By Ana Snyder, M.S., Exercise Physiology; CPT, FNS
You started the day strong. Ate a healthy breakfast and a healthy lunch. You feel like you’re killing it. And then wham! The afternoon slump hits you. It’s 3 pm, your focus is out the window, and you’re about to lose it. The biggest diet mishaps occur in these situations. Healthy snack ideas get ignored. As a result, you want to grab at anything to give you energy for an extra boost of brainpower.
Don’t worry, though. Eking out a few extra cals isn’t necessarily a bad idea! Grabbing a snack can definitely improve your energy and focus. What you choose to eat during those times is what is especially important. That choice can make or break your waistline. Just think: the afternoon slump seems to happen every day. So what if you choose junk food each time it happens over weeks and years? This is what causes the extra weight to creep on. Before you know it, you’ve put on an extra 10 pounds and have less energy than ever before.
So what qualifies as a healthy snack food and what qualifies as a bad snack? Certain foods are obvious bad choices, like French fries, but with others, it can get a little tricky. Take green juice, for example. Green juice is made of veggies and fruits, so naturally, people grab these thinking they are healthy. In reality, they are so filled with sugar that any positive nutrients are completely overshadowed.
Great snacks usually contain some fiber, protein, and a little fat to satiate you. What kinds of foods are high in these nutrients? Let’s dive a little deeper explore some healthier alternatives.
Often when we feel tired, it’s actually just because we’re dehydrated. If you’re a big coffee drinker, this is most definitely your problem! A helpful way to make sure you’re staying hydrated is to keep a big bottle of water on your desk that you can drink throughout the day. I understand sometimes water can be boring to drink, so add some decaf tea to spice up the flavor! Decaffeinated green tea is one of my favorites to use, since it also contains fat-burning antioxidants that may speed up your metabolism.
As I mentioned before, green juice is a big no-no. To put things in perspective, green juice often has as much sugar as a soda. And besides the effects sugar has on your weight, it also causes sugar crashes—which means you’ll experience regular afternoon slumps.
These options are a little weird because they both sound very similar. I mean, both have peanuts and fruit in them. So what’s the big difference?
A single portion of fruit and peanut butter is a portion-controlled snack.
Eating too much of anything–but especially carbohydrates and fats–can cause you to be sluggish, bloated, and unfocused. When eaten in the appropriate amount, however, these same macros have the power to give your brain and body long-lasting energy to get any job done.
Trail mix clearly has zero portion control, making it extra dangerous. As soon as you open the bag, you’re geared up to eat too many fats and carbs. Since nuts are very calorically dense, the serving sizes for trail mix are very small to boot–making it even easier to eat too much.
Another major problem with trail mix is the sugar content. Dried fruit has almost double that of fresh fruit, which wouldn’t give you lasting energy. Because of how hard it is to portion control, and how high its sugar content is, trail mix should be avoided. It ends up being a severe nutritional compromise that isn’t worth the risk.
Okay, this one might be a little bit more obvious, since vegetables are clearly healthier than chips. I still wanted to bring it to your attention though. Some chips are advertised as “vegetable chips” which makes us think they’re more healthy. Newsflash, if they’re still fried, they’re not healthy. Frying foods makes them higher in calories and more likely to leave you with clogged arteries down the road. If you must eat chips or crackers, look for baked options that are higher in fiber and lower in sugar. If you’re seeing too much sugar on that nutritional label, put them back and choose another option.
Vegetables are still the healthiest choice as they are way higher in fiber than sugar. Whether or not you choose to eat them with guacamole or hummus doesn’t really matter, to be honest. Both dips are high in healthy fats and are totally fine to throw in your healthy snack box. Just as long as you portion control of course.
So if you remember anything from these tips, please remember how important portion control is! Even the healthiest of food can make you sluggish if eaten in excess. The higher the sugar content the greater the likelihood of this happening, so avoid that as much as possible. Use these foods as a guide and when you get bored with these, try some of our other snack ideas, or learn how to make your own healthy protein bars to bring to work.