5 Healthy Ways to Beat Your Afternoon Snack Cravings

updated May 1, 2019
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Sometimes when you start dreaming of Doritos during that yawning space between an early lunch and a late dinner, it’s because you are actually hungry and really need a snack. And sometimes it’s because you’re exhausted, bored, or just craving a little social interaction after hours of screen time. For those afternoons when your snack cravings are about more than simple hunger, here are a few suggestions for beating them — in five healthy, satisfying ways.

First of all, if you are truly just hungry and need a snack to tide you over until dinner, here are a few ideas for healthy afternoon snacking.

Healthy Afternoon Snack Ideas

But if you take a hard look at your snack cravings and realize they are about more than an empty belly, try one of the following ideas to get you out of that afternoon slump.

1. Take a walk — preferably outside.

Sitting in front of a computer all day can drain your energy, to the point where it feels like only that giant chocolate chip cookie from the coffee shop down the street can bring you back to life. But standing up and walking around is arguably as energizing as a fistful of sugar, and you’ll feel much better about it later.

Even better is a short walk outside, as exposure to sunlight during the day will help you sleep better at night and boost your levels of vitamin D. But if your office is located on a busy road or the weather is bad, even a couple loops around the hallway or up and down the stairs will get you energized.

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2. Have a conversation with a friend.

Sometimes it isn’t the snack you’re craving — it’s actually the conversation with your work buddy who sits across from the kitchen that makes snack time so satisfying. If that’s the case, why not skip the snack and just have the conversation instead?

If you don’t have a work buddy or you work from home, you can try scheduling a quick midday catch-up call with a friend or family member instead. (Yes, a call; texting doesn’t count.) We are all social creatures, and satisfying the need to connect with another human being often miraculously satisfies the “need” for a giant stack of Pringles.

3. Sip a low-calorie drink, but make it special.

Is there anything more unappealing than the phrase “low-calorie drink”? I’m not talking about your mother’s can of Tab, although busting out one of those pink cans would probably make you more popular at work. Instead, think loose-leaf tea, tisanes, soda water mixed with fresh citrus juice, or shrubs. Choosing a beverage that requires a bit of preparation makes the drink a little more special, and adds a ritual that helps break you out of the usual afternoon grind. Of course, if you don’t have access to kitchen space, simply cracking open a can of your favorite LaCroix flavor works too.

Better-than-Tab Low-Calorie Drink Recipes to Try

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4. Take a short nap.

If your energy bottoms out in the afternoon because you are genuinely exhausted, finding a suitable place to take a power nap is better than mindlessly eating handfuls of popcorn in an attempt to perk up. If you don’t have a private office or other quiet room available, even resting in the reclined front seat of your car will work.

Possibly even better is a caffeine nap, which synergistically combines a cup of coffee with a 10- to 20-minute nap to produce an even more restful break. And if you are one of those people who can’t nap, don’t despair — research indicates that even combining caffeine with “nonsleep dozing” can be effective, so taking the time to relax and shut your eyes for 20 minutes may be worth it, even if you don’t actually fall asleep.

5. Tackle a project that can be finished quickly, with tangible results.

Especially if the majority of your day involves sitting in front of a screen doing things that have no immediate visible affect on the world, your afternoon slump and subsequent snack craving might be partially a desire for something tangible and tactile. And what is more satisfying to our senses than food?

So if you find it is more the sensory experience of eating you are hungering for, tackling a brief, finite project in the afternoon might give you the pick-me-up you usually look for in the office candy bowl. Small projects like organizing a messy desk drawer, filing the papers that have piled up on your desk, trimming back the indoor plant that has gone wild on your shelf, or even just giving your computer screen and keyboard a deep clean are relatively mindless and take little time, but they produce results that are immediate and satisfying.

(Image credit: Gregory Han)

Do you have any other ideas for re-energizing in the afternoon?