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It’s 3 p.m. and you’ve nailed your post-lunch appointments, gotten a few deadlines out of the way, and snuck in some sneaky push-ups behind your desk to keep your motivation bubbling away.
Suddenly, everything slurps into slow motion. You’re… tired? How can this be? You’ve done your mid-shift push-ups and everything! Why are you face-planting on the keyboard? Must… insert… coffee…
But wait! A third option waits in the wings — and it’s pretty tasty: Strategic snacking can return you to that alert, energized state of mind.
First, we’ll give you 21 healthy energy snack options you can try throughout the day to keep you at your prime. Then, we’ll give you a bit of the science behind why snacking can keep you on top.
To the fridge! Well, first, to the science…
Our brains are beautiful and absurdly powerful, but they sure are needy. And one of those needs is constant energy.
“Any time you go longer than 4 to 5 hours without eating, the body’s energy levels can crash significantly,” says New York dietitian Lisa Moskovitz, RD.
“Having a nutrient-rich snack that’s low in sugar and saturated fat will ensure your body has the fuel to keep going so you can easily complete all of your daily tasks.”
And that fuel shouldn’t come from the candy bowl. Eating carbs (read: sugar) and carbs alone is a ticket to the buzz-crash rollercoaster that feels worse than the keyboard faceplant you narrowly avoided.
But since fat and protein slow the rate at which the body sucks up carbs, adding these two bad boys to the mix will mean that snacks gently nudge blood sugar levels upward, rather than causing a spike, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, author of Read It Before You Eat It.
Translation: You get a lift in energy without a crash. Job done. Spreadsheet smashed. High fives administered. Your office managers carry you from the building in celebration, holding you aloft like a trophy alongside banners bearing your name.
Yeah, okay, you really need these snacks. You can’t be having this dream at your desk again.
This list of snacks is perfect for both bringing to work and running errands, and each has a trifecta of nutrients to keep you going harder, better, faster, stronger — even when the toughest slump hits.
For when a full meal is out of the question, but your eyelids are creeping shut.
1. Trail mix
When you toss mixed nuts together with dried fruit (and even bits of dark chocolate), you’ve got an easy-to-wield snack — and one of Taub-Dix’s top recommendations.
Experiment with these trail mix recipes and see which one provides the tastiest, longest-lasting boost.
2. Quinoa classics
With over 8 grams of protein per cup (including all nine essential amino acids) and a healthy dose of iron,
How do you make a grain portable, though? Whip up one of these options:
- cheese and vegetable quinoa bites
- quinoa egg muffins
- cranberry quinoa muffins
3. Apple or banana with peanut butter
The world became a better place when companies started selling nut butters in single-serving, squeeze pouches. (OK, slight exaggeration. But it didn’t hurt.)
Take a grab-and-go fruit like an apple or banana along for the ride, and when an energy emergency strikes, rip open the PB, smear it on, and all will be okay. And delicious. Obviously. Peanut butter makes everything peanut better.
Try these 50 ways to improve your food and life with peanut butter.
Life is a movie, so get poppin’ to put some pep back in your step.
Air-pop some kernels, and use a light hand with the toppings to keep the calorie count low. Moskovitz suggests using just a little olive oil (1 teaspoon for every 2 cups).
We also love using coconut oil.
5. Cheese kebabs
While most cheese provides 6 to 7 grams of protein per ounce, gruyère outshines the bunch with 8.35 grams.
There’s the protein and fat, now add tomatoes or grapes for carbs. Make it fun to eat by spearing cubes of cheese and cherry tomatoes or grapes on toothpicks and storing them in a plastic container.
Proof, once again, that you can never go wrong with cheese.
6. Celery peanut butter and raisins, or “ants on a log”
This snack may be a favorite among the playground crowd, but there’s no reason adults can’t enjoy it too. To jog your memory: It’s peanut butter inside of a celery stick with a few raisins on top.
Easy, cute, and #TBT-worthy. For more mature taste buds, try almond butter with dried cranberries or cashew butter with dried cherries.
Let’s be real, though, if anyone is judging you for eating peanut butter inside a f*cking celery stick, they deserve no place in your circle of friends. Imagine their face when you reveal you grew your own celery?
7. DIY energy-boosting smoothies
When you think of energizing sips, you probably think of coffee, soda, and energy drinks. But whipping up a smoothie is a quick and easy way to give yourself a jolt without hitting the caffeine.
One of Taub-Dix’s favorites is a sweet potato smoothie, and you’ll need the following ingredients:
- 1/2 medium baked sweet potato
- 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1/2 banana (or 1/2 cup berries)
- 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
- 3 ice cubes
Toss in a blender and mix until smooth.
Moskovitz also has an easy-peasy smoothie recipe:
- Blend 6 ounces Greek yogurt with 1 cup fresh fruit and 1 tablespoon peanut butter.
- Pour into a mason jar for effortless portability.
- Brandish the mason jar aloft, knowing you are by far the trendiest person in the whole office.
Kick your day off with a smoothie. Why not.
8. Veggies and hummus
Thanks to individual-serving cups, hummus can be an anywhere, anytime snack. As it should be. Hummus is the cement of the soul.
Dunk veggies like carrot sticks, sliced bell peppers, or jicama for a nutritious kick that’ll keep you going all the way to dinnertime. At which point, you might as well eat more hummus.
9. Chicken, hummus, and veggie lettuce wrap
Oh, look. Hummus is back. Because it isn’t just for dipping! Spread some on a large lettuce leaf and top it with the following delights:
- 2 slices of deli turkey
- 1/4 cup chopped cooked chicken breast (from dinner last night or canned)
- shredded carrots
- thin cucumber slices
Then just roll it up. Add some avocado slices for extra flavor and those all-important healthy fats.
Lettuce wraps needn’t be dweeby little affairs that fail to fill you up. We can think of 31 just off the top of our heads that do the trick.
10. Cayenne roasted chickpeas
Spice up your life, your day, and chickpeas, with this ridiculously easy recipe. Simply season rinsed and drained chickpeas with olive oil, salt, and cayenne pepper, and throw them in the oven for about 15 minutes at 450°F (232°C).
Just goes to show — chickpeas aren’t just for hummus. We found 27 genius ways to use them.
11. Hard-boiled egg
Eggs are no yolk, despite having one (and we will never shy away from a godawful egg pun, not now, not ever).
They pack plenty of protein, as well as the vitamins needed for the body to produce energy, such as thiamin, riboflavin, folate, B12, and B6.
Plus, the hard-boiled version is easy to make in advance, store, and reach for as needed. If you need some help, we’ve got advice on how to make the perfect boiled egg whenever you feel like it.
Almonds gives you nourishing bites of protein and fiber that can keep you going through even the hardiest Zoom meeting.
They also provide magnesium, a mineral that helps produce energy among many, many other important functions. Oh, magnesium. What a busybody. Ooooooh, almonds. What a treat.
Confused? Don’t be. They’re just teeny-tiny wraps. Pinwheels are simple, portable snacks that can also help boost your energy.
Try layering two slices of deli turkey and two slices of cheese in a whole-wheat tortilla, roll it up, then slice it as thinly as you desire. Add any veggies you like since it never hurts to get more in.
The possibilities are endless. Try these healthy lunch wraps to start with, then work your way up to PUTTING EVERYTHING INSIDE A TORTILLA.
14. Dry-roasted edamame
If the only time you nosh on these green-colored beans is when you hit up your favorite sushi spot, you’re missing out on their energy-boosting benefits.
Dry-roasted varieties can help you while you’re on the go. Just pop one in your mouth for a pick-me-up from protein, magnesium, and iron. Iron helps transport oxygen to cells, where it helps release energy.
The humble edamame bean is a sly, versatile beast. Learn more here.
15. Energy bites
Quite simply, these are just a bunch of energy-giving foods smooshed together. But they’re both effective and extremely tasty. We’ve got 33 different recipes you can try, and they all work.
Take your pick from nostalgic peanut butter and jelly, gourmet cranberry pistachio, and treat-yo’self sugar cookie (for real!).
In any flavor, these goodness-crammed balls will snap you out of the worst slow-mo moment.
16. KIND Bars
Though they’re hands-down one of the most convenient snacks, bars get a bad rap — in part down to their often super-high sugar content and processed preservative nonsense.
But KIND keeps it real — er, natural — and comes with low sugar, high fiber, and high protein options. They’re also available online, so if you need a grab-and-go snack without even having the time to fulfill the “grab” part.
Plus with flavors like Almond & Coconut, Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew, and Caramel, Almond, and Sea Salt, you’ll look forward to snack time.
These green pumpkin seed kernels are small, mighty, and totally delicious.
Seeds are amazing for you. We found eight seeds that should feature in your diet every week.
18. Cheese and whole-grain crackers
Taub-Dix suggests that you can make a nifty, portion-controlled snack by slicing up a mini Babybel cheese round and serving the wedges on top of whole-grain crackers.
And if you’re following the keto diet, you can make yourself some crackers that keep the carb-free joy rolling throughout your day.
19. Whole-grain cereal
Most of us have had cereal for dinner, so why not snack on it as well? We’re all still toddlers at heart. It’s just that some of us wear ties. Bag up a serving of a high fiber brand, such as Fiber One or Total, and it’ll keep your blood sugar — and energy — strong and steady.
20. Natural yogurt with topping
This slightly sour snack packs an energizing punch. Both Taub-Dix and Moskovitz recommend topping a single serving of plain yogurt with whole-grain cereal. You can bring a little in a sandwich bag to the office or use the leftover cereal from your morning bowl.
For more staying power and flavor, add a drizzle of honey or sprinkle of berries. You can eat yogurt for any meal of the day — here are some of our favorite Greek yogurt recipes.
Berries are a fiber-ful snack that actually tastes good. Any type of berry is amazing on its own or combined with one of the nuts on this list for some extra protein and fat.
A little more time on your hands? Put together a summer berry parfait.
You’ve got loads of snack choices to save you from a mid-shift mood droop. A little prep might be involved, but it’s way worth it.
You also might be able to reduce the need for snacking with a filling, healthy breakfast and lunch. We came up with 33 options that don’t even take much time to put together.