It’s no secret, America has become a snacking nation. Whether it’s a bar on the way out the door or a quick grab-and-go cheese tray purchased from the coffee shop, snacking is everywhere. (And in some cases, it’s replacing main meals, too.)
According to a 2017 survey, $33 billion is spent annually on individual snacking foods, with more consumers (44.2 percent actually) willing to pay the high price for these convenience items.
While convenience is king, it’s also very costly. Just think of that snack tray, say it’s $5.09. Surely 10 almonds, a handful of crackers and a few apple slices does not cost that much!
When it comes down to it, the key to smarter snacking is to plan and prepare.
Planning helps to ensure you are hitting the big three macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) in your choices. Focusing on complex carbs (hello, fiber-rich foods like whole grains) helps keep you fuller for longer.
Preparing not only helps keep your hard-earned dollars in your pocket but also ensures you are NEVER without food. And let’s be real, HANGER is a real thing!
To liven up your snacking game while keeping your sanity in tow, I’ve outlined smarter snacking choices to help boost your midday slump.
And, spoiler alert, I’m throwing in chocolate (yes, chocolate) so you can see how it can be enjoyed, too!
6 Ways to Snack Smarter
“Hard-boiled eggs are my go-to when I need a midday boost,” says Emily Kyle, MS, RDN, of Emily Kyle Nutrition in New York. “With my own flock of chickens, I regularly have these nutritious, high-protein gems on hand and hard-boil them in large batches so they are easily accessible during the workweek. When I have extra time, or feeling fancy, I love to make these hemp and avocado deviled eggs, which pack in extra heart-healthy fats from the avocado and hempseeds.”
Sunflower Seed Butter and Whole-Grain Crackers
“Snack attacks can easily creep up on you, so I love to be prepared. This is especially important for those with food allergies because it’s harder to just pick up a safe snacking option. As someone with multiple food allergies, I always have an individual portion of SunButter (protein) and whole-grain crackers (fiber) in my bag for emergencies,” says Chelsey Amer, MS, RDN, CDN, a New York City–based virtual dietitian and creator of CitNutritionally.com.
Dried Fruit, Cream Cheese and Deli Meat
Yes, you can enjoy this midday, according to chef and registered dietitian Tessa Nguyen, RD, LDN, of Taste Nutrition Coaching. “My favorite afternoon snack is a few dried plums/apricots with a smear of cream cheese and a little prosciutto or ham wrapped around them!” she says. “I use a toothpick to keep them together and add a basil leaf. This makes me feel fancy and is totally worth it (but not necessary if you don’t have any or are strapped for time). I make a batch at the beginning of the week so I can just grab a couple when I’m jonesin’ for something sweet and salty.”
A fan of the crunch but not a fan of nuts? Then roasted chickpeas are for you! “If you find yourself reaching for a crunchy snack, try roasted chickpeas. They’re crunchy, can be flavored many ways, are full of plant-based protein and fiber, and are a great option for those with nut allergies or kids in nut-free schools,” says Lindsey Janeiro, RDN, CLT, of Nutrition fo Fit.
Cheese Stick and Grapes
“Power up with protein,” says Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, a NYC-based registered dietitian. “When that ‘afternoon slump’ hour hits, you probably crave some not-so-good-for-you foods like desserts and chips. My favorite way to fight off cravings is to opt for some better-for-you alternatives that will actually satisfy hunger. My snack of choice is a cheese stick with some grapes because the cheese stick provides around 8 grams of protein to fill me up and the grapes satisfy my sweet tooth. Plus, eating that combination makes me feel like I’m enjoying a fancy cheese plate.”
Movie Theater Mix: 1 Tablespoon Dark Chocolate Chips, 2 Cups Popcorn and Roasted Almonds
Is there anything better than nuts and chocolate come midafternoon? I think not! That’s why I like to pre-portion individual bags to satisfy my chocolate fix (hello, dark chocolate chips) with air-popped popcorn and a handful of roasted almonds. While the nuts provide heart-healthy fats, the chocolate is full of antioxidants and the popcorn provides a whole-grain and filling source of fiber, too! Be sure to portion ahead of time so you’re not faced with making the decision at your desk to have more than one serving.
And, remember, get creative! By planning and preparing ahead of time, there are endless possibilities to smarter snacking that will satisfy and satiate your hanger!