Prepare Your Defenses—It’s The Afternoon Snack Attack
The time between lunch and dinner can seem to stretch on forever—especially if you’re hungry. Who amongst us hasn’t fallen prey to the afternoon snack attack? We are talking about that 3 pm slump in energy that typically has us turning to bags of chips or sugary lattes to get through to EOD. We know we have and we are here to help you!
So, why do we experience the afternoon snack attack?
It’s normal to feel a little slower immediately after eating. Blood flows to your stomach and intestinal system as part of digestion—meaning there may be a little less in your brain. This is why some people like to go for a short walk after a meal to get the blood flowing again. But the reasons behind the afternoon snack attack are a little bit different than that.
Eating a large meal for lunch can leave you feeling sluggish in the afternoon. Eating a carb-heavy meal for lunch can also cause you to get a hunger spike after digesting it—making you less likely to feel full until dinnertime. Cue the snacking.
A high protein or high fiber meal will be digested by your body more slowly so you will stay fuller longer and may be less likely to snack. However, snacking can still happen if you don’t eat enough for lunch. If you naturally tend to eat a smaller lunch, planning on consuming a healthy and well-chosen snack can help you eat enough calories to keep going until the end of the work day.
We also know there’s a connection between stress and emotional eating, and nowhere does this seem to be more true than in the mid-afternoon.
Work can be an extremely stressful environment full of acute stressors like deadlines, distractions, and back-to-back meetings. Afternoon and early evening is also the time when many parents must balance school pick-ups and extracurricular activities. All of this can have us turning to a snack to power through.
Being bored can also be a common occurrence at work. After being motivated all morning and banging out task after task, we may start to burn out in the afternoon. That’s when we reach for that 3 pm snack as a reward for finishing a dull task or a distraction from even starting one.
Overcoming eating from boredom is something that can start to be addressed by practicing mindful eating and taking a moment to see if our bodies are truly hungry before snacking.
We talk a lot about how important sleep is for your healthy weight loss journey. Not getting enough sleep may disrupt your hunger hormones and cause you to make poor food choices later that day. That’s right—your best defense against the afternoon snack attack starts the night before.
Sorry, caffeine is not the answer
For those who think they’ve overcome the afternoon snack attack by going for a coffee run instead, think again.
While the jolt from a latte may help you shake off the sleepiness, late afternoon caffeine may impact how well you sleep later (and as we discussed, a good night’s sleep is important). Plus, you haven’t nourished your body with what it really wants: sustenance (and no, the sugar and milk in the latte doesn’t count). If you still want to stop by the coffee cart, try herbal tea instead.
Or better yet—try one of these healthy and filling afternoon snack ideas.
Healthy afternoon snack recipes
- Cottage cheese or yogurt: You can count on the dairy section of your grocery store to deliver. With high levels of protein, both cottage cheese and Greek yogurt make excellent and portable snack options. Add in some of your favorite fruits to round them out as complete snacks.
- Hummus and carrots: Another easy afternoon snack idea, hummus with carrots is full of protein and fiber to help keep you full.
- Apple with peanut butter: A staple of school cafeteria lunches, fiber-rich apples with protein-packed peanut butter continue to come through in the snack department. Select a natural and/or low-sugar peanut butter to healthify this classic snack even further.
- Protein smoothie: Keep your protein levels high and your body feeling full with a delicious smoothie with added protein powder. A portable blender bottle can help you prepare the smoothie ingredients in the morning and then blend and sip in the afternoon.
We know the lure of the afternoon snack is strong, but falling into bad habits can hinder your weight loss progress. Use the tips and ideas above to shift your thinking around the 3 pm snack. We’re also definitely not saying it’s time to abandon snack time. Instead, we’re working at being smarter about how and when we snack!