Morning Cure for Afternoon Cravings

Joyce Kavaras, RD, LD

Joyce Kavaras, RD, LD

May 21st, 2013

Do you find yourself with late afternoon and evening cravings for unhealthy snacks? Many people participating in our weekly remote UH OptiWeight sessions have expressed this as a major challenge in managing their weight. In fact, this is a very common issue that many of us can relate to in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Fortunately, a new study has shed some light on a simple strategy to alleviate this problem!

We already know eating more overall protein and consuming protein at each meal and snack helps to fill you up and keep you full longer. A current study has shown that specifically eating a higher amount of protein at the breakfast meal (25-35 grams) can not only lead to an even greater sense of fullness, but also decrease daily overall hunger. Additional benefits include reducing the drive to eat throughout the day and lowering the overall calories consumed.

Let’s look at the science behind this strategy. In your brain there is a motivation and reward center which drives our appetite. When you eat a high protein breakfast, this area of the brain is suppressed later in the day when you would normally be seeking high-calorie snacks. Therefore, there is less motivation to seek out foods that sabotage your weight management progress. Additionally, according to the study, eating a high protein breakfast reduced secretion of the hunger stimulating hormone ghrelin and increased secretion of the satiety hormone PYY. This means less hunger and more satisfaction with less food intake.

Bottom line: A high protein breakfast can alter various hormonal and neural signals in a way that can decrease our late-afternoon and evening cravings. Sounds like a simple solution to this common weight management obstacle.

Here are some ideas to boost your morning protein intake. Try alternating these suggestions throughout the week:

  1. Breakfast burrito – any combination of egg/egg whites, low fat cheese, lean ground beef or tofu for protein portion.
  2. Healthy Egg McMuffin – egg, Canadian bacon, low-fat cheese, whole wheat English muffin and a glass of low or non-fat milk
  3. Smoothie with Greek yogurt, soy milk, protein powder, and fruit
  4. Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit, and peanut butter on toast.
  5. Protein bar for those rushed mornings – look for ones with 20 grams or more protein and consume with a glass of milk.

Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts here.

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