Raise your hand if you find yourself reaching for some coffee and a few packets of candy at 3 pm more often than not. Same. That mid-afternoon slump is real. So we turned to Alissa Rumsey, a New York City-based dietitian and the author of “Unapologetic Eating,” and Marisa Moore, an Atlanta-based registered dietitian nutritionist, for their expertise on what makes a filling afternoon snack that’ll provide some much needed energy. Because sometimes you wanna switch up your go-tos of apples and peanut butter, veggies and hummus, and cheese and crackers with snacks that are a little more portable.
We’ve got recs that’ll give you that brain and body boost you need to make it through until dinner. Plus it’s all stuff you can buy online, throw in your bag, give to your kiddos, and keep stocked in your pantry. So you can put some pep back in your step.
First up, some fact versus fiction
Snacking isn’t bad for you. Both Moore and Rumsey agree that snacking gets the short end of the stick. “Snacking tends to get a bad rap, when in fact it can be a helpful way to boost your energy and nourish your body between meals,” Rumsey says. “It’s a great way to fill in some of the nutrient gaps that maybe you missed with some of your meals,” Moore adds. “But the key is planning for it. And making the right choices. If you constantly find that you’re really hungry at 3 o’clock every day, there’s a really good chance that maybe you didn’t eat enough at lunch. So you might want to either adjust the time for your lunch, or make sure you’re having more to eat.”
Carbs aren’t your enemy. Especially when eaten with other macronutrients (like proteins and fats). “When it comes to choosing a snack, there’s no perfect formula,” Rumsey says. But there are some key things you can look out for. Namely: a snack that has carbs, protein, and fat, plus some fiber. “Each nutrient works in different ways to communicate to your body that you are full. Carbohydrates provide energy while protein, fat, and fiber help to sustain that energy by keeping you full and satisfied for longer,” Rumsey says.
Protein isn’t only for bodybuilders. It’s actually a vital component in any promising afternoon snack. “Having a meal without protein is just setting you up for voracious hunger in a couple of hours,” Moore says. She recommends looking for at least 6 or 7 grams of protein in your afternoon snack sesh, and when possible, adding in 3–5 grams of fiber as well to help keep you full (almonds fit the bill). “Protein will really help [give] you the extra staying power that you need to get through the rest of the day.” Though she notes that the ideal amount of protein will vary based on many factors, like height, weight, and activity level.
Brain-boosting foods are legit...sort of. There are certain foods that contain nutrients like anthocyanin (that’s the color pigment that’s in cherries and blueberries) and they’ve been associated with better brain health, according to Moore. But that comes with a catch. “You can’t just isolate one food and eat that, and expect that to give you miraculous results. There’s really synergy in eating a variety of different foods,” she says. So, yes, adding things like blueberries, nuts, and sardines to your snacktime regime is great. But don’t expect to eat ‘em at 3 pm and suddenly feel like Wonder Woman by 3:15 pm.
Keep the added sugar to a minimum if you want to avoid crashes. According to Moore, overdoing it on the sugar can cause some spiking in your blood. (Which can lead to fatigue and a variety of other health problems.) So if you want something that’ll provide a good-for-you afternoon boost, look for a snack with that magic mix of macronutrients and stay on the lower end of the added sugar category.
And now some of our snack recs. Let’s go.
Bars, bars, and more bars
Stuff you can eat out of a bag
Snacks that’ll fulfill your sweet tooth
Things to keep in the fridge
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