You’ve fixed those tired eyes in a snap. You’ve crushed your AM cycling or kickboxing class. You’ve even decluttered every room in the house. Go ahead and give yourself a virtual high five: You deserve it. And yet now, as afternoon creeps in, you can feel your energy crash and burn like a B-list country tune. It turns out you can supercharge or sabotage your energy levels with a quick visit to the kitchen or your office pantry. Read on for New York City-based nutritionist Lisa Hayim‘s top food picks for strong, sustained energy, as well as the worst slump-inducing offenders.
Best Afternoon Snack Foods
1. Whole Fruit: “Whole fruits, especially those with the skin, provide your body with sugar quickly. The fiber from the skin helps to stabilize the blood sugar, filling you up and leaving you with a burst of energy,” says Hayim. “Dainty and delicious, my favorite is a pink lady apple.” Sprinkle a little cinnamon on top of your fruit du jour for an added burst of flavor and a bit of metabolism-boosting prowess.
2. Celery and Watermelon: If you’re anything like us, come 3pm, we’re crawling straight for our secret goodies drawer at the office to whip out a bag of chips or candy bar for a hit of energy. But brace yourself: “Oftentimes, we are actually thirsty when we think we are hungry,” shares Hayim. Sometimes though, a glass of good ol’ H2O ain’t gonna do the trick, and you crave a little crunch. Enter: Water-based fruits and veggies. “Celery and watermelon are two of the most hydrating foods that still require chewing to break down, which will help you out with feeling satiated. Celery is 96 percent water and provides sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Watermelon is 95 percent water and rich in vitamin C.”
3. Sweet Potato: “Sweet potatoes are a high-carbohydrate food, but have a low glycemic index,” says Hayim. Translation: “They’ll not only provide energy to our bodies, but also to our brains, without having blood sugar rise and fall quickly.” Allow us to suggest 23 ways to rock sweet potatoes all year long.
4. Oatmeal: “Although traditionally thought of as a breakfast food, a third of a cup of uncooked oats is a great small meal to power you through the workday. It is rich in carbohydrates and fiber, keeping you full and on track until dinner time,” offers Hayim. Make sure to stick to the unflavored varieties and to check the label to make sure no icky additives are in the mix. In the mood for something different? Swirl in a tablespoon or so of your favorite olive oil with some fresh herbs for a savory twist, or try one of our savory oatmeal recipes (yes, that’s bacon in there!).
Worst Afternoon Snack Foods
1. Sweetened Yogurt: “While unsweetened greek yogurt can be a great protein-packed pick-me-up, some of the more traditional ones, especially the flavored ones, are packed with added sugars,” comments Hayim. “High intake of sugars causes our blood sugar to shoot up, giving us a quick ‘high,’ followed by a crash, leaving us feeling tired, cranky and wanting more sugar. This cycle is vicious and may contribute to weight gain as well as serious diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.” Time to pass that plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt, please.
2. Trail Mix: It might be leaving happy trails all over your Pinterest and Instagram streams, but this sweet medley can bring a serious dose of Bad News Bears. “Store-bought or packaged trail mix usually don’t contain the ‘most healthy’ nuts and fruits. Oftentimes, they’re also loaded up with sugar or contain addicting flavors like chocolate that make it hard to portion. Peanuts, a high-fat low-protein nut, are usually the bulk of the mix and can’t provide you with the quick burst of energy you need. If you can’t make your own mix, skip it,” Hayim advises.
3. White Rice or Cereal: “These foods are easily converted into glucose in your body. First, they give you that sharp rise and feel-good vibe,” explains Hayim. “But that quickly abandons you, making you feel tired, grumpy and hungry.” Instead, try whole grain crackers with a smothering of almond butter and a piece of fruit to triumph over the reign of hangriness.
Do you have a favorite pick-me-up snack? Tweet us your tastiest @BritandCo!