We’ve all been there: the clock strikes 3 and suddenly we’re so tired it could be bedtime! Most of us don’t have the luxury of taking a nap so it’s coffee and a pastry. Whatever can get us through the day, right? What if I told you that there is a healthy alternative to your afternoon pick-me-up—something that will not only help you get through the day, but get through it with real energy, sans blood sugar crash later. Sounds too good to be true right? Well, it’s not, and in this article, I’m sharing healthy snacks to boost energy and nourish your body.
Unhealthy Snacks & Drinks to Ditch
Bad news first. There are common drinks and snacks that the majority of people reach for that are zapping energy, draining the adrenals, and throwing blood sugar levels out of whack. While these sneaky go-tos may give you that initial burst of energy and feel-good hormones, it won’t be long until they’ll leave you even more tired than before. Here are the snacks and drinks to avoid when confronted with the dreaded afternoon slump:
Sodas contain artificial sugar and caffeine, two things which should be avoided for healthy energy levels. Artificial sweeteners themselves are becoming a huge concern due to their potential side effects and health hazards. I know that soft drinks taste good (I was once addicted to Sprite!) but I encourage you to not get lured into drinking them to get you over your afternoon slump. If the bubbles are something you crave, try carbonated water with citrus or berries.
Coffee and Caffeine
Coffee and caffeine are already major stressors to the adrenals and energy levels. These should especially be avoided during the afternoon as caffeine can disrupt sleep.
One study found that caffeine consumption didn’t make up for lack of sleep and can worsen overall brain performance! In fact, caffeine doesn’t actually make you feel more awake and energized. It only blocks the receptors in the body that tell your brain it’s tired! That’s a trick we do not want to be playing on our bodies.
Avoid coffee and caffeine from energy drinks, green tea, black tea, and yerba mate, during the afternoon slump.
Processed sugars or even too much natural sugar (think fruit juices) can cause blood sugar spikes. When you eat something high in sugar, you may notice that you feel immediately great until that inevitable crash and burn less than an hour later! You may also notice that you feel more frazzled, anxious, and stressed after consuming lots of sugar. If you are reaching for sugar to help get you through the work day or an important project, foods high in sugar should be avoided at all costs.
Refined carbohydrates, also known as simple or bad, include refined grains adn sugars that have been stripped of all fiber, brain, and nutrients. Think white bread, pasta, pastries, white flour, breakfast cereals and sweet desserts. Oftentimes, when the afternoon slump comes around we crave refined carbs. The problem is, refined carbs create inflammation in the body and are a source of empty calories! We want nourishment.
Fast Food & Deep Fried Food
Sometimes fast food seems like the only practical solution for an afternoon time crunch. But fast food and deep fried foods contain rancid oils and bad PUFAs that lead to inflammation and wreak havoc on adrenal function. Avoiding fast food may require food prep, but as you’ll realize, your body and energy levels will thank you!
What to Focus on When Choosing a Healthy Alternative
Blood Sugar Balance
It’s true, skipping meals can create blood sugar swings, but so can compulsive eating and eating poor food choices (ehem, everything mentioned above!). When choosing a healthy snack alternative or healthy drink alternative, it’s important to prioritize blood sugar balance and optimal hydration.
#1 – A balanced “meal” doesn’t really have to look like a meal. It can also be a snack that contains healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and protein.
#2 – Staying hydrated helps to give you an immediate energy boost and curb cravings of processed foods that spike blood sugar.
Let’s dive into the best foods to support these two key guidelines.
Healthy Drink & Healthy Snack Alternatives for Your Afternoon Slump
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We wrote a whole article on the best coffee alternatives, but I want to share some of my favorites here. For the woman who loves a warm latte, I invite you to try a golden milk! A golden milk is a delicious combination of turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, honey, and alternative milk. Turmeric is the perfect anti-inflammatory herb to help reduce bodily stress. Ginger (optional) can help stimulate digestion, and we know that a sluggish digestive system means sluggish energy.
For the woman who loves an iced coffee, try making homemade almond milk and adding 2-4 teaspoons or so of cacao powder and a bit of honey. Pour that over ice and you have the yummiest cacao milk ever. While cacao does have a bit of caffeine (4mg compared to coffees 95mg) it is not enough to be concerned about.
Caffeinated Tea Alternative
For my tea drinking ladies, peppermint has a natural energizing aroma and impact on the mind and body. Enjoy peppermint tea hot or cold when the afternoon comes around.
Energy Drinks Alternative
And for the woman who loves a fruity refresher, our Hydration Superfood Energy is your new BFF. This formula is packed with energizing B vitamins, hydrating superfoods, and potent antioxidants and vitamins for cellular rejuvenation, detoxification, and of course—energy. It’s an addictive strawberry-kiwi flavor perfect for warmer weather.
Dried Fruit and Nuts
A classic trail mix is a great snack for energy and blood sugar balance. You can either make your own or find one without any added sugar or oil. Raw nuts (almonds, cashews, brazil nuts), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower) paired with dried fruits like cranberries and apricots is the perfect combo of healthy fats and fiber. You can even get fancy and add some shredded coconut for an extra boost of healthy fats and yumminess.
Chia seeds are high in fiber, protein, and healthy fat. To make this snack, take two tablespoons of chia seeds and mix them into half of a cup of dairy milk. Option to add stevia, honey, or maple syrup. Top with berries, if you feel so inclined.
Smoothies aren’t just for breakfast. You can enjoy them any time of the day. They are the perfect way to fill the body with healthy fats and nutrients, without having to make a full meal. This is my favorite go-to recipe:
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or milk of choice)
- 1 heaping cup of frozen berries
- ¼ to ½ avocado flesh for healthy fat
- 1 tablespoon of Beauty Complex
- 1 scoop of nut butter, optional
- 2 tsp. Of chia seed, optional
Add the first 5 ingredients to a power blender and blend until smooth.
You can either prep your own hummus at the beginning of the week or buy a hummus without any unhealthy oils. Look for a hummus made with extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil. Then, pair your hummus with GF crackers, sliced turkey or leftover fatty fish, carrots, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, and olives.
Hard Boiled Eggs
Meal prep hard boiled eggs at the beginning of the week to stay prepared for when you get hungry in the mid-afternoon. You can pair your hard boiled eggs with turkey or mash them up into an egg salad with healthy mayo.
Cucumber, Tomato, and Avocado Salad
This simple salad is a classic way to stay hydrated and happy. Sliced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, avocado, red onion, a crushed garlic clove, olive oil, and a splash of vinegar is all you need to make this light and refreshing snack. I love to add apple cider vinegar to this, as ACV helps balance blood sugar, maintain even energy, and prevent fatigue. Because of it’s high potassium levels, it is wonderful at inviting in fresh, natural energy!
Avocado and lemon
Avocado with a squeeze of lemon, a sprinkle of salt, and a spoon is one of the best snacks for fuel and focus!
If you want to get a little fancier with an avocado, turn it into guacamole! Don’t skimp on the cilantro—this herb is incredible at flushing out toxins and heavy metals. Pair your guac with carrots, celery, cucumbers, and GF crackers for a refreshing and hydrating afternoon pick me up.
Sweet potatoes are one of the best nourishing complex carbs. Roast a couple of sweet potatoes during your meal prep and make this snack in a cinch. Top with nut butter, coconut oil, or yogurt for a filling snack.
Other Afternoon Pick Me Ups
If we move away from food and drinks for a minute, we can look at the other ways to boost energy during that midday slump:
- Take a walk outside
- Lie down with legs up the wall
- Jump on a mini trampoline
- Inhale energizing essential oils
- Take a cold shower
- Sit in the sun for 15 minutes
I hope this article has inspired you to try out a new afternoon pick me up! Let me know in the comments below which you are going to try this week!