You might find yourself dragging late in the day craving a snack, or looking for a caffeinated drink to boost your energy. Do you reach for the coffee cup, a high-energy drink, or a sugary snack?
The best answer is none of the above. Coffee late in the day could interfere with your sleep at night, and too much caffeine can contribute to anxiety, headaches, abnormal heart rhythms, and other health risks1. High-energy drinks can be loaded with sugar and may have much more caffeine than coffee, increasing related health risks2. In addition, while the refined sugar in candy can give you a quick boost, an energy “crash” quickly follows, and too much sugar contributes to obesity and other health problems3. Here are some ideas on healthier alternatives to pick you up and help you stay productive4:
- Fresh fruit. The natural sugar and fiber in fruit provide a lift in energy without setting you up for a crash. Oranges and bananas are easy to pack if you are on the go, and both provide nutrients that help keep you going.
- Nuts or natural nut butter. Most nuts are high in magnesium, which can help restore energy. Try to stick to a handful of nuts or a tablespoon or two of nut butter, as nuts tend to be high in fat.
- Yogurt. Yogurt’s simple sugars combined with protein are a great mix for long-lasting energy, and it contains other nutrients that can aid heart and digestive health.
- Hummus. You can easily mix your own hummus with chickpeas, sesame seed paste, lemon juice and a little olive oil. Whirl it in a blender or food processor, use it as a vegetable dip or sandwich spread, and enjoy the energy boost from complex carbs and protein.
- Homemade granola. When you make granola at home, you can control the ingredients. Consider rolled oats, a bit of dried fruit, sunflower seeds, nuts and other natural ingredients for your healthy mix.
- Avocados. Avocados are high in healthy fats, fiber and B vitamins to keep you going. As with nuts, a little goes a long way.
It is important to know what to look for in a healthy snack and to think about how snacks typically fit into your daily routine. Healthy snacking might require a bit of advance planning, but prep work to keep your pantry or desk stocked can make it an easier choice to avoid candy or caffeine.
1 Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. C Drake, T Roehrs, J Shambroom. Caffeine Effects on Sleep Taken 0, 3, or 6 Hours before Going to Bed.
2 National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health. Medline Plus Caffeine page.
3 National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine. Energy Drinks.
4 Reader’s Digest. A. Jung. 10 High-Energy Foods You’ll Want to Add to Your Diet.