Ask a Dietitian: Am I Hungry, or Just Bored?

Hi Charlotte, I find that I snack a lot in the middle of the day whenever I'm a bit bored – often quite soon after I've had my lunch. Am I eating because I'm still hungry, or could it just be the boredom?

Am I hungry or am I just bored

Without knowing what you’re eating it’s hard to answer this question. If you’re not eating much at breakfast and/or lunch, and find you’re not feeling full at all after eating, then you’re not eating enough.

If you find yourself getting hungry a couple of hours after eating then it could be that what you’re eating is the cause. You might not be eating enough calories in the meal or you may be eating the wrong types of food, such as foods low in fiber and protein so even if you’re eating enough it’s not leaving you full between your meals.

The solution here is to ensure your lunch has a source of protein such as tofu, beans, or meat, and around half of your lunch is vegetables plus some whole grains. This doesn’t have to be on the side, the veg can be cooked down or form part of a sauce.

From the other angle, absolutely, boredom can be a factor. Research has suggested that we snack to try and escape boredom and typically it’s the more “exciting” foods that help with this relief. The problem is they’re often unhealthier foods and so it creates a cycle where we crave these foods at certain times. We have a great article on cravings if you want to learn more.

The mid-afternoon crash is also a thing. It’s often a mixture of a lack of energy (in terms of calories and a need to refuel), hydration, caffeine wearing off, general tiredness due to the job that you’re doing, and not enough breaks during the day.

When we feel tired we’re more likely to snack so if you can, try and go on a walk or at least change your environment and step away from your desk (if you have one).

People have different tolerances to caffeine so if you’re on the more sensitive side try having less caffeine. This might be harder for a couple of weeks but you’ll soon notice your energy level out. Avoid caffeinated drinks in the afternoon as caffeine can stay in your system long enough to affect your sleep at night.

Overall, try making some healthier lunch switches if you think your diet is the cause. If it’s boredom then try to be more mindful as to why you’re snacking and when. Test the waters over a couple of weeks to see what works and you’ll be on the right track before you know it.


To tackle the hunger, ensure around half of your lunch is vegetables and has a source of protein such as tofu, beans or meat. If it’s boredom, when those cravings arise, try and focus on why those cravings have occurred to get to the root cause.

Written by: Dan Clarke, RNutr

Reviewed by: Charlotte Marie Werner, MS, RD, CDN

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