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  • Writer's pictureAnya

Afternoon Food Cravings Explained (and 20 snack ideas to fight them)

Updated: Jul 12, 2021

Can't fight your afternoon food cravings? These tasty snacks should help.

Who hasn’t experienced afternoon food cravings at least once in their life?

They usually happen at around 15:00. You go to the kitchen planning to make a cup of tea (trying to be reasonable) but end up with a slice of cake on your plate, and you’ll probably top it off with a chocolate bar.

Next thing you know, you’re in a food coma and you feel bad about yourself.

We’ve all been there. And, it’s easy to blame yourself and think you’re weak for falling for food cravings, but the truth is… it’s not always your fault.

Often, our body is actually feeling hungry and it’s important to refuel it. And, when that happens, I’m going to give you 20 healthy recipes you can use to beat those cravings. But before that, let’s look into why afternoon cravings happen in the first place.

The Science Behind Food Cravings

Your body doesn’t look for it’s afternoon fix of carbs or sugar because you’re being greedy.

The reasons behind your afternoon cravings are, in fact, physiological. There are many reasons why you need to eat in the afternoon including:

1. Lack of sleep

Ever noticed how junk food is more tempting when you’re sleep deprived? Science may have an explanation and it lies in your hormones.

Leptin and ghrelin are hormones which regulate your hunger. Leptin levels (which inhibit your hunger) drop when you’re sleep deprived and ghrelin rises making you feel hungrier making it harder to control your food cravings.

2. Not eating enough

Do you usually skip breakfast? Or maybe you always have light lunches because you’re on a diet?

Unfortunately, your body will try to make up for the lack of calories and the disbalance in your blood sugar levels, by giving you those afternoon cravings for sweet or carb-heavy food.

3. Emotional eating

Eating is how many of us deal with negative emotions. A fight with a partner, stress at work, or a difficult conversation, many of us head straight for the kitchen to handle these emotional burdens and find some comfort.

It’s ok to find comfort in food. However, learning to deal with stress and difficult situations in a healthy way is important so you don’t sabotage yourself.

These are three common reasons why afternoon cravings happen. But, they’re not the only ones. So, if you try to sleep better, eat more balanced, or find yourself applying some of these principles and still struggling to cut down food cravings, any of the snacks listed below are tasty ways to curb your afternoon snack cravings.

Healthy Afternoon Snacks for Sweet Tooths

1. Chocolate Bites: Tasty and easy to make, these chocolate bites are a great alternative to chocolate and are very filling. Don’t hesitate to use them as a pre or post workout snack.

2. Overnight Oats (reduced portion): Overnight oats are a must on a healthy eater’s meal plan. They’re the perfect “on-the-go” breakfast, and are great for satisfying a sweet food craving. You can check out one of my recipes but there are plenty of others on the web to inspire you. Just make sure you go for a half serving of the amount you’d normally have for breakfast.

3. Oat Banana Cookies: These healthy bites are low in calories and high in flavour. And, the oats will leave you feeling fully satiated.

4. Avocado Mousse: Yep, you can splurge on chocolate to satiate a sweet craving with this avocado mousse recipe. Trust me it tastes better than it looks :)

5. Rice cakes with nut butter and sliced fruits: Low on calories and super sweet, this snack is a great way to try something different than standard peanut butter (though you can of course). Check out this link for some other nut recipes you can try. As for rice cakes, they're easy to find in most supermarkets.

6. Smoothies: Great for breakfast and for a snack, a smoothie is a great afternoon craving hunger buster. I have plenty of recipes on my blog which you can check out including this one which is one of my favourites.

7. Nuts with dried fruits : For this snack, try to avoid salted nuts and feel free to have a mix of nuts (almond, peanuts, walnuts etc…) to get even more nutrients in.

8. Dark chocolate: Struggling to get chocolate off your mind? Well, if beating the urge is too tough, you can give in (sort of) with some dark chocolate. Look for brands with a high cocoa content (70% or above) as more cocoa usually means less added sugar.

9. Chia seed pudding: One of my favourite healthy snacks on a warm day. You can use all sorts of fruit toppings on them and I recommend that you leave them in the fridge for a few hours. Here’s a great recipe to try.

10. Homemade granola bar: Granola bars are a great on the go or snack to beat afternoon craving. If you can, I advise that you make your own as many on the market are packed with too much sugar and are not healthy. Here’s a great recipe you can try out.

Savoury Afternoon Snacks:

1. Boiled/Sweet Potato: No recipe here, but it’s literally boiling or steaming a sweet potato and adding some chutney (“satini coco or satini pom damour” as we say in Mauritius) on top, delicious!

2. Whole Grain Crackers with Low Fat Cheese: Yes you can even indulge in a little bit of cheese to calm those afternoon snack cravings. Make sure it’s low fat and don’t over do it. If you can, add some fresh tomato for some extra flavour.

3. Egg Muffins: Quick and easy to make and exceptionally tasty, egg muffins are one of my favourite savoury snacks to beat an afternoon craving. Check out the recipe here.

4. Edamame Beans: Edamame is one of my personal favourite snacks. A slight peanut like flavour and chewy texture makes them rather addictive and, they’re quite filling too. All you have to do is steam the pods for about 5 minutes, add a sprinkle of salt or soy sauce to enhance their flavour, let them dry and pack them up in your lunchbox. You should find them in the frozen aisle of most supermarkets.

5. Carrots and cucumber sticks with Hummus dip: Healthy, tasty, and very filling, hummus with chopped carrots and cucumbers is a great savoury afternoon snack. Check out this hummus recipe here but there are plenty of other good ones on the internet. Just remember not to go overboard with the oil. The less you use the better.

6. Roasted Chickpeas: Not a fan of hummus? Then just roast those chickpeas instead. I haven’t personally tried these yet but I hear that this recipe is great.

7. Hard Boiled Eggs: No need for a fancy recipe or much explanation for this one. Hard boiled eggs are one of the best snacks you’ll find since they’re packed with vitamins, nutrients and protein.

8. Vegetable Soup: A great snack choice during the winter.

9. Eggplant pizza bites: How good would it be if you can eat pizza every week? Well with this eggplant pizza bite recipe, you can. Sure, it's not exactly like pizza, but it's still packed with flavour (and much healthier) and works as a great side dish, appetizer or afternoon snack. Check out the recipe here.

10. Crackers with Guacamole: Got some overripe avocados lying around? Don't throw them away! Instead, turn them into guacamole for the perfect healthy afternoon snack. Recipe here.

I hope this list of snack ideas can come in handy next time you want to binge on chocolate or cake at around 16:00.

If you want to learn other tips to help you eat healthy or even lose weight, check out some of the webinars we offer, our Ebook series, or the other items on our blog. You're sure to learn something useful.

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