If you find yourself constantly craving sweets in the afternoon, don’t blame it on a sugar addiction. Hunger is most likely behind those cravings for cookies and other sweets, according to a nutrition expert.
“When people get too hungry, they tend to crave sweets,” according to Nancy Clark, a sports nutritionist at Healthworks, a fitness center in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
People often blame their cravings for sweets on an addiction to sugar, claiming that they are answering the call of “the cookie monster” in the middle of the afternoon, Clark said in an interview with Reuters Health.
But by eating enough wholesome foods at meals and by having a healthy afternoon snack, people can minimize their cravings for sweets, according to Clark.
“Then the cookies don’t talk to you” in the afternoon, she said.
One reason that people have trouble losing weight is that they “cut back way too much” on what they eat, according to Clark, who discussed the myth of the cookie monster at a recent meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Orlando.
Instead of skipping meals, Clark recommends eating a healthy combination of carbohydrates, protein and fat several times a day. For example, a well-balanced breakfast could include cereal, milk and a banana.
One mistake that many people make is that they do not eat enough at meals to get the calories they need, Clark said. For a person who needs about 500 calories at breakfast, for instance, a single English muffin - around 150 calories - will not be filling enough to last till lunch, Clark said.
“Experiment with eating a full breakfast and a full lunch,” Clark said. But rather than waiting for dinner to eat again, have an afternoon snack or “second lunch,” Clark said.
People who satisfy their hunger during the day will be less likely to pig out at dinner, according to Clark. “If they fuel appropriately during the day, they aren’t driven by hunger at night,” Clark said.
Revision date: June 20, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD