You know the drill. Mid-afternoon arrives and you’re at the fridge or office vending machine trying to find something to satisfy your sweet cravings. A little bit of preparing is all you need to fight back against those cravings and choose health afternoon snacks. Here are a couple of my favorites. Each is packed with nutrition, with just enough sweetness to satisfy your cravings, and easy to pack or prepare.
Apple with Nut Butter
My afternoon obsession is apples with peanut butter. If apples aren’t your thing, you haven’t found the right apple yet. Go for pink ladies or honeycrisps if you love sweets and want your apples crunchy. Really this is all we eat, so I don’t have much insight to others, but you can usually find galas (a little softer flesh), granny smith (the green, tart ones) and other varieties year round. Experiment to find the variety that you enjoy most. If you don’t like them that much, your healthy afternoon snacks won’t include them.
For nut butter, choose something simple and natural. Peanut butter is nice because it’s cheaper, but almond and cashew butters are yummy too. Again, experiment and find the nut butter that you love. Check the ingredients and make sure no sugar is added. For DIY’ers, making your own nut butter is simple in a food processor. Simple grind your nuts and add a little water or oil to thin out the mixture. Here is a resource if you’re interested in learning more (even has nut-free options!).
Cheese and Nuts
Nuts are great healthy afternoon snacks because they are filling and nutritious, not to mention delicious. Forgive the broken record, but again, find the nuts that work best for you. There are so many great varieties out there. One option is to visit a co-op with a nice bulk section and stock up on small amounts of several different kinds of nuts. I always choose raw nuts when available (rather than roasted) and for maximum healthiness, avoid any coatings or flavors. From time to time a honey-roasted peanut is yummy, but it’s lacking the healthy properties we’re aiming for in the afternoon snack. Save sweet nuts for special occasions.
My favorite nuts to keep on hand are almonds, cashews, pecans and walnuts. I have mason jars of the nuts and refill the jar when they are gone. Occasionally I’ll opt for a pistachio or other fun nut, depending on my mood. It’s nice to have variety so you don’t get burnt out with the same snack.
Nuts and cheese make a great combination (and you can thank my hubby for that – he loves the nuts, cheese and carrot snack plate). Again, experiment with cheeses and find combinations you love. I have been enjoying pecans with mozzarella (place on nut on a small square of cheese), but the options are endless. It’s nice to put dryer nuts like pecans and walnuts with creamier cheeses, but there is no right or wrong.
To make this snack extra healthy, add some veggies. Carrots work well, as does raw broccoli. I have also been known to throw some pickles in the mix for flavor variety. If you don’t do well with cheese, just go with the nuts and veggies or cheese alternatives. Sometimes goat cheese is easier for those with dairy intolerance. If you can’t have nuts, substitute seeds. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are great options.
Fruit is a great way to satisfy sugar cravings without the adverse health effects. Yes, fruits do contain a lot of sugar, but it’s natural sugar and in a form that is more easily digested. Natural sugars also have a lower glycemic load, meaning your blood sugar doesn’t spike and crash the way it does with refined sugars. Choose fruits that you love and keep a well-stocked fruit bowl. I always have at least three kinds of fruit available. If I want a quick snack or a breakfast addition, I’ll eat a banana or apple, but when sugar cravings kick in and I need something more special, I opt for more desirable fruits, like peaches or dried mango slices. These are my special treats, and I try not to eat them too quickly so I have them when I need them. I enjoy some full-fat coconut milk over peach slices for a healthy, rich snack.
Depending on what’s in season and where you live, fruit choices will be different. Experiment with different options and you’ll begin to notice what fruits are best at what times. Frozen fruit (as long as it’s just fruit) is fine for a nice cold snack. Frozen raspberries sometimes do the trick when I want something cold.
Whether as a quick breakfast or meal option or healthy afternoon snacks, smoothies are easy and convenient. Smoothies tread on dangerous territory because they usually are full of sugar and sugary ingredients like yogurt. To make a healthy smoothie, be very selective about ingredients and always include greens like kale or spinach. I use full-fat coconut milk in place of dairy and I think it makes a creamier smoothie too. Put some liquid (coconut milk, regular milk or water) in the blender with a cup of greens. Blend. Add whatever else you want, such as fruit (frozen is best to give the smoothie a thicker consistency and coldness). I always use a frozen banana and sometimes add raspberries as well for flavor and color. Then add in some nut butter or a little honey for sweetness. I also add unsweetened shredded coconut and chia seeds. You could always include protein powder as well if you’re making it a meal. A couple ice cubes will make the smoothie colder and more liquid will make it runnier. Experiment to find your ideal texture and taste and don’t be afraid to mix it up and try new things.Now that you know what I like to snack on, what are your favorite healthy afternoon snacks? Share your favorite recipes in the comments! [Photo: Kevin_P]