Do you ever have a healthy lunch and feel full, only to find yourself snacking an hour or two later? This usually happens to me around 2 p.m. I don’t want coffee because it’s too early in the afternoon, but all of a sudden that bowl of candy looks really appetizing.
[Related: 5 Ways to Stay Healthier During the Workday]
A little sugar will perk you right up, right? You tell yourself that you’ll be more productive if you have a snack, and it totally works! After eating sugar, we feel an initial burst of energy similar to Superman around Kryptonite. However, this high is usually followed by a crash. Annie Herzog, a Registered Dietician, explains why this occurs:
“When we eat carbohydrate-containing foods, our bodies release the hormone insulin to pull sugar out of the bloodstream and onto our cells. This is a good thing. However, when the carbs we eat are in the form of simple sugars and highly processed, we digest them very quickly and they enter the blood rapidly. This causes a huge insulin release because glucose (sugar) in the blood at very high levels is toxic and the body is trying to lower the levels as quickly as possible. Hence the sugar ‘rush’ and then the subsequent ‘crash.’ After insulin takes all that glucose out of the blood, we are left with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and feel hungry and tired. And so the cycle continues.”
So should I just stick to eating carrots as a snack? Herzog states that it is less about consuming the appropriate snacks and more about having a balanced diet throughout the day.
“This keeps blood sugar stable because carbs are absorbed slowly and insulin is released more gradually. The foods that slow digestion and absorption are fats, protein, and high-fiber complex carbs. Someone eating a combination of healthy fats, proteins, and complex carbs from unprocessed foods for meals and snacks should not have that afternoon slump.”
The following diet tips from Herzog will help you avoid crashing during the day.
If you’re looking to change up your morning meal, try eggs and whole wheat toast, oatmeal with greek yogurt and fruit, or a banana with peanut butter.
Instead of eating a Chipotle burrito, try something healthier like a turkey and avocado sandwich on whole wheat bread with an apple or a spinach salad with walnuts, chicken breast, veggies, and balsamic vinaigrette.
Healthy snacks on the go can be delicious too! Choose from Greek yogurt with almond slivers, apple and peanut butter, cheese and whole grain crackers, veggie sticks with hummus, whole grain cereal with blueberries and milk, or a handful of mixed nuts instead of unhealthy candy next time you’re feeling snacky.
Herzog avoidance foods list also gave us.
The No-No List
Consuming processed foods packs your body with harmful chemicals that you don’t need. This ranges from shakes and energy drinks to protein bars and candy – even if it looks like fruit! “You can trick your body for a while into thinking it’s getting what it needs to stay alert, but eventually the crash comes and it sucks. Nothing can replace real nutrition from REAL food,” said Herzog.
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