While the word itself was only added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2018, feeling “hungry” is an age-old problem. This specific combination of hunger and anger—the one that can only be cured by devouring food, glorious food—is enough to turn even the sweetest person into a raging monster.
According to a new survey from WW, 86% of people suffer from hanger, with 34% saying they think about food more when on a calorie-restricted or restricted diet. But why does hunger produce an emotional response in so many of us?
“Like when people get irritated easily when they lack energy due to lack of sleep, the lack of fuel from food can make you irritated and tired,” says Signe Svanfeldt, nutritionist at Lifesum.
“All individuals are different. Some are more sensitive to feelings of hunger, why others are not as affected.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to keep the hanger at bay without getting on the healthy eating bandwagon.
“Frozen fruits and vegetables are quick, nutritious and economical options to have on hand,” says GP and health coach Dr Helen Lawal.
You can buy bags of mixed berries that thaw quickly at room temperature or with a quick blast in the microwave, or you can add them frozen to smoothies.
“They go great with yoghurt, ice cream or mixed into porridge,” adds Dr Lawal.
“Balanced meals keep you feeling full longer and provide you with the nutrients needed to fuel your body,” says nutritionist Svanfeldt. That’s why it’s best to avoid high-carb foods and make sure you’re getting a good mix of “dietary fiber, healthy unsaturated fats, and protein.”
“Don’t be afraid of unsaturated fats. The tastes of avocados, nuts, olive oil, and fatty fish have benefits and can make meals more satisfying.
While you’re making a balanced meal or healthy snack, double the portion sizes and save them for later, Lawal recommends.
“Keep a stock in the fridge for those tough times when you’re tempted to reach for the cookie jar.”
Another way to feel full longer is to add legumes such as kidney beans, chickpeas or lentils to recipes.
“Keep your store cupboard stocked with a variety of canned beans,” says Lawal. “Packed with filling protein and fiber, add it to any meal you’re already cooking, from curries to stews.”
Do you often succumb to impulsive sweet purchases when you’re on the go? Svanfeldt says, “If you know you’ll be on the run, make sure you always pack a nutritious snack in your bag so you have it on hand when the energy drops.”
Do you find yourself snacking more when you’re tired? There is a reason for this.
“Get good quality and enough sleep,” advises Lawal (according to the NHS, most adults need six to nine hours a night).
“It affects the hormones that control our feelings of hunger and fullness.”