We all know the deal: You start the day with a healthy breakfast and lunch, but by the time 3 p.m. rolls around it's game over. Being hungry + finding yourself surrounded by only vending machine snacks, co-workers' birthday cakes, and those candy bowls in accounting = less than ideal. Here, 12 expert-approved snacks that help you avoid the mid-day sugar crash and stave off hunger until dinner time.
Enticing cookies and sweets around the office often get the better of us, but they tend to be filled with saturated fat that only helps us pack on the pounds. If you're feeling hungry after a lackluster lunch, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends snacking on filling snacks that contain unsaturated fat like avocado and walnuts, which have been found to boost memory (all the better to remember to file your expenses!) and improve heart health.
When coworkers' birthday cakes or communal cupcakes come calling, try squelching cravings with a fruit cup filled with fiber-rich fruits like berries and apples. The natural sugars will satisfy your sweet tooth and the fiber will slow down your metabolism, making you feel more full (and less likely to grab all the things).
If you're constantly craving savory snacks, it'll probably cost you to nosh on the synthetic orange stuff that's oh-so-good but high on the saturated fat, sugars, and sodium. Instead, pack a healthier bright snack food like carrots with a side of hummus. The hummus is an excellent sub for the taste of your salty comfort foods, while the veggies still provide the crunch-y effect of the chips.
Coconut chips are not only delicious, but also contain protein, iron, and fiber for a little nutritious pick-me-up. They do contain sugars and saturated fats—so these should only be a once-in-a-while fix—but some doctors say that the specific kinds of fats produced by coconut are healthier for the heart and can even boost energy.
And don't even think about carb-loading with a muffin to combat hunger: experts say that the sweet treats (yes, even the brand kinds) are often high in sugar and low in nutrition, which will cause your blood sugar and insulin levels to spike.
While fruity juices aren't necessarily the worst thing to consume on your average day, the more nutritional choice is always a blended smoothie. Juicing strains out the fiber and protein from the foods you're processing, so you're drinking a lot of fruit-based sugars without many dietary benefits. Your thick smoothie, on the other hand, retains the fiber and when made with proteins like spinach and yogurt, can even replace a small meal. Just be sure to steer clear of ones with added sugars, to avoid an unnecessary sugar rush.
Chickpeas are a good source of protein and fiber, meaning they will get, and keep, you full. You can try making your own and experimenting with spices (Leah Silberman and Molly Rieger of the dietician-powered service Tovita Nutrition love this recipe) or grabbing a bag from a brand like The Good Bean.
Apple slices and peanut butter are a classic for a reason–they're delicious and healthy. Use almond butter if you're peanut-averse, and the Toviata women suggest using Justin's individual peanut butter packets if you don't feel like dealing with a potential mess.
If you would rather meal (verb) than snack, a) we can relate, and b) this is the option for you. Scoop some guacamole—homemade or store-bought—onto Ezekiel bread for your very own version of avocado toast. Don't want to bring a loaf of bread into the office? Substitute for high fiber crackers.
The good news: You already love green pea crisps, and with a ton of protein and fiber per serving, they are an excellent substitute for potato chips. The bad news: You probably shouldn't eat the whole bag of Harvest Snaps in one sitting. *Attempts portion control*
You might call Greek yogurt with berries breakfast, but we call it 18 grams of protein, only 100 calories, and a very real candidate for your afternoon snack, especially if you have a sweet tooth. But not all Greek yogurts are equally healthy–Silberman and Rieger suggest avoiding yogurts with added honey or syrup.
If you have a few minutes to prep a snack before heading to work, try making your own trail mix. Store-bought trail mixes can be deceptively unhealthy, with candy mix-ins and added salt. To make your own version, mix together raw, unsalted nuts and seeds (and yes, even some dark chocolate if you have to). Silberman and Rieger's favorite homemade trail mix is a combination of almonds, walnuts, goji berries, and pumpkin seeds.
While protein and energy bars can be very tempting, a lot of the time they just aren't that great for you. When it comes to any packaged foods, "if you can't pronounced the ingredients, put it down," says Silberman and Rieger. Rx bars are an exception–they're mostly made from egg whites, fruit, and nuts, AKA not artificial gunk.