Untangling Hunger and Habits: Plus, Two Snacks That Nourish

May 2021

By Debbie Peterson and Wendy Bright-Fallon, Health and Wellness Coaches of Nourish Coaches


Those of us stuck in funky habits, feeling a little wonky, and not knowing how to shift the energy are not alone. It has been quite a year, and the weather has officially flipped the switch to spring – the time of year when we get outside more and are symbolically fed by the warm sun, gentle wind, fewer layers, and experience more connections with nature. But what if you don’t feel like spring? What if you feel stuck with the winter heaviness in your body and mind?

In the aftermath of a cold and sheltered winter, we can quickly feel gloomy and apathetic – even as the sun starts shining. The days kind of melt into each other. Are you rushing around getting your family situated for another day of screen time and forgetting to eat breakfast? Are you eating at the desk – yet again – stuck in another Zoom meeting hellscape!? Is grazing all day your new way of eating? These habits are all a nagging symptom of something we call ‘food fatigue.’

We get it. You want something fast and fabulously delicious, but the motivation to whip something up just isn’t there. It often feels overwhelming.

We are here to help.

The world needs us all to show up and be our best right now. Spring is a wonderful time to reset; time to swap out those bad eating habits that amplify the stressors to our body and mind for habits that feed our vitality. Last week, one of our clients posted in her food journal that she was “craving junk food.” Spring break was over, her son had COVID, she was back to work, and the stress was adding up. Her doctor told her she couldn’t run anymore. On her way home, she stopped at the convenience store because she hadn’t eaten lunch, and, anyway, she told herself that she “deserved” a break.

The thought of preparing an entire meal when she got home was overwhelming. It was simply not going to happen. So, how do we navigate that when it’s easier to grab junk off the shelves of a convenience store? Those overprocessed foods with super-additive flavors and addictive traits reward us with immediate gratification. It wakes us up, shifts our mood, delights our taste buds, and gives us pleasure – temporarily. And then the crash.


Identifying Hunger

Before taking a deep dive into practical tips for avoiding these situations, we want to start by clarifying how to identify genuine hunger. All too often, when we think we are hungry, we may instead be thirsty, oddly bored, super stressed, or simply want a break. And don’t forget that sadness, depression, or anger sometimes doubles as hunger. We might be so busy we are not thinking straight, or tired of being tired and want comfort. Or maybe you are hungry because you didn’t eat well earlier, or it has simply been too long since your last nutritious meal.


How to keep from getting too hungry:

Situation: You have a mid-morning stab of hunger and definitely can’t wait until lunch.

What to Add In: Before you reach this point, rewind and evaluate what you ate for breakfast. Did you include all the macronutrients – protein, fat, and carbs? We need all three to keep us going and satisfied till lunch. Experiment with your perfect blend. Our favorite go-to quick breakfasts: Hockey Puck Grab-and-Go Eggs and Veggies (from our nourish cookbook). We’ve been making these for years – we love the diversity – just pick your favorite veggies and make them in batches so you can grab and go.

What to Crowd Out: If you start your day with too many sugars, you’re going to get hungry faster: bagel, toast, cereal, and sweetener in your drinks all need to be balanced with protein and fats.

If you must grab something: Depending on what you had for your not-enough breakfast, go for what you didn’t get: protein and/or fat: raw nuts, Greek yogurt, hard-boiled egg. If you didn’t get enough carbs, have a piece of whole fruit.


Situation: At the desk again for another afternoon of Zoom fatigue and craving energy.

What to Add In: Water. By this time of day, if you haven’t had enough water, you are prone to fatigue and headaches. To avoid this, challenge yourself daily to see how much water you can drink before lunch.

What to Crowd Out: Sugary drinks that just set your blood sugar on a roller coaster to crash and burn.

If you must grab something: Whole fruit.


Situation: It is late at night, almost bedtime. You’ve already eaten dinner but feel hungry.

What to Add In: Herbal tea, seltzer, or just plain water can reset our taste buds.

What to Crowd Out: Empty calories like pretzels, chips or crackers.

If you must grab something: A couple of spoonfuls of whole fat cottage cheese, edamame, OR a handful of raw nuts.


In an unplanned situation where you get stuck someplace (traffic, long meetings, random chats with friends at the park, etc.) and don’t have control of the schedule, stack the odds in your favor by preparing:

  • Water (in your personal water bottle, not plastic).
  • Trail mix.
  • Energy bites (try our energy bites recipe in our cookbook) or prepackaged whole food bars (Jones Bars and Paleo Bars are two of our favorite prepackaged bars).

In many cases, all it takes is a little bit of awareness, planning, and openness to renewing your commitment to your health and well-being. At this point, this is where Nourish Coaches come in, as health and wellness coaches to help you figure it out and support your goals for vibrancy.

One more thing; start first by powering through the “hunger” with a big, wonderful glass of water and then distracting yourself. Go outside and sit in a sunbeam, get away from the desk, make a phone call, do a few push-ups, a plank, or jumping jacks. Sometimes it is not food we need; it’s a change of pace or a connection instead. Rethink the motive behind grabbing a snack, and your mind might automatically contribute to dropping a few pounds, increasing your energy levels and, more importantly, feeling better in your skin.


Health and Wellness Coaches, Debbie Peterson and Wendy Bright-Fallon of Nourish Coaches in Red Bank are inspirational speakers, podcasters & authors, helping you create balance through optimized nutrition & key habits to create authentic vitality.