Office slump hitting you? You're probably in need of a serious reboot. And, the best way to regain energy and boost your brain cells is through food, as what we eat can certainly influence mood and energy levels.
Before dipping your hand in a bag of chips, think wisely about which type of snack to choose from. You can also always pack a few snacks at home and store at work for when you get those hunger pangs. It's always best to be prepared in order to stay on track. Here are the best afternoon snacks to grab when you have a hard case of the munchies.
Lean Animal Protein or Canned Fish
If you're struggling to open your eyes mid-day, reach for low-sodium and low-sugar jerky or a lean piece of protein, such as a small serving of chicken breast, a hard boiled egg, or a can of fish, says Jessica Althouse, CPT, a certified personal trainer and certified group fitness instructor at Kick@55 Fitness in Chicago.
"Vitamin B-12 helps with the production of red blood cells and improves the health of your nervous system. In turn, the consumption of foods with B-12 will boost your energy levels when you are feeling sluggish," she says. And, if you choose fish or grass-fed beef, you'll get omega 3 fatty acids, too. These can improve brain health and lower inflammation, helping you feel energized and alert during the day.
"Lentils are quick-cooking for weeknight convenience, and not only provide powerful plant protein, but also the plant-based iron the body needs to keep energy levels up," says Moon. What's more, "iron supports healthy red blood cells, which deliver oxygen to the entire body. Combine with vitamin C from a spritz of lemon, or a dish that adds tomatoes, to help boost iron absorption," she says.
"While I always advocate for whole grains, I'm pleasantly surprised that even pearled barley is a good source of dietary fiber. Fiber-rich foods will keep you energized for longer without causing sugar spikes or crashes," Moon says. Though, don't eat it alone. "Combine with healthy fats and lean protein for the ultimate sustained energy," she says.
You don't want to dig into a giant fruit bowl, as fruit does have sugar, but a little bit of natural sweetness to pair with protein will satisfy mid-day cravings and provide quality nutrition. "You can get this by eating apple or banana slices with peanut butter or Greek yogurt with fresh berries," says Althouse.
"After sitting at your desk all day you may be tempted to reach for one of those donuts going around the office, but this will only work against you. While foods high in sugar will give you an initial rush, this will be short-lived, and you will wind up crashing soon after," she explains. The carb and protein combo will prevent any spikes in blood sugar, she says.
"Dehydration can lead to fatigue, and crisp vegetables can bring you back," Moon says. "Cucumbers are nearly all water, plus they provide anti-inflammatory phytonutrients like flavonoids," she says, which will keep you more alert. You can pair with some dip or guacamole if you need some extra flavor.
"The healthy fats in nuts help the body absorb important fat-soluble antioxidants that fight to keep our cells healthy. They are also sources of antioxidants themselves, as well as some plant protein and dietary fiber which makes it easy to build a balanced snack with nuts," Moon says. Combine with cheese, like string cheese, or add to a yogurt or chia bowl. You can also make protein energy balls, too.
"Eggs are an affordable and convenient source of the B vitamins that the body uses to produce energy from food. Not getting enough of certain B vitamins can lead to energy-zapping anemia," says Moon, which drains energy stores. Luckily, all the B vitamins are found in eggs, so you can't go wrong with eggs during the afternoon slump.
Althouse likes to keep hard boiled eggs on hand. They're easy, portable, and full of vitamin B12 and protein, as well as choline (found in the yolk!) to improve cognitive thinking, she says.