Most of us have experienced a terrible, cranky mood, only to realize the cause of our extreme moodiness was just an overbearing hunger. No one likes to hang around a miserable hungry person, so it's important we figure out how to avoid getting hangry and loosing our cool. If you're someone who frequently lashes out at their friends because it has been two hours since breakfast, you may need to adjust your eating schedule to banish hanger for good.
Hanger, the combination of hungry and anger, is caused by a drop in blood sugar, which can mess with your moods and make you short-tempered, says nutritionist Jennifer Cassetta over email. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences even found that low glucose levels causes greater levels of aggression in married couples. This is because self-control requires energy, which is provided by the glucose in the food we eat. When we are low in glucose, and thus energy, we tend to lash out at the people we are closest to.
If you feel like you turn into a monster after a few hours of no food, try these six ways to avoid getting hangry — your friends and family will surely thank you.
1. Eat Breakfast
"Skipping breakfast is like fasting for about 16 hours, and that is way too long for most people," says Cassetta. "Eat protein at breakfast to help satiate your hunger and balance your blood sugar until lunch." A study in the journal Pediatrics found that people who ate breakfast reported an overall more positive mood compared to those who skipped the meal.
2. Eat More Frequently
"Never go more than four hours without eating a meal or snack," says Sigornie Pfefferle, MS, RD over email. "By doing this you'll keep your blood sugar levels in check, avoid those big drops, and avoid getting hangry."
"Make sure you are hydrated," says Cassetta. "Dehydration can also lead to mood swings, most often described as brain fog. Keep a water bottle with filtered water with you all day, and sip throughout the day, not just with meals."
"Try having snacks that have a mix of carbs and protein," says Pfefferle. "The carbs provide that quick energy, while the protein will help sustain that energy and keep you feeling satisfied." Keep snacks at home or at work, and if you tend to forget to munch throughout the day, set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to stay nourished.
5. Eat Mood-Boosting Foods
If you find you're consistently cranky not long after eating, try eating some foods that boost your mood. Foods that contain nutrients that play a role in mood regulation also tend to be healthy and balanced, so opt for these foods whenever possible.
6. Eat Foods That Level Out Your Blood Sugar
Since managing hanger is all about managing your blood sugar levels, choose foods that prevent drastic spikes and drops in glucose levels. A study from the Journal of Medicinal Food found that cinnamon can help manage blood sugar levels, while foods high in fiber such as oats help stabilize blood sugar as well.
To avoid getting cranky, the key is to stay nourished and hydrated, but also remind yourself that you're hungry, and perhaps you can control your mood with this knowledge as well.
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