It's 3:00 p.m. and you can feel those familiar hunger cravings kick in. Do you reach for the sugary snack bar in your top drawer or try to resist temptation until dinner? While there's nothing wrong with satiating your mid-afternoon bout of hunger, nutritionists say that your choice of food can have a serious impact on everything from energy and focus to productivity. To find out how to snack smart, Real Simple spoke to leading nutritionists to discover what they reach for to nourish themselves in between meals. Take note: These are the best guilt-free snacks to help you power through your day.
If you tend to find nut bars don't give you sustained energy, try this simple treat. Nutritionist Jim White, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios, says he snacks on whole grain bread with a quarter of a banana and one tablespoon of almond butter for slow-burning energy. "This is also a great option for a late afternoon snack if you plan to exercise before returning home from work," says White. We love this recipe by well-plated which you can switch out with almond butter.
Don't have time to prepare a snack before you leave home? This no-cook option is super easy—just toss the ingredients in a container like this chic stainless steel one. "I love to put about 1 cup of fresh strawberries with about 10 grapes combined with 1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese together for a snack," says Mitzi Dulan, RD, author of The Pinterest Diet. She notes that strawberries are naturally low in sugar so they won't cause an erratic spike in your blood sugar levels.
"I keep rolled oats and a jar of natural peanut butter in my office so it's always available," says Marjorie Nolan Cohn, RD, CDN, a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She combines half a cup of oats with hot water and a tablespoon of peanut butter in a mug, for a warm, mid-afternoon snack.