As you hear your stomach start growling for food, you take a glance over at the clock only to see that it’s 3PM and you still have 2 hours until you can stop work and enter into your evening routine of cooking and eating!
The day is nearing a close but your stomach is telling you that it needs something to hold off those afternoon hunger pangs.
Energy is dwindling, visions of eating dinner start dancing in your head and you start to feel a bit more agitated when communicating with co-workers.
This post lunch time frame is tough for many different reasons, one of the biggest reasons however is because your energy levels are low from being up and active for the whole day.
Do you eat a small snack?
Do you wait until dinner and just deal with the hunger?
For the sake of this post today - let’s assume you choose the snack route but still want to stay in line with being a conscious eater.
I’ll go over 5 of our favorite snacks to help you stave off your afternoon hunger as well as not eat too heavy a meal so that you can still focus on a complete dinner.
How hungry are you really?
Before I dive into the top 5 afternoon snacks - let’s first discuss how you can determine how hungry you actually are.
Hungry level is both physical and habitual.
Have you ever noticed how you get hungry at the same time of the day?
This is because your body becomes accustomed to intaking food at that time. Sometimes it’s not even that we are hungry but we are in our routine of eating at that time.
What can happen with this is eating when you aren’t truly hungry, and therefore you potentially are consuming more food that your body actually needs.
A helpful tip that I use with clients is to rate your hunger level on a 1-10 scale. 1 means you are not hungry at all and super full….10 means you are starving!
If you find that you are rating your hunger level anywhere from a 7-10, you are in fact hungry and probably need to have a snack to help you stay energized until dinner time.
Practice paying attention to your gut
A simple way to figure out how hungry you actually are is to simply take 5 deep breaths, and put your attention to your gut.
Does your stomach feel empty?
Do you feel that there is room to put more food?
A helpful way to think about this level is to consider if you had to get up and run around for 5 minutes.
Do you think you would get a stomach ache?
If your stomach hurts at the thought of doing this, you might be more full than you think and might be able to hold off on eating.
Now this takes time to learn, and time to practice becoming an expert at noticing your true hunger.
On the other end, if you feel like you can do a full workout and not feel any stomach pains, you probably are hungry and need something in your stomach to help with your energy levels and to hold you over until dinner time.
Regardless of how well you can interpret this hunger, let’s go into the 5 best snacks in the afternoon!
The 5 best afternoon snacks
These will be in no specific order - try out different snacks to see how much you enjoy them, how they help you with hunger, and what type of energy level you are at after consuming!
Snack 1: Greek Yogurt with fruit
Greek yogurt is a great way to increase your protein intake for the day. The type of fruit you choose is up to you - but we like to add berries to our yogurt to help increase the amount of antioxidants we get each day.
You can put this together quite quickly and easily making it an excellent choice for those who have a busy afternoon.
This snack depending on how much yogurt you use can round you out at about 150 calories (which is very small) but may provide enough energy to get you through those last few hours of work!
Snack 2: Canned salmon or tuna with avocado
Canned fish is a great snack because it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Simply store some cans at your desk and you can have a healthy option for protein intake ready to use.
The avocado no doubt is a tougher one to store so if you can only fit in the canned fish, that is better than other possible options. However by adding some avocado you can really boost up the healthy fats in your afternoon snack while also providing a higher level of satiety.
I would suggest having 1 full can and a quarter to a half avocado. This would round out to 150-250 calories depending on how much avocado you use!
Snack 3: Veggies with hummus
This is a great choice for those who don’t get many vegetables into their diet during their regular meals. Including some cut up baby carrots, celery, or even raw broccoli with some dipping capability will fill you up just enough to hold you over.
This snack is another one that can be quite easy to implement. You can buy a bag of already cut up veggies so that it’s super simple to take some out with a package of hummus on the side!
You can also include other “dressings” like blue cheese as long as you don’t make it more about the blue cheese than the actual veggies! (I’m looking at you who double and triple dips 1 baby carrot!)
A good rule of thumb is to dip once for each veggie so that you aren’t eating more hummus/dressing as they are higher in calories and might even leave you feeling too full before dinner!
This type of snack can yield you between 200-250 calories (a good size if you are only looking for an afternoon bump of energy!)
Snack 4: Whey Protein shake
Protein shakes are super easy and reliable when it comes to providing good nutrition as well as a boost in satiety for those afternoon hunger pains.
All you need is your protein powder, a shaker bottle, and about 30 seconds to get this snack up and running!
A protein shake can provide 20-40 grams of protein (depending on how many scoops) which will aide those who either :
Need more protein in their diet because of exercise program
Need something that is easy to consume (drinking at your work desk is probably easier than busting out a fork and knife while heating something up!)
Generally speaking, a protein shake can yield you about 150-250 calories based on how many scoops you use!
Snack 5: Mixed nuts
Mixed nuts are the universal snack for office workers. I hear it from clients all the time - mixed nuts are a great and simple way to snack on something that is both healthy and satiating.
Nuts such as almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios are all good choices when considering what to eat for a quick bite.
Nuts are high in healthy fats, protein, and fiber. This can leave you feeling satiated but not overstuffed.
The one caveat here is to be very mindful of how quickly you are eating these. Because nuts are high in fat they are in turn higher in calories. For example about 28g of nuts equal about 24 individual almonds. This turns out to be about 180-220 calories which is sufficient for a snack depending on how hungry you are, and how long you have until your next meal.
It’s very easy to overeat nuts because you can pop 5 into your mouth at a time without blinking an eye!
My advice to you if you choose to eat mixed nuts: eat them slowly and mindfully.
Snack 6 Bonus! : Hard boiled eggs
Okay so here’s an extra one to take a bite out of - but be kind to those around you...this one can stink a bit!
Hard boiled eggs are an awesome option to help you satisfy any food craving while also providing a low calorie, high protein snack!
These are super easy to prepare and can be done on the weekend before so all you need to do is grab 2 of them on your way out the door.
Large eggs generally are between 60-70 calories each so if you have 2 hard boiled eggs this will net you around 140 total calories. This is moderately low but also has the benefit of providing protein that does fill you up more than other macronutrients.
Holding you off until dinner
As you make your decision of what snack you want to start including more, do me this one favor and recognize why you are even choosing to snack at this 3-4PM time.
Ask yourself these questions and become the expert of your body!
Are you eating out of habit, or hunger?
How hungry are you really?
How much food will satisfy you but not leave you feeling too stuffed 2-3 hours later?
Was my lunch substantial enough?
Sometimes when working with clients we find that during the lunch time meal, they are just not eating enough to hold over for the afternoon energy crash.
So on one end the snacks are a great option to include but on the other it’s important to be very mindful of your meals throughout the day which can either impact you positively or negatively.
If you are finding you are STARVING at 3pm after lunch at 1pm...than you might want to instead look more at your lunch and see what you can add in there to help keep you full.
You might find then that you don’t even need an afternoon snack but instead can wait until dinner.
Be the expert of your own body and hunger.
I hope that these snack choices can give you a greater understanding of that afternoon crash and how to deal with it!