Sensible Snacking in the Afternoon

Written By: Elizabeth Daeninck, MS, RD

Title: Registered Dietitian

Alumni: Colorado State University

Last Updated on:

So all of a sudden 3 p.m. arrives and you can’t stop thinking about an afternoon snack. Does this sound like you? If so, you’re not alone. Many people experience strong cravings for something to munch on right about this time.

Here’s the scoop… Your body is telling you that you should eat because your blood sugar is dropping after not eating since lunch – which was probably at least a few hours ago. And if lunch was full of carbohydrates (and not much else), like a Chinese meal of stir-fried vegetables and rice, you are likely to have a BIG craving for something loaded with even more carbohydrates (like a cookie, chocolate bar, soda, pretzels, or potato chips). If you had very little (or nothing) to eat at breakfast, you are even more likely to experience late afternoon hunger!

The problem is that the vending machines down the hall offer few healthy snack options. Besides, if you’re so hungry that you’re willing to face the vending machines, chances are pretty good that even if there were healthy choices available, you would “treat” yourself to a less than healthy snack. Treating yourself once in awhile is not a bad idea, but when you are visiting the vending machines more days than not, the treats can add on the calories (and weight) quickly…

So, what do you do if you find that you have the “munchies” at 3-4pm?

Don’t deprive yourself

If you deny yourself a snack now, you are more likely to overeat at dinner, or graze from the time you walk in the door at home until dinner is ready.

Avoid the vending machines

Normally, I encourage walking as much as possible, but in this case, the short walk you take to the vending machine will not even come close to canceling out the extra calories you consume from most vending machine foods. Besides, by skipping the vending machine goodies, you will not only save on your calorie budget, but your financial budget too!

Evaluate your hunger

Stop and think about whether you’re truly hungry, or if you are eating out of boredom or habit – both common reasons for wanting to eat. This will help you to void taking in calories your body doesn’t need (if you are concerned about reducing your weight) and make you more aware of your reasons for eating.

Prioritize a plan

Knowing what you will have for a snack is the most important step to success. By planning and having healthy snacks readily available, you will be in a better position to eat healthy when you are hungry and most vulnerable to poor choices.

The Bottom Line

Taking the time to plan for a healthy afternoon snack is key to your success. Deciding what to eat for your afternoon snack before you feel the need to eat will help keep you on track with choosing healthy foods. Having a variety of healthy snack options on-hand at the office will help reduce the likelihood that you will head down the hall to the vending machines and indulge in an unhealthy treat. Here are a few examples of what you can keep at the office for when you need that snack: nuts and fruit, beef or turkey jerky with cherry tomatoes, crackers with a cheese stick, yogurt and dried fruits, cottage cheese with red bell peppers.


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