4 Diet tricks to beat the afternoon slump
Do you dread when your energy plummets in the middle of the afternoon? You know the feeling: You'd rather curl up and take a nap than tackle that project topping your must-do list. Instead of putting your must-dos off until tomorrow, make a few simple changes in your diet that will keep you alert and ready to take on any challenge.
1. Eat breakfast
Not hungry in the morning? In too much of a rush to sit down for a bowl of All-Bran Buds? It's easy to skip breakfast and dash out the door, but your body needs fuel after fasting through the night. Studies show that a good breakfast not only gets your metabolism going, but it will help keep you alert and satisfied until lunch. Eating breakfast also leads to healthy eating patterns throughout the day.
Good choices are whole grain hot or cold cereals with added nuts for filling protein and healthy fat, and fresh fruit for all its nutrients. Whole grain bread with peanut butter and banana or apple slices are healthy options, and even leftover stir-fry or baked pasta with veggies can sub in for a morning meal.
No time? Don't jump to "white flour empties." Pastries, donuts or those jumbo coffee-shop cakes known as muffins won't adequately fuel your tank. Instead, prep a healthy breakfast-to-go the night before. A yogurt smoothie with plain yogurt, berries, milk and honey or maple syrup to add a little sweetness, is one option. Homemade bran muffins or granola squares can be wrapped and popped in the freezer for a handy breakfast to tote.
2. Go ahead and snack
Vending machine chips and chocolate bars aside, snacks are good for you. Your body needs food to keep your blood sugar and your energy level up. When you go too long without food, your blood sugar drops and the cravings for junk food kick in.
Energy bars or 100-calorie snack packets have appeal because they're fast and easy, but real food gives you the best energy boost – without all the processing and additives. The combination of carbohydrates and protein and fat is the magic formula for keeping you full and preventing energy dips and overeating.
What does make a good snack? You've heard the "apple a day to keep the doctor away" mantra. A piece of fruit, or dried fruits, is a good starting point. Combine the fruit with nuts or nut butter or a small container of plain yogurt topped with a sprinkling of nuts or seeds.
Other nutritious power snacks include almonds and dried cranberries or currants; air-popped popcorn spritzed with olive oil; carrots or zucchini sticks with white bean dip or hummus; fresh edamame; and cheese and whole wheat crackers.
3. Cut down on caffeine
Coffee is ingrained in our culture as a morning pick-me-up, afternoon social activity or late-night hit to get us through our chores. Many studies suggest caffeine is healthy for an active mind and body, but don't rely on coffee for energy.
The caffeine in coffee is a stimulant, but it will only provide a short-term boost. When the effect wears off, the body realizes the coffee has no real energy source, so you're left feeling tired and hungry. Try a healthy snack instead and herbal or green tea for a hot beverage with healthy antioxidants.
4. Stay hydrated
You don't have to be out for a jog or batting around a tennis ball on a hot day to require water. Your body needs an adequate supply of water every day regardless of the weather conditions to function and keep you energized. Even clicking away on your computer expends more energy than you may realize – it's mental exercise. Keep a reusable water bottle handy and aim for eight (8-ounce) servings or more of water a day.