More Americans reported snacking as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and 26% reported snacking multiple times a day with 38% replacing meals with snacks according to 2020 data from the Food & Health Survey from the International Food Information Council. If you get hangry like me, it’s beneficial to have an idea of what snacks may help you get through the workday.
Nutritionists point to the types of snacks that may help boost energy and productivity versus perpetuate that midday slump. Sustained energy throughout the day is best met with snacks rich in protein, fiber, and healthy fats, says Dr. Linda Anegawa, an internal and obesity medicine physician and medical director at PlushCare, which offers primary care and mental health services.
“Proteins and fats provide more slow-release energy than other types of foods, which helps avoid sugar crashes that can diminish energy,” she says.
Carbohydrates alone are digested faster and may promote quick bursts of energy but not sustained energy, says Angela Blackstone, a registered dietitian at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. She recommends pairing carbohydrates with foods rich in fiber and protein and avoiding ultra-processed, sugary, pro-inflammatory foods that contribute to an increased risk for chronic diseases. Think of snacking as ways to incorporate more nutrients and antioxidant-rich whole foods into your day.
Even having snacks on hand in preparation for a busy workday can be beneficial.
“Be mindful when snacking. Plan and prepare snacks in advance by having foods cut, washed, and portioned out,” says Blackstone.
And monitor your “hunger cues” that say it’s snack time. They may surface in the form of fatigue, low energy, or irritability, says Jenna Amos, a registered dietitian and nutrition manager at Freshly, a meal delivery service.
Here are five snacks that can help boost energy midday:
A cup of greek yogurt is high in protein and low in sugar, packed with calcium, probiotics, and vitamin B12. This snack can help give you more sustained energy throughout the day. It may also improve bone health—which can be extra beneficial for those working from a desk all day, Anegawa says.
Nuts are an easy go-to snack that can help with “sustained energy,” Anegawa says, adding that they are rich in protein and “heart healthy fats.”
“If you enjoy a sweet and salty flavor combo, add in a tablespoon of stevia-sweetened dark chocolate chips,” she says.
Hard-boiled eggs are packed with protein and antioxidants and are good to have on hand.
“Add a cheese stick in for extra satisfaction,” Anegawa says. “If saturated fat is something you are aiming to reduce, go for a part-skim version.”
Raw vegetables and hummus
Raw vegetables have fiber and antioxidants like vitamins A, K, and folate, which can help you feel full and maintain energy. Consider a side of hummus with one cup of carrots, cucumbers, and bell peppers, Blackstone says.
Chickpeas are another easy-access snack that contain high levels of fiber and protein. Consider roasting them with a few spices to add flavor (I personally roast chickpeas with paprika, cumin, and some cayenne).
Eating every three to four hours to curb hunger pains is normal, Blackstone says, so don’t beat yourself up for grabbing a snack to make it through the workday. It’s about knowing which foods can provide that sense of satisfaction and fullness that are also going to help you sustain energy.
“Snacking looks different for every person, every day. More active days may require more snacks, while a more sedentary day may require fewer or no snacks,” Amos says. “Snacks should be viewed as a mini-meal fuel source to hold ourselves over until a more substantial meal later in the day.”