Sometimes parents have a tough time taking care of ourselves, though we always seem to make sure the little ones are fed, clothed and (reasonably) clean. But what about us? Do you ever find yourself looking at the clock at 4p and realizing you’re tired, undernourished, and cranky? Contributor Jennifer Khalaf, founder of Thrive Hive Wellness, shares her tips on fighting the afternoon “hanger” slump and getting ourselves the nutrition we need.

Do you ever find that around 3pm or 4pm you’re exhausted and your patience level is well, non-existent? You could be hungry + angry and it might be your hormones barking at you to eat more protein.

Parenting young children can feel like a rat race – from the second the kids wake up it’s full steam ahead with breakfasts and lunches and “oh, that’s right I need to shower.” As a result, we are often eating on the go, consuming anything from granola bars to left over puffs from the baby’s diaper bag. We’re often not getting enough quality protein or fat in our diets which can leave us feeling sluggish, hungry and frustrated (cue hormonal meltdown). By increasing your healthy protein and fat and limiting your sugar intake, you can keep your blood sugar stabilized which will get your energy levels up and irritability levels down. Here are some ideas on how to do that:

Breakfast: Start your day off with a smoothie and be sure to include some nut butter and clean protein powder. I love Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides. It’s 18g of protein in two scoops and no chalky or fake sugar taste. I swear by this stuff. In addition to the protein, it has a panel of amino acids and the added bonus of increasing your collagen – think strong nails and beautiful locks.  Beginning your day with a low sugar, high protein meal keeps your hormones balanced and keeps you satiated longer, helping you avoid that mid-morning crash. If you’d prefer something plant-based, VegaOne, Orgain and Sun Warrior have some good options. When choosing a clean protein, be sure to read the labels and if possible buy small packets to try them out as flavors and consistencies vary. (PS: if your child will drink a smoothie, this is an excellent way to get in some greens and protein to start them off on the right foot.)

Lunch: If you have the time for a solid sit-down meal, try a hearty salad full of veggies and nuts or maybe two fried eggs over sweet potatoes and spinach.  Let’s be clear;  I’m a mom and a realist and I know there are days (maybe every day) when you have t-minus 10 minutes to eat your lunch and get the laundry done and dishwasher emptied. In that case, add a piece of organic grilled chicken, avocado and tomato to your whole grain bread. The goal is to make sure you have some healthy fat and/or protein with those carbs so that your blood sugar isn’t tanking in a few hours, leaving you scrambling for a caffeine pick me up.

Snacks: Kids need snacks and so do adults, but I’m not talking about a sleeve of Oreo cookies.    Carrots with hummus, apples with nut butter (I’m obsessed with nuttzo) and energy bites are quick, easy and nutritious ideas.  I love these chocolate energy bites (I use dark chocolate chips and slightly less honey).   They’re a great option when you’re looking for something sweet and they have the added benefit of protein and fiber without the refined sugar. A batch of these last a few days in my house.

Dinner: In an ideal world, we all eat a healthy dinner with our children at a reasonable hour.  That said, many of the moms I know give their kids dinner, get them off to bed, clean up and then have to make their dinner around 8:30pm, at which point a bowl of cheerios looks very enticing.   If that’s you, I caution you to put down the spoon and step away from the bowl. A quality dinner is very important for your hormone levels and your sleep. Poor sleep can lead to an increase in cortisol, unstable blood sugar levels and now you’re really hangry! It’s a vicious cycle. A piece of fish or lean meat with greens, steamed vegetables and roasted sweet potatoes is a great meal and can be made in advance so that you’re not cooking at 8pm on a Monday when the idea of cooking is about as appealing as running a marathon in heels.

We are individuals with different circumstances and nutritional needs, so play around and see what works for you.  By fueling our bodies with clean protein and healthy fats, we will have enough energy to sustain us on our hectic days and keep us from being so darn hangry.

Jennifer Khalaf is a Certified Holistic Health and Integrative Nutrition Coach (IIN) working with mothers and families to improve their health in a simple and accessible way.   Jennifer specializes in helping moms reclaim their health and seriously increase their joy factor through nutrition and self-care.  She offers one-on-one coaching and provides pantry makeovers and cooking demos for families in the NYC area.   Jennifer also serves on the board of Tournesol Kids, a non-profit empowering children to lead healthy and resilient lives.  Jennifer lives in Manhattan with her husband and two young children who are constantly keeping her on her toes.  For more information, follow her on Facebook and Instagram.