The worst time of day: when your alarm goes off and you really have to get up for work. The second worst time of day: when 3 p.m. hits and you’re freaking starving. Hello, hanger o’clock! Nice to see you again. (Not.)
Surprisingly, hanger is a legit biological phenomenon. When blood sugar levels drop, it’s normal to feel a bit sad, mad, or just emotional. It can happen to any of us, even healthy eating experts. The difference between the wellness pros and, well, everyone else, is that they know what types of foods can help curb hanger (and prevent it from striking in the first place).
Experts generally agree that meals and snacks containing protein and healthy fats are going to keep you full longer than carb-based ones, and affect blood sugar levels less—which means your mood will be more even, too. Of course a snack isn’t going to effectively ward off hanger if it isn’t satisfying. If it doesn’t hit the spot, chances are, you’ll be rummaging through the kitchen later 20 minutes later, looking for something that will.
So what’s a healthy eater to do? Here, nine healthy eating experts share their favorite easy healthy snacks to ward off that dreaded afternoon sluggishness. Your stomach and mood will thank you.
1. Fiber-rich smoothies
Celebrity nutritionist, best-selling author, and Well+Good Council member Kimberly Snyder, CN, starts every morning off with a breakfast that she knows will keep her full until lunchtime (but it can work really well as a snack in the afternoon, too). “I either make my Glowing Green Smoothie or my Power Protein Smoothie, both of which are loaded with so much amazing and beautifying fiber, which keeps you more full so that you tend to eat less heavier foods throughout the day,” she says. Fiber, FTW!
Registered dietitian Erica Ingraham, RD‘s go-to snack has plenty of fiber and protein: edamame. “This is a nutrient-dense snack that’s easy to pack on the go,” she says. “Edamame is a rich source of protein and fiber which can help you avoid the blood sugar crash that leads to hanger. It’s also a good source of several micronutrients including folate, vitamin C, and vitamin K. If you buy the frozen pods, simply boil or microwave and they’re ready to eat straight or pop them into a salad. It’s a great snack option or addition to your meal.”
3. Eggs, fruit, and veggies
“When I build snacks I opt for ones that add nutrition to my overall day,” registered dietitian Maya Feller, RD, says, giving the inspiration for one of her go-tos: two hard boiled eggs, one whole fruit, and one serving of veggies (she loves cucumbers and bell peppers). “In general I steer clear of refined grains and added sugars as they can produce unwanted glucose spikes followed by a crash. These snacks are a good combination of fat and or proteins with carbohydrates. I lean toward minimally- processed options coming from recognizable food sources,” she says.
You know those moments when you’re actually not all that hungry, but you still want to eat something? Registered dietitian Malena Perdomo, RD, likes to nosh on grapes in those moments. “Grapes are very satisfying because I get to eat it one by one, and it helps with hydration due to their water content,” she says. “They are refreshing and filling, and it gives me the energy to keep on going until my next meal.”
5. Greek yogurt and frozen fruit
Registered dietitian Ally Gottfried, RD, likes Greek yogurt topped with fruit to keep hanger away because of its nutrient balance: “You want to try and include protein, fat and carbohydrate source if you can, and also fiber, which promotes satiety and will get you safely to the next meal,” she says. She pairs her snack with a big glass of water as, like Perdomo, she says that not drinking enough H20 can contribute to feeling moody.
6. Blueberry yogurt bark
Registered dietitian Christy Brissette, RD, turns to the same type of snack as Gottfried (yogurt and fruit), but the way she preps it is a little different. “I mix non-fat, plain Greek yogurt with fresh or frozen blueberries and 100-percent pure Canadian maple syrup. I pour it onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. You can also add some crushed nuts and shaved dark chocolate, if you like. Put in the freezer to set, and then break into pieces. You’ll end up with delicious yogurt bark!” Protein, calcium, *and* a delicious summer treat… that’s a win in my book.
7. Peanut butter and fruit
“One of my all-time favorites is the classic combo of fruit and peanut butter,” Street Smart Nutrition‘s registered dietitian Cara Harbstreet, MS, RD says. “Fruits like apples and bananas are portable and easy to pack without the need for cold storage, and nut butters can now be found in convenient single-serve packs—although there’s no shame in stashing an entire jar in your desk drawer or gym bag if needed.” Hey, it’s a classic hanger solution for a reason.
8. Lesser Evil Snacks Egg White Curls
In times of hanger, registered dietitian Mascha Davis, RD, reaches for a serving of Lesser Evil Snacks Egg White Curls ($30 for nine bags): “They have six grams of protein—as much as one egg per serving—and healthy fats, and make an awesome road trip or beach snack,” she says.
9. Flax seed crackers
When Amanda Maucere, RDN, a wellness dietitian at the Lung Health Institute, wants something salty and crunchy, she reaches for a serving of Doctors in the Kitchen Flackers Rosemary Flax Seed Crackers ($13). “The flax seeds that make up these ‘crackers’ are soaked and dehydrated so that they are easier to chew and digest which makes all the nutrients they contain, including a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids, more easily absorbed by the body,” she says. “Flax seeds are an amazing source of fiber too, if that’s lacking in your diet.”
For more healthy snack ideas, check out this roundup of minimally processed foods. And this is what fitness trainers eat for energy.
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