The Power of the Afternoon Snack
It's more than just a bridge from lunch to dinner. It's a way to boost your nutrition and satisfy some cravings. Here's how to build the perfect healthy, energizing afternoon nosh.
Anyone who's skipped their afternoon snack and found themselves making poor food decisions or overeating at dinner understands the benefits of an afternoon nosh.
"This midday [mini] meal is important because it provides nutrients, fuel, and staves off hunger so you won't have an energy dip mid-afternoon or overeat at dinner," says Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, one half of the New York-based Nutrition Twins.
Since we love snacking so much, we wanted to teach you how to build the perfect afternoon nibble so it can help you reach your health goals.
How to Build the Ideal Afternoon Snack
The ideal afternoon snack contains both protein and fiber, says Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT, the other Nutrition Twin. "This duo helps to ensure that the snack is satisfying and supplies a gradual and sustained source of fuel, preventing energy highs and crashes."
A snack with these components will keep blood sugar levels stable, fending off sugar cravings, overeating and mood swings. What more could you ask for?
Keep This Duo in Mind When Building a Snack
The two key nutrients for a healthy snack are fiber and protein, advises Lakatos Shames. They both add satiety, since they digest gradually and allow for more sustained energy, while also preventing energy highs followed by energy crashes.
"This combination is very important since energy crashes typically lead to overeating — possibly even binges — and cravings for sugary foods as the brain sends a signal to get the quickest energy boost it can get — and the body often turns to sugar," she says. What's more, research has found that high-protein snacks tend to provide the most satiety, giving you a few more hours before hunger pangs signal that you should get started on dinner.
Try to include fiber with a wholesome carbohydrate like vegetables or fruit, too. "Then the snack will come packed with antioxidants, nutrients, and anti-inflammatory compounds that are great for fighting disease and keeping the body healthy," says Lakatos.
Top Healthy Afternoon Snacks to Keep on Hand
The Nutrition Twins recommend these healthy snack options for a midday nosh — many of which are shelf-stable snacks, which makes snacking on the go or while at the office even easier.
- Dried chickpea snacks like these Roasted Chickpeas
- A small portion of nuts (pistachios, almonds, walnuts, etc.) and fruit (or dried fruit, like a small box of raisins or several prunes)
- Air-popped popcorn and a couple tablespoons of nuts.
- Dry roasted edamame
- Instant oatmeal pack with a tablespoon of peanut butter stirred in
- Greek yogurt with fruit or peanut butter stirred in
- Hardboiled egg and a piece of fruit
- Hummus and veggie strips — Turn it into a fun family snack when you make this Lion Veggie Tray!
Eat the snack with purpose. Have you ever nibbled a nosh mindlessly while on your computer or phone, and then wondered where it went when your hand scraped the bottom of the bowl or bag? In order to truly feel satisfied and get the most out of this energizing mini meal, put it in a bowl or on a plate, sit down, and eat it mindfully. Paying attention to our food and eating with purpose creates awareness and may even help you eat less.