My clients ask me why they’re so hungry after lunch. I think ravenous is the word they use. When I ask what they ate, they usually say something like, “Oh, I ate really healthy. I had some peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes.”
What these “healthy” meals are missing is a little bit of heft, if you will. Lunch should be one of the bigger meals you eat because you still need fuel to power through the afternoon. So, if you’re only picking at a side salad and some diet pop, you’re probably going to be hungry later.
Always remember that healthy does not mean less. Add some complex carbs like quinoa or sweet potato; these are both nutrient-dense foods that will fill you up and keep your energy level high.
2. You didn’t have enough protein and fat.
Healthy fat and protein keep you feeling full and satisfied. They’re like the peanut butter to your chocolate, the Ross to your Rachel, the macaroni to your cheese — you really can’t have one without the other.
If your lunch was a little heavy on the carbs and sugar, you might get an initial burst of energy but feel sluggish and hungry moments later. That’s because we digest carbs and sugars pretty quickly. But our bodies digest protein and fat a bit slower.
Try adding some extra virgin olive oil or avocado to your salad, and add in some beans like chickpeas or black beans. You can even sprinkle some hemp seeds or pumpkin seeds on top for an extra dose of healthy fats and protein.
3. You ate while distracted.
One of the biggest reasons we all feel hungry an hour or two after lunch? We were distracted while we were eating - especially those of us who like to eat at our desks.
Trying to do ten different things at once prevents you from enjoying your food and from listening to your body. Our insistence on multitasking means we aren’t tuned in to our body's cues. They're surprisingly good at telling us we’re full, but we’re really bad at listening.
And that means you’re more likely to overeat — not just in the moment — but also in the afternoon.
To cut down on distractions, make sure you’re taking a lunch break away from your desk (and maybe your phone, too). You’ll be able to eat more mindfully so you’ll actually enjoy your food and know when you’ve had enough.
4. You ate too fast.
Inhale. Wolf down. Gobble up.
These words have become synonymous with how most of us eat lunch. We feel like we’re too busy to take time to actually chew our food and enjoy our meal.
But — just like eating when distracted — eating too fast prevents you from getting the “I’m full” signal. Your body needs at least 20 minutes to register satiety, so, when you’re wolfing down lunch in five minutes, you’re not giving it enough time to realize you’ve fed it.
Instead of trying to set a record for fastest lunch break, try chewing each bite at least 20 times or putting your fork down between bites. You’ll definitely have to eat much slower, but you won’t be hungry as quickly!