Many of us spend long hours in the office and eating healthy can be challenging, especially during the afternoon slump.
When you need a mid-day snack to sustain mental focus and energy and fend off hunger, be prepared with healthy treats at your desk so you won’t be tempted by unhealthy choices.
“A healthy snack between meals can decrease your hunger, keep you from overeating at meal times and provide energy if you exercise after work,” says Hessam Tabrizi, MD, a primary care physician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center Solana Beach.
“Having healthy snacks readily available will make it much easier to avoid your co-worker’s candy bowl or the birthday cake in the break room,” the family medicine specialists adds.
Snacks should be 200 calories or less and eaten when you’re hungry, not out of boredom or frustration.
Try these fun foods for a mid-afternoon boost without the guilt.
High-quality organic dark chocolate with 70 percent cacao or higher is rich in fiber, antioxidants and minerals. Snack in moderation — a square or two — because going overboard will undo any possible benefits.
Single-serving fruits, such as apples and bananas, will keep well at your desk, or you can try unsweetened dried fruit.
“Fruits are packed with vitamins and minerals and natural sweetness,” says Dr. Tabrizi. “They are also a great source of antioxidants, which are needed for a strong immune system.”
When prepared with the right ingredients, popcorn is a whole-grain, low-calorie snack that is full of nutrients and fiber.
Pack some baggies with air-popped popcorn, popped in a hot air popper without any oil or butter, for when you want some crunch in your snack. Add spices if you want more flavor, such as cinnamon for a sweeter taste, or curry for a spicy treat. There are also several popcorn selections in grocery stores that have no artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners and less than 5 grams of sugar per serving.
Nut butters, such as almond butter, are versatile snacks that can be paired with an apple or banana for a filling, nutritious snack, or just have a spoonful to keep you going. Check the ingredients and steer away from added sugar and salt.
“Raw nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, are a great source of protein and are high in fiber,” says Dr. Tabrizi. “They also contain important nutrients, such as potassium and magnesium.”
Stay away from nuts that have been flavored, roasted in oil or honey, or heavily salted, and stick to about a handful.
Roasted seaweed, also known as nori, provides minerals and a plethora of vitamins, including B and C. Seaweed snacks are packaged as sheets of dried and roasted seaweed that come with a variety of seasonings. Look for brands with a short ingredient list and no added sugar or artificial ingredients.
“Dried seaweed is low-calorie and nutrient-dense,” says Dr. Tabrizi. “It’s a great choice when you need a salty fix."
If you are craving potato chips, try a couple of plain rice cakes instead, which provide fiber, carbohydrates and phytochemicals. While they do not contain other nutrients, they are low in calories. The healthiest are plain brown rice cakes without additives, added flavorings or sugar. Also check the sodium content, as rice cakes can be high in salt.
If you have some of these snacks handy, you’re less likely to reach for junk food when the afternoon stomach grumbles make themselves known.