Save yourself from afternoon vending machine voodoo

Roger E. Adams

It's been about three hours since you ate lunch and you're dragging. You need something to get you going, and something that will do it fast.

You might think that sugar or caffeine are your best bets "“ maybe an energy drink, coffee shop treat, or vending machine goody (yum). But did you know there are food combinations that can prevent that afternoon crash and make it easier to avoid quick-fix (and not so healthy) afternoon snacking? Incorporating balanced, healthy snacks into your routine can help you bypass vending machine voodoo and maybe even stop you from stealing your co-workers' food (this is of course dependent on their stash "“ it's OK to raid a fruit bowl in an emergency).

Snacks that incorporate both carbohydrates and protein keep you from experiencing the dreaded afternoon energy crash and they help stave off hunger, which can then lead to healthier choices at dinner.

The four snacks listed below fit the bill for nutrition and they are super easy to make. And for me, easy + tasty + healthy = the best options to help you stick to a healthy diet and fend off voodoo "“ not to mention you'll feel and look better too.

1) Get fruity and nutty: Apples and almonds are a perfect combination to fight afternoon fatigue and with almost no prep involved. Keep the apple skin on for more fiber and watch your almond serving; a handful of 12 to 15 is plenty. This snack is a no-prep, high-fiber hunger-tamer!

2) Go Greek: Low-fat or non-fat Greek yogurt has carbs and protein all in one convenient package. Its natural sugars will wake up your brain, and its protein will keep you satisfied long into the afternoon.

3) Crunch enhancers: Choose veggies and hummus instead of chips or pretzels for your crunch fix. A serving of crunchy veggies like baby carrots, slices of bell peppers, or celery sticks will do the trick with far fewer calories. Pair them with a few tablespoons of your favorite flavor of hummus and you'll have an energy-packed snack that is not only high in flavor, but gives you a protein boost and a good dose of healthy mono-unsaturated fats.

4) String me along: Low-fat string cheese with whole-grain crackers are a fantastic combo to diminish hunger and keep you perky. Cheese's dairy proteins are slow to leave the stomach and a few whole grain crackers will give your energy a good boost to wake you up without filling you out.

Remember that vending machine voodoo is just a mind trick. With simple planning and easy snacks at your fingertips, you can put the vending machines out of business and conquer your afternoon addiction to caffeine-laden, sugar-drenched snacks.

Roger E. Adams, Ph.D., CISSN, is a weight loss and fitness expert and doctor of nutrition. He owns eatrightfitness ®, an evidence-based counseling practice focused on weight loss, disease prevention, and sports nutrition.