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Healthiest Afternoon Snacks for Energy and Weight Maintenance

by Sárka-Jonae Miller
See more articles by Sarka_Jonae Miller

(The Best Years in Life) Even if you eat breakfast and lunch, if you're like most people you feel hungry or low on energy in the afternoon. The obvious answer is to have a snack, but if you're trying to lose weight or maintain your figure you might be tempted to power through. If you're unfortunate enough to have food allergies, you could also have a reason to put off your nutritional needs until you can get home and raid your stash of acceptable foods.

Yet an afternoon snack can boost productivity, let you think more clearly, keep your mood up, and actually contribute to weight loss by preventing overeating. But don't just grab something out of the office candy bowl or nearest vending machine. Consider the perfect snack to meet your needs, whether you need an energy boost, are trying to lose weight, or have to work with a restricted diet.

Snacks for Weight Loss

Eating food to lose weight seems contradictory, but when you eat small meals frequently you feel full, which makes it easier to drive past that McDonald's on your way home and to not eat 300 calories of junk while you're making dinner. Consider that two ounces of potato chips contain around 300 calories and offer nothing of nutritional value in return. If you instead opt for some natural microwave popcorn in the afternoon, you'll get the same slightly salty satisfaction with fewer calories.

If you prefer something a little sweet instead, Greek yogurt is high in protein and calcium, making it an excellent snack in a convenient, small package.

A third option is some whole-grain crackers with a thin layer of hummus. The crackers, garbanzo beans, and olive oil provide a healthy mix of protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, and a small about of fat to help you feel full.

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Pick-Me-Up Snacks

The right afternoon snack should complement your lunch and combat fatigue. According to a study published in Neuron in 2011, glucose inhibits neurons that help people feel awake, yet protein counteracts this effect. This means that if you eat some carbs at lunch, a snack filled with protein might prevent you from getting sleepy once your body breaks those carbs down into glucose. Protein is also good for satiation, so you're less likely to have a second afternoon snack or an extra large dinner.

A quarter cup of nuts and dried fruits could also provide you with enough protein to feel full without overdoing it on the calories. The fruit gives you a little something sweet without putting you to sleep. A small apple with protein could produce a similar effect.

If you'd prefer something packaged that you can throw in your suitcase, a high-protein cereal bar could work, just be sure you're getting a healthy, whole-grain bar and not a candy bar masquerading as health food. Look for a bar with no more than 15 grams of sugar. Consider cutting the bar in two and having half for breakfast or as a mid-morning snack and the second half in the afternoon.

Snacks for People With Allergies

If you're allergic to gluten, soy, nuts, or dairy and can't eat commonly recommended snacks, there are other options. A hard-boiled egg provides a good source protein, though if you prefer something with less cholesterol, you can modify some of the above suggestions. Some gluten-free crackers with hummus would be suitable for most people with food allergies. If you're allergic to peanuts but can handle almonds or soy you could spread an almond or soy butter on a small apple, or try it with banana chips.

No matter what you choose, be sure to check that any soy-based products are non-gmo. For that matter, it's not a bad idea to check that all your food is free of genetically modified organisms. Opt for organic whenever possible as well to make your snacks truly healthy.

See also:

Don't let concerns over extra calories prevent you from enjoying the many health benefits of wholesome nuts

Try Pumpkin Seeds for Fabulous Healthy Family Snack Food

The dark side of energy drinks – trading tomorrow's health for today's temporary stimulation

References
 
http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/nutrition_news_information/healthy_snacks_to_beat_an_afternoon_energy_slump
http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20502284_3,00.html
http://www.womansday.com/food-recipes/healthy-recipes/10-healthiest-snacks-104257#slide-1
http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/easy-healthy-workplace-snacks

 

About the Author

Sárka-Jonae Miller is a health and fitness expert. She began working in the fitness industry in 2000 while pursuing a BS in journalism at Syracuse University. She became certified as a personal fitness trainer and group exercise instructor in 2003. She has also received training in massage therapy. Sárka also writes fiction. She is the author of the chick lit novel, Between Boyfriends. Get more health and wellness tips on Sárka's Natural Healing Tips blog or join her on Facebook and Twitter.

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