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The Worst Time of Day for Stress Eating

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Try as we might to keep our healthy diets in check, the stress-craving struggle is real. And between the birthday cupcakes, potluck lunches, and weekly bagel breakfasts, your office can be a minefield when it comes to emotional eating—especially the closer you get to quitting time: When you're feeling the heat, weekday afternoons are the time you're most likely to channel that stressed-out energy into snacking, new research reveals. (This time of day gets the worst rap—8 Energy-Boosters to Avoid a Mid-Afternoon Slump will get you through the rest of the work day.)

The study looked at how stress affected hunger in a group of adults and found that weekday stress-related cravings peak most often in the late afternoon. The researchers aren't sure of the exact link between food cravings and that time of day, but prior research suggests feeling work burnout can lead to emotional or uncontrolled eating habits. If you're feeling restless, anxious, or stressed as you approach the end of the day, reaching for something to munch on can become a frequent coping mechanism. 

How do you keep these cravings under control with all those unhealthy food choices lingering in your office? Have a game plan in place: Schedule a workout class immediately post-work (those chips won't look so appetizing when you know you have a few dozen burpees in the near future). Or pack healthful swaps for the caloric food you're most likely to crave, like these 9 Smart Snack Swaps for a Better Body.

While you can't really avoid the stress cravings, planning ahead for those stomach-growling hunger pains can at least help you avoid the unnecessary weight gain.

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