I am not one to miss a meal. Ever. Even with three regular meals a day, I have to throw an extra little mini-meal in there to get through the seven or so hours between when I eat lunch and my family eats dinner. Besides, I can’t cook when I’m super-hungry, so having an afternoon snack enables me to refrain from snacking while I’m making dinner.
Some people can work through their hunger pangs. My husband Andrew is one of those people. If he’s hard at work on a legal brief, he can work right through lunch and even—gasp—through his afternoon coffee! Did I mention we’re opposites?
I, on the other hand, simply cannot think straight when I’m hungry. In fact, sometimes I realize I need to eat when I keep reading the same words over and over or become irritable and agitated when I’m trying to work. At that point, I don’t wait it out and see if it will pass, or try to finish what I’m doing. I get up and eat something. The work can wait. My growling stomach cannot.
I carry snacks in the car, in my purse, on trips, to meetings, and basically everywhere I go in an effort to avoid that hunger slump and bad mood and lack of focus that accompanies it. I try to keep snacks to about 200 calories or less to maintain what I consider a healthy weight for myself and to leave room for dinner.
Here are my 10 favorite healthy snack ideas for the afternoons that keep my energy up and my hunger at bay until dinner:
- A cup of edamame, lightly salted in the pods (sold frozen)
- A handful of nuts, unsalted or lightly salted, often pistachios, walnuts, or almonds
- Pickles (but not more than 1 or 2 because most are high in sodium), or about 15 olives
- A piece of fruit, often an apple, paired with an ounce of Cheddar or other hard cheese. For Cheddar, I favor the pre-portioned Trader Joe’s Lite Mild Cheddar Snack Sticks.
- 2 wedges of Laughing Cow light cheese spread on 4 Finn Crisp crackers
- 1/4 of an avocado spread on 3 – 4 Finn Crisp crackers and topped with coarse salt
- 2 hard-boiled eggs sprinkled with curry powder and coarse salt.
- 8 oz. nonfat Greek yogurt with a tablespoon of applesauce or a teaspoon of honey or fruit jam mixed in. Top with a tablespoon of muesli for added crunch.
- 1 pack of roasted seaweed snacks (Trader Joe’s or Annie Chun’s) or a bowl of Sriracha popcorn
- A sliced banana topped with 1 tablespoon of crunchy almond butter and sprinkled with cinnamon
Bonus (My secret energy weapon):
I always have a cup of coffee around 2 in the afternoon into which I sprinkle cinnamon and unsweetened cocoa powder. This also helps boost my energy during the afternoon slump, staves off hunger, and never seems to keep me awake at night. (If sleeping is a challenge for you, a cup of decaffeinated coffee would also work.)
But if the snack and coffee don’t do it, and I still can’t get my brain to focus on work, I lie down for a 15 – 20 minute nap.
What’s your secret weapon for getting through the day with your eyelids open and your energy level up? I hope you’ll share in the comments below.