We all are familiar with the feeling...
You thought you were doing so great, finished lunch feeling energized and motivated. 1 pm hits and you are motivated to end this workday strong and maybe even hit the gym after work.
2 pm creeps up, “yawn”... oh that is just a fluke, you are doing fine.
Then it turns to the lovely hour of 3 pm, about 3 hours since your lunch, 2-3 more hours of your workday remaining, and you are sensing gravity pushing you down. All you can think about are chips, cookies, oh even better those donuts your coworker brought in this morning that you so diligently stayed away from earlier in the day.
Why does this happen? Why is it so easy to stay motivated all morning and most of the afternoon, but by the time late afternoon approaches, your body cries for some goodies?
This is due to our blood glucose or blood sugar.
The food we eat turns into blood sugar (glucose) and this gives us energy to do all the fun things we are involved in during the day: getting out of bed, going to work, the gym, happy hour, even sleeping. Three to four hours after you eat a small meal or snack, your blood sugar drops back down, hence the embarrassing stomach growls, brain fog and easy aggravation (“hangry”). At this point your hunger-triggering hormone, Orexin, is sent out from the hypothalamus and your stomach produces ghrelin- all screaming “I want food.”
This glucose crash and subsequent hormone ‘naggers’ can produce a strong response from most of us. It is easy to want to totally give up on any goals to eat healthier and raise your white flag to that Monday resolution.
Fortunately if we prepare for this seemingly inevitable feeling we can prevent donut and chip grabbing as those high carbohydrate foods typically trigger further glucose rollercoasters. Let’s start reaching snacks that make us feel energized, motivated and ready for the summer!
3 pm alert snack components
Protein is a key component of a snack or meal that will allow satiety and stabilized blood sugar. It also takes the most work for your body to metabolize so more calories burned just in digestion.
Do not be scared of fat. We need fat for our brains to function, bodies to stay warm and moods to remain bearable. Fat also keeps us full and satisfied for longer periods of time. Just make sure the saturated and trans fat is on the lower end- keep your eye out for mono and polyunsatured fats (vegetable sources).
3. Dietary Fiber
Eating fiber rich foods permit satiety and fullness, stable glucose levels, as well as regular bowel habits and improved cardiovascular health. Fiber is the indigestible portion of food derived from plants.
No-Crash Snack Ideas
- Protein: 16-18 grams
- Fat: 7 grams
- Fiber: 7 grams
Tastes like a candy bar, but only has 2 grams of sugar, under 200 calories and enough protein to keep you going all day long! The fiber helps keep you extra satisfied as the hours pass. This is a great option when you are on the go or do not have time to prepare a full snack.
Tip: Keep a few in your car, desk, or workbag. If they are around, you have no excuse to go to that vending machine!
2. Greek yogurt (plain) with handful of almonds, pistachios or walnuts
- Protein: 15-20 grams
- Fat: 8-10 grams (mostly monounsaturated- aka good fat)
- Fiber: 3 grams
This snack is super high in protein and loaded with “good fats” due to the nuts. Just watch your portion of nuts as they can easily be overeaten. My rule of thumb is to fill a tightly curved palm. Flavored greek yogurts often are high in sugar so feel free to sweeten your own plain greek yogurt with cinnamon (observed to control blood sugar), stevia, berries, or even a teaspoon of honey. Natural cocoa powder is also a great way to get some chocolate flavor without added sugar!
3. Hard boiled egg with handful of raw carrots and a spoon of hummus
- Protein: 8 grams
- Fat: 6 grams
- Fiber: 5-6 grams
One of the best things you can do on a Sunday night is boil 5-6 eggs for the week. It is the easiest, most cost-efficient snack that provides a load of health benefits. Yes, eggs do have some cholesterol, but eating a max of 1-2 per day have not been shown to affect blood cholesterol as other high cholesterol foods do. Eggs are high in protein, fat and various minerals that will keep your brain sharp and blood sugar in control. You can sprinkle some pepper or add some mustard for extra flavor. Hummus, made from chickpeas, provides a good source of fiber and baby carrots give you that fun crunch with a load of Vitamin A.
4. String cheese with small apple or pear
- Protein: 7 grams
- Fat: 3-4 grams
- Fiber: 4-5 grams
Easy to pack and keep on your desk for when the munchies hit. Allows a little bit of high protein savory flavor with some refreshing sweetness of fiber and vitamin rich fruit. This is a great option 1-2 hours before the gym.
5. Whole grain rice cake + 1 spoon peanut/almond butter mixed with ricotta cheese + sprinkle a few mini dark chocolate chips on top.
- Protein: 7-9 grams
- Fat: 6 grams
- Fiber: 4 grams
Craving that cake in the conference room? Sometimes our 3 pm sweet tooth can hit really, really hard. Try this sweet option! I know it may sound a bit strange, but if you mix the peanut butter with some ricotta cheese (recommend adding some cinnamon and stevia) and top with a few dark chocolate chips- it is shockingly tasty without the excess sugar!
6. Big Kid Trail mix: Handful roasted chickpeas, 2 spoons roasted edamame mixed with a handful (1/2 cup) of whole grain puffed cereal.
- Protein: 10-12 grams
- Fat: 4 grams
- Fiber: 8 grams
You want the crunch... Instead of reaching for those potato chips, lets try something different. Roasted chickpeas and edamame provide the beloved crunch with fiber and protein that your body will thank you for later. You can roast these items yourself (easily in the oven with some olive oil) or you can buy them prepackaged at the store. Add some whole grain puffed cereal to the mix for added fiber and volume and you’ll be a happy camper. No chocolate chips or raisins needed for this trail mix.
7. Turkey, cheese, avocado roll ups
- Protein: 15-20 grams
- Fat: 7 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
Thinking of getting a second lunch, but know that might be a mistake? Try this filling meal-like snack that is packed with protein and healthy fats (thank you avocado). Take 3-4 slices of reduced sodium turkey breast, 1 slice of cheese (tear into 3 pieces), and ¼ of an avocado or ¼ cup guacamole. Roll each turkey slice with a piece of cheese and top with guacamole or avocado. For extra crunch, add in lettuce to mix!
As you see above, you can enjoy a variety of easy snacks without giving up on your Monday resolutions. Snack happy, not hangry!