You know the feeling. Your shoulders sag forward, your eyelids are heavier than paperweights, you’ve read and reread the same sentence seven times in a row…it’s the dreaded 3 p.m. slump, and your options for a quick pick-me-up feel few and far between. Impromptu headstand? You’re frightening your officemates. Car nap? Try not to get fired. Instead, you slug another cup of caffeine, only to find yourself tossing and turning at midnight, the cycle beginning again the following day. (Find out 5 other things that make you tired, here.)
Put down the coffee pot. There are other great options for an instant energy upgrade, says Keri Gans, Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist and author of The Small Change Diet—they just take a bit of know-how and planning ahead.
The key to beating the dreaded afternoon slump, Gans says, is being prepared with healthy snacks on-hand, specifically, foods with carbs for quick energy, and that are high in fiber, protein, and/or healthy fats to provide longer-lasting energy, without the jolt of caffeine.
“A lot of times, when we’re crashing in the middle of the day, we’re simply hungry,” says Gans. “What you need is carbs, that’s the bottom line. Then, protein and fat keep you satiated longer, so it’s a win-win.”
Clear out some space in your desk drawer or office fridge for these 8 snacks that pack a true energy punch:
A fresh piece of fruit + a serving of almonds. “It’s perfect: healthy, with quick energy, and so portable,” says Gans. And, you’ll be pleased to hear that Gans chuckles at the notion that we should steer clear of certain kinds of fruit. “The carbs and sugar in fruit is natural,” she says. Oranges, bananas, grapes—they’re all delicious and fair game.
Roasted edamame. Peeking in her own cabinets, Gans spots this favorite energy-boosting food—”it’s very high in fiber and very high in protein.” To make this nutty, chewy snack, simply thaw frozen shelled edamame beans, toss with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper, and roast on a baking sheet at 375°F for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes until the beans begin to dark and crisp up. Gans recommends a ¼ cup serving.
Baked black bean or lentil chips + The Laughing Cow spreadable cheese wedges. “It sounds weird, but cheese and chips is a great combo for energy,” says Gans. “Just smear it on!” The baked chips are packed with protein and fiber, and The Laughing Cow Light spreadable wedges boast 7 flavors and 35 calories each. Try the Light Queso Fresco & Chipotle flavor. “Spicy can wake you up!” says Gans. For more foods packed with fiber, check out this list of 15 healthy high-fiber foods that make you feel full and satisfied.
Low-fat chocolate milk. “You could be dragging because you’re dehydrated,” says Gans. “Sometimes, something cold and refreshing is all you need.” Gans buys Organic Valley’s individual drinks; “I love them as a pick-me-up.” For more help in the hydration department, definitely check out these 10 ways to drink more water.
Greek yogurt + fresh berries. Go for the low-fat, not non-fat, version of this go-to snack, Gans offers. “You want that little bit of fat for energy with staying power.”
Grapefruit wedges + cottage cheese. Again, opt for the healthy fats from low-fat (2% milkfat) cottage cheese (Gans likes the 90-calorie Breakstone version). Pair a hearty scoop with grapefruit wedges for an instant pick-me-up, courtesy of the protein in the cottage cheese, grapefruit’s natural carbs, and the aroma of citrus that instantly awakens your senses.
KIND bars. “They’re low in sugar, high in fiber, and easy to take along with you,” says Gans. “I love the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt, and a new one, the Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond.” You had us at dark chocolate!
Yasso Frozen Greek Yogurt Bars. You can’t go wrong with a sweet treat that also fights the urge to doze off under your desk. Gans digs the Mint Chocolate Chip Yasso bars—the minty taste wakes up your senses, and you’ll get an energy boost from 13g of sugar (a lot of it coming naturally from the lactose, she says), and staying power from 6g of protein, but all with only 100 calories. Prefer Peanut Butter Cup or 80-calorie Mango? Lucky for you, there are currently 11 flavor choices.