“You’re going to spoil your dinner!” is the childhood chide I still can’t get out of my head. I no longer live with my parents, and I (me, myself, and I!) get to decide if I eat ice cream before—or better yet, for—dinner. Even when I’m trying to be “responsible,” cooking up my dietitian-approved, 50 percent veggie meal, I still find myself snacking on everything but the kitchen sink while I simmer garlic and ready my air fryer for whatever’s on the menu. With the siren song of snacks, my ongoing question is: how can I make sure I’m actually hungry when I serve up dinner tonight?
Gobbling up everything in my refrigerator the moment I get home is likely the result of not eating the right kind and/or amount of nutrients throughout the day, says Rebekah Blakely, RDN, registered nutritionist for The Vitamin Shoppe. “Some people try to save calories for a big dinner, but usually that just leads to you being starving by the time dinner comes around,” she says. Rather than falling prey to the need-it-now desires of an empty stomach, it’s best to space out your body’s needs strategically so that you’re never ravenous—or full—by the time dinner rolls around.
You won’t spoil dinner tonight if you follow the advice of a nutritionist
1. Supercharge your afternoon snack: “Going six to eight hours from lunch to dinner may be too long for some people,” says the nutritionist. “Incorporate a small protein-based snack around 3 to 4pm to help you make to dinner.” A low sugar protein cookie or energy bar should do the trick.
2. Keep cut vegetables handy: A little crudité appetizer will make you feel classy—and satisfy your need to munch. “If you do get home and are so hungry you can’t wait for dinner to be prepped, pull out the celery and carrots sticks,” says Blakely.
3. Stay hydrated: This is a big “no duh” at this point, but thirst can feel a whole lot like hunger. “Make sure you’re drinking half your body weight in ounces of water daily, and don’t wait until bedtime to guzzle it all down,” recommends Blakely.
4. Eat your fiber, friend: Since fiber is indigestible (yep, you heard that right!), it keeps your body fuller, longer. “Women should aim for at least 25 grams per day, and men for 38 grams,” says the nutritionist. This high fiber shopping list is a good place to start.
5. Check your levels of stress and fatigue: “Pay attention to other factors that may be affecting your urge to snack in the evenings like stress and sleep,” Blakely says. “You may be really stressed when you get home from work and snacking can help relieve that. Instead, go for a short walk to clear your mind.” In other words, make sure that food is actually fulfilling your body’s needs—not acting as a placeholder.
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