Healthy afternoon snacks will help you beat the PM hunger attack, keep your mind active and tackle that post-lunch bloat. These are the foods you need on hand...
Healthy afternoon snacks aren’t always our first thought when it’s so easy to reach for the chocolate. But even though the healthy options might not be sugar-filled or carb-loaded, they really can be just as tempting. Honestly.
If, like us, lunch doesn’t always do the trick, you need just a little helping hand to get you through the afternoon. Around 1pm, it’s the sleepy stage. This is often followed by the the post-lunch bloat and the low energy lull. Sound familiar?
Sugar-packed snacks won’t help, but one of these energy-boosting, metabolism-building, fuller-for-longer foods is sure to fill that tiny gap. So we’ve asked the nutritionists what to reach for in the afternoon, and they’ve come back with the goods.
This is what you should be snacking on in the afternoon…
Feeling a little groggy in the afternoon? Raw foods are a good snack to have on the desk. Nutrional Therapist Elouise Bauskis explains, ”Raw foods, like carrots and cucumbers, contain life-enhancing enzymes, which are destroyed with cooking and processing. Enzymes are essential for optimum digestion, metabolism and absorption. They are the catalysts for all reactions in the body.’
Elouise says: ‘Miso soup is a nutritious blend made from fermented soya beans. It comes in boxes of sachets which can be added to a mug of boiling hot water and drunk at your desk.
The ideal time to eat? ‘Either mid-morning or mid-afternoon – it is warming so fantastic for cold British winter days.’
Research shows that protein makes you feel satiated for longer than carbohydrates. It is also a great afternoon choice – a carb-heavy snack will only contribute to that 4pm sleepy feeling. A skinless chicken thigh or a hard-boiled egg are roughly the right portion size and are packed with nutrients.
Flaxseeds, also known as linseeds, contain ALA (Alpha linoleic acid) which are great for that post-lunch boost. ‘ALA is a “healthy fat,” says Nutritional Expert Elouise. ‘It improves the function of the cerebral cortex, an area of the brain associated with motor skills and spatial awareness. Try adding a tablespoon of flaxseeds to your smoothies or stir into yogurts and soups to keep you going to the end of the day.’
Got chocolate beside you? Substitute your sugary snack for a small handful of walnuts. Elouise says, ‘Walnuts are high in unsaturated, fatty acids, iron, and B vitamins. They also contain choline which help with the transmitting of nerve signals which aids muscle control.’
If you can’t get your hands on a juicer, you can buy superfood juices in the shops too. Superfoods are packed with chlorophyll, vitamins & minerals, enzymes and antioxidants. They have a cleansing, alkalising and detoxifying effect on the body. A much better choice than a coffee! Try Pure XP Organic Barley Grass, add 2-heaped teaspoons to a little juice or water shake and drink.
When foods take more time to eat – like sunflower seeds in their shells – you end up consuming fewer total calories because your body has time to register that it’s full. Keep a container of these on your desk, and you’ll always have something to pick at – along with the comfort of knowing you aren’t sinking your diet.
Got the post-lunch bloat? Banish breads, cakes, biscuits and cereal bars and replace them with some of the many wheat-free alternatives in the afternoon, such as quinoa, spelt, millet, buckwheat and brown rice. Your blood sugar levels, and therefore energy levels, will improve (as will your bowels) because refined white flours can be very clogging and potentially constipating.
If you long for cake mid-afternoon, a toasted wholemeal breakfast muffin or a crumpet with a scrape of honey is a cosy, sweet treat and, without butter, less than 150 calories. A slice of malt loaf is another hearty alternative.
When you buy a sandwich pack for lunch, you often end up eating more than you need at midday, especially if you’ve had a snack mid-morning. Instead try eating one half with soup or fruit at lunchtime and save the other half for later in the afternoon.
‘Chop a celery stick in half, then lightly spread with a small amount of peanut butter and sprinkle raisins or seeds over the top,’ says Simon Lovell, author of The Lunch Box Diet (lunchboxdiet.co.uk), a snack-based programme. ‘The fibre will help regulate your glucose levels and will also help your body fight bad cholesterol and keep the gut healthy.
A standard-sized whole-milk latte checks in at more than 200 calories, but if you stick to skimmed, you can cut that to just 100. Switch to a cappuccino, which uses much less milk, and you can enjoy the creamier taste of semi-skimmed for around 90 calories. The trip to the coffee shop will make the drink feel like a treat, the milk gives you calcium and the caffeine will help blast away any mid-afternoon tiredness.
‘Avocados are a good source of mono-unsaturated fat, which speeds up your basal metabolism,’ says Lovell. This means you’ll burn extra calories and the fats will nourish your skin and hair. Use half an avocado on a slice of rye bread when you know dinner is going to be late.
If you have trouble sleeping carbs are the kind of foods that are slow releasing so will sustain you through the night. For most of us, dinner should be enough to get us through the night, but if you have trouble getting to sleep or your rest is disturbed by hunger, an oatcake or oaty biscuit is a great late afternoon snack.
An entire section of the diet industry argues that if you’re craving chocolate, the worst thing you can do is deny yourself. A couple of squares of high-quality dark chocolate is the sensible choice, but if that won’t do it, try fun-sized milk chocolate bars.