Four Reasons Why You’re Hungry In Between Meals

Your stomach growls and you check your watch – but it’s 9:45 a.m. You feel like you just had a healthy breakfast – and lunch seems like an eternity away.  

Feeling hungry in between meals could be caused by a variety of factors – from the type of food you are eating, to your stress level and sleep schedules, how much water you drink and even to undetected medical conditions.  

Here’s a look at some of the common culprits behind constant hunger.  

  1. Diet  

A diet that’s low in protein, healthy fats or fiber can leave you feeling hungry. Here’s why each is important to a balanced diet. 

  • Protein helps your body produce hormones that signal fullness – and reduce the hormones that trigger the body’s hunger response. Eating protein-rich foods can help you feel fuller, longer. High-protein foods can include animal products like meat, poultry fish and eggs, or milk and yogurt; as well as plant-based options including nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes.  
  • Fat is an important part of a balanced diet. The body takes longer to digest fat, which keeps it fuller longer. Similar to protein, fat also stimulates the hormones that help the body feel full. Healthy fats can help you reduce your appetite and support your body’s core functions. Fish like salmon and tuna are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as walnuts and flaxseeds. 
  • Fiber helps slow the speed at which your stomach digests its food, which means the stomach stays fuller, longer. Soluble fiber is best, and can be found in oatmeal, flaxseed, sweet potatoes and oranges, for example. 
  1. Water intake

Are you drinking enough water? It’s recommended that adults drink eight, eight-ounce glasses of water each day. The body can send confusing signals for hunger and thirst at times. While water is no replacement for food, ensuring your body is well-hydrated can help you be confident you’re interpreting its signals for hunger accurately. 

  1. Behavior

Different behaviors can cause you to feel hungrier. 

  • Starting or changing your exercise routine can increase your appetite as you burn more calories through activity or create new muscle. 
  • Stress can cause your appetite to increase, as the stress hormone, cortisol, can cause hunger. 
  • Drinking too much alcohol can stimulate your appetite.  
  • Eating while distracted – whether at your desk at work, while watching TV or while scrolling your phone – can cause you to eat more. Similarly, eating too fast can also be problematic. By paying attention to something other than your food, you’re not as in tune to your body’s cues for fullness.  
  1. Medical conditions

Some medications can have side effects that cause your appetite to increase. Excessive or frequent hunger can also be a sign of a medical condition, including diabetes, an overactive thyroid, low blood sugar, depression, anxiety and premenstrual syndrome.  

Talk with a health care provider if you’re concerned about your feelings of hunger to discuss your overall health and risk factors for these conditions.  

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Photo credit: Getty Images

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