Even if you eat breakfast and lunch, if you’re like most people, you feel hungrier, moodier, and low on energy in the afternoon. Here’s what healthy afternoon snacks can do for you:
- Boost productivity
- Help you think more clearly
- Keep you in a good mood
- Contribute to weight loss by preventing overeating
But don’t just grab something out of the candy bowl or nearest vending machine. Consider the perfect snack to meet your needs, whether you need an energy boost, are trying to lose weight, or have to work with a restricted diet.
Snacks for Weight Loss
Eating food to lose weight seems contradictory, but when you eat small meals frequently you feel full, which makes it easier to drive past that McDonald’s on your way home and to not eat 300 calories of junk while you’re making dinner. Consider that two ounces of potato chips contain around 300 calories and offer nothing of nutritional value in return. If you instead opt for some organic popcorn in the afternoon, you’ll get the same slightly salty satisfaction with fewer calories.
If you prefer something a little sweet instead, Greek yogurt is high in protein and calcium, making it an excellent snack in a convenient, small package. A third option is some whole-grain crackers with a layer of hummus. The crackers, garbanzo beans, and olive oil provide a healthy mix of protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, and a small amount of fat to help you feel full.
The right afternoon snack should complement your lunch and combat fatigue. Numerous studies show that glucose inhibits neurons that help people feel awake, yet protein counteracts this effect. This means that if you eat some carbs at lunch, a snack filled with protein might prevent you from getting sleepy once your body breaks those carbs down into glucose. Protein is also good for satiation, so you’re less likely to have a second afternoon snack or an extra-large dinner.
A quarter cup of nuts and dried fruits could also provide you with enough protein to feel full without overdoing it on the calories. The fruit gives you a little something sweet without putting you to sleep. A small apple with protein could produce a similar effect.
If you’d prefer something packaged that you can throw in your suitcase, a high-protein cereal bar could work, just be sure you’re getting a healthy, whole-grain bar and not a candy bar masquerading as health food. Look for a bar with no more than 15 grams of sugar. Consider cutting the bar in two and having half for breakfast or as a mid-morning snack and the second half in the afternoon.
Snacks to Boost Your Mood
If you’re looking for the perfect snack to boost a dull or depressing day, opting for snacks rich in magnesium rather than sugar. Not only will they give you that desired feel-good boost, but they’re also guilt-free! Some of the best magnesium-rich foods you can grab-and-go include dark chocolate, avocados, nuts, legumes, pumpkin seeds, and bananas.
Snacks for People With Allergies
If you’re allergic to gluten, soy, nuts, or dairy and can’t eat commonly recommended snacks, there are plenty of allergy-friendly options. A hard-boiled egg provides a good source of protein. Some gluten-free crackers with hummus would be suitable for most people with food allergies. If you’re allergic to peanuts but can handle almonds, almond butter is a great alternative. Simply spread it on a small apple, or try it with banana chips.
Bottom Line on Afternoon Snacks
Don’t look at morning and afternoon snacks as extra calories. Instead, make smart and healthy choices that help fuel your body, reduce food cravings, keep your mood positive, and give you added energy all day long.