Top 3 afternoon snacks
It’s 3 o’clock and you’re at your desk, eyes staring blurrily at your screen, trying not to yawn for the umpteenth time that afternoon. Ah, the old 3 o’clock slump. Time to grab a coffee – and a sugary treat.
While a walk outside in the fresh air is a great way to increase energy levels – and give your eyes a much-needed break from that computer screen – grabbing that coffee and cake is not actually the best way to curb those sugar cravings and keep you focused for the rest of the day.
Health coach Anna Chisholm says many people fall into the trap of reaching for caffeine in the afternoon, instead of snacking on something more substantial. They might think they’re reducing the number of calories they consume this way when it fact the opposite might be true.
If you’re in the habit of choosing a latte or flat white, you’re actually consuming huge quantities of milk with a high fat content, Chisholm says. As well as the milk factor, the coffee itself isn’t doing us any favours. When we consume caffeine, our bodies release large quantities of the stress hormone cortisol, which is linked to weight gain and moodiness, not to mention a spate of long-term problems including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Here are some alternatives for revitalising the brain and replenishing the body come 3pm.
Drink herbal tea
The afternoon coffee often comes after a morning coffee, meaning you’re doubling your calorie-dense milk intake. “If you do have the coffee in the morning it's starting that energy spike by spiking your blood sugar,” Chisholm says. “But then you crash and feel flat again. You have another coffee and you spike, then crash beneath your plateau.”
Try to avoid caffeine completely and load up on water. Or if you’re sick of water, try adding lemon to increase the flavour. If you’re craving a mug of hot chocolate, try a lemongrass and ginger tea instead. “You’ve still got that warm comfort and the hydration, without the caffeine,” says Chisholm.
Snack on veggies
If your choice was between a coffee and a glazed donut, then Chisholm says stick to the coffee. However, snacking on whole foods such as walnuts, fresh fruit or raw vegetables, will not only keep you feeling full for longer, it will add huge nutritional value to your day.
“People reach for a high sugar snack just to get that quick burst of energy. But it just keeps doing the same thing and you keep plunging lower and lower so that by the end of the day you feel absolutely exhausted,” she says.
You're far better off having something like vegetables and hummus so that your blood sugar isn't going to keep spiking even more. “The veggies are high in fibre and water content that's actually going to keep you feeling full for longer. If you eat a sugary snack like a biscuit, you’re not having that much fibre and water content and you won’t feel full. You’ll be ready for another one a few minutes later.”
Enjoy natural sugars
Not all of us can live off water and vegetables alone. “Our body is designed to crave sweet things, to seek pleasure and avoid pain,” explains Chisholm. “The sweet things are what we enjoy because they would have been available in nature back in the day.”
But she says there are other ways to satisfy a sweet tooth than by consuming chocolate or cakes. A home cooked banana and oat cookie will fill you up and leave you feeling satisfied. As well as tasting sweet, the banana is packed with antioxidants and nutrients.
The anti-sugar movement has caused many people to say no to fruit, but Chisholm says there’s nothing wrong with eating fruit or even dried fruit such as dates and sultanas. “The fruit that we crave is actually a good thing. Just be sure to get organic sultanas or ones from farmer's markets where they come in a big barrel, as the ones in packets usually come saturated in oil.”