Tips to help avoid getting 'hangry'

It's almost December and you've just started your holiday shopping. Your buy list is long so you venture into a mall with the hope of getting in and out as soon as possible. But the lines are long, the crowds make you feel claustrophobic, and all of a sudden someone elbows you the wrong way and you've lost it. You're officially hangry.

Hangry: Being simultaneously hungry and angry (usually because you're so hungry you've now become angry).

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Physiologically speaking, getting hangry is your body's response to low blood sugar (a.k.a. glucose). During digestion, carbohydrates like starch, fruit, milk, and sugar are broken down into glucose. Your body either uses this glucose immediately for energy or stores it for later.

So when you're holiday shopping in a busy mall and your blood sugar starts to run low, your body goes looking to your glucose stores for help. But what if there's nothing there? This is when you start to get hangry.

The secret to avoid getting hangry is to go prepared with foods that are great at controlling blood sugar.

Focus on products that are less processed, and are high in fibre, protein and healthy fats. Your body takes longer to convert these foods into glucose, which means your blood sugar will be more stable for those long shopping days. Here are some tips on how to handle the malls and crowds this holiday season.

Before the mall, fill your bag with:

A handful of nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts etc), but only a quarter cup.

A protein bar, but not any protein bar because some contain more calories and fat than a chocolate bar! Choose one that has 100 to 200 calories, at least six grams of protein, 5 grams of fibre, and 8 grams or less of fat.

Dry cereal, but only cereal that has a minimum of four grams of fibre and a maximum of 10 grams of sugar or plain air-popped popcorn.

Milk or a milk alternative to go. A piece of low glycemic fruit, such as dried apricots, apple, orange or grape.

Magnesium, which may help support blood sugar stability, is a component of some of the healthiest foods: whole grains, almonds, lentils, spinach and pumpkin seeds. If you have the luxury of eating before hitting the mall try incorporating some of the above foods.

Leave at home:

Candy Potato chips

Bakery items, such as cookies, muffins and scones

Sports drinks or cola

High glycemic fruit such as dates, cantaloupe or raisins

These items have a low satiety, so you'll be hungry again before you finish the bag.

At the mall, grab:

A fruit smoothie with boosters such as flax or chia seeds, which add fibre, protein and omega 3s to your smoothie Steamed milk Good quality trail mix

Walk past:

Sugary snacks (such as doughnuts) Coffee or caffeinated beverages especially on an empty stomach. These heavy snacks will make you want to curl up and sleep instead of finishing your shopping list. When it comes down to a foot race for the last Elmo, you'll be lapping the competition with these energy packed snacks.

Jess Pirnak is a registered dietitian who lives on the North Shore. Her personal food blog is at foodyourself.com

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