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October 21, 2010 - Kathie Evanoff
We may think the reason we reach for a snack in the middle of the afternoon is due to boredom, but the reality is most people can’t go a full six hours or more from lunch to dinner without our bodies telling us we need to refuel. While we may not need an full meal to get us through that time of day, we do need something to keep up our energy and avoid the dreaded mid-afternoon crash we all seem to get around 3 p.m. It can be particularly daunting at work because there are times when we all need to get up and walk away from our computers, stretch our legs and give our eyes a break, and where else is there to go but to the vending machines for a snack?
To avoid the pull of the vending machine, I am constantly on the lookout for healthier choices than bags of chips, packages of cookies or worse yet, 300-calorie candy bars. The reason for eating between meals is to keep our metabolism going and our blood sugar on an even keel. I find when I miss that mid-afternoon snack due to a particularly busy afternoon, I am usually starving by the time I get home and tend to overeat at dinner. This is due to a drop in blood sugar caused by going six or more hours between lunch and dinner.
The best way to avoid this problem is to be prepared. But there are more ways to be prepared than just impulsively stuffing something in our purse or pocket before we head out the may not be all that appealing five or six hours later. Too often by 3 p.m., what we brought along for a snack isn’t what we want and there’s good reason for that as well.
When we’re hungry, our body is telling us we need fuel. Sugar-laden or high-fat salty carbohydrates are used up quickly in our systems, usually causing that dreaded mid-day crash that leaves us feeling exhausted and dragging. And also when we have that bag of chips or that candy bar, we find we are still starving not long after. What we need is protein, a bit of healthy fat and some high-fiber complex carbohydrates to keep us going the rest of the day. We don’t need a lot, but we want to be satisfied so that we don’t miss or feel deprived over not getting those chips or candy bars.
Don’t fall for those 100-calorie snack packages that resemble cookies, chips or other snacks. They are first of all too expensive and secondly leave us feeling deprived when what we really want is half a package, not just a bite-size portion.
The next time you go shopping, include snack size plastic bags or containers. Designate a set time once or twice a week to make up your snacks for work or at home and keep them handy in the refrigerator or pantry for tossing easily into your lunch bag.
Carry a fun lunch bag. Brown bags are okay, but c’mon, this is important. You will use this bag at least five days a week to carry enough fuel to get you through the day. Invest in something fun that you will enjoy carrying. If you can’t find what you like in the container section at the department store, check out the camping section for small cooler-type bags.
Here are a few suggestions for simple, but healthy snacks that could help get us through the day without wrecking our health:
1. Wrap a few carrots or celery sticks in two individual slices of lean turkey breast from the deli. Take along half an apple, sliced and a quarter cup cottage cheese blended smooth for a dip.
2. Half a small bagel or one slice whole wheat bread spread with peanut or almond butter and a piece of string cheese.
3. Take more of that smoothly blended cottage cheese and add your favorite herbs, such as garlic powder, parsley, Italian seasoning, chopped tomato and other vegetables or whatever you like and a serving (usually 10) small whole wheat crackers for dipping.
4. Half an apple sliced thinly and a couple teaspoons almond or peanut butter. (The more slices you make, the longer it will take you to eat them and you’ll have time to feel satisfied).
5. Make your own healthy trail mix using your favorite nuts, dried fruit and dry-whole grain cereal. Portion the mix into small snack-size bags or containers so you don’t overindulge. Remember that nuts, although full of protein and healthy fat, are high in calories.
6. If you have access to a microwave, you can make a small baked potato topped with salsa and low-fat sour cream.
7. Eat half your lunch sandwich at noon and save the other half for your afternoon snack.
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