Your Health

Eating 9 to 5

How to tame the mid-day munchies

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Dietitians of Canada's Eating 9 to 5 Nutrition Month campaign

Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, March / April 2015

It is mid-afternoon when hunger suddenly strikes and you reach for a snack.

Does this sound familiar? If so, you have been hit by the "mid-day munchies" and you are not alone! In fact, more than 34 per cent of Canadians reach for an afternoon snack to fill the mid-day void or replace a meal.

Managing the mid-day slump is one of five challenging times of the day workers report facing. The others are rushed mornings, meetings and workplace events, lunchtime and commuting.

While snacking mid-day can provide essential nutrients to complement your intake at meals, increased snacking frequency and poor food choices may contribute to weight gain and can be associated with reduced concentration and productivity at work.

In keeping with the goal of this year's National Nutrition Month campaign to inspire Canadians to eat better at work, here are some tips for eating 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Snack smart: Let's face it, there's a difference between a treat and a snack. Most often the choice of snack is based on taste, indulgence and convenience. Only about six per cent of us consider health when choosing that mid-day snack. Save treats, including cookies, cakes, chips or chocolate for occasional enjoyment. These will not provide you with the nutrients or sustained energy needed to help you feel vital and productive at work. The best way to escape the treat versus snack struggle is to be prepared.

Stock your desk drawer and lunchroom fridge with a few of these key options so you're always ready:

  • Portioned packs of nuts or seeds
  • Small containers of whole-grain cereal
  • Homemade whole-grain granola bars or muffins
  • Whole-grain crackers
  • Hummus or snack-sized cans of tuna
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Cheese and yogurt
  • Veggies and fruit

Be honest with yourself: The next time the mid-day munchies call, ask yourself if you are truly hungry. Are you frustrated, bored or stressed? Before you snack, take a break from your work. Touch base with a co-worker, go for a walk or do some stretches. If a snack is what you need, choose wisely and be mindful. Avoid eating at your desk. It's easy to get carried away with portions if you're distracted by other tasks. Pay attention to what you are eating, enjoy it and stop when you feel full.

Fuel up - go for quality: If by midday you are feeling tired and worn out, power your afternoon and boost your energy level by choosing a small snack that contains a mix of carbohydrates and protein. However, I'm not talking about a chocolate peanut butter cup and a cup of coffee! Sweet treats like chocolate or pastry will provide a short energy boost but that won't last long. Nutrient-rich carbs such as veggies and fruit and whole-grain crackers will fuel your brain, while protein-rich nut butters, cottage cheese or hummus work when paired with the carbs to provide long-lasting energy.

Another cup of coffee seems like a great idea mid-day, but don't be tempted by another cup to thwart off that afternoon drowsy feeling. Too much caffeine can leave you feeling anxious, irritable and may affect your sleep later that night. Prevention is the best medicine here. Stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day. Take water from being boring to dressed-up by adding lemon or other citrus fruits, mint or even cucumber slices to enhance its flavour.

Beverages beware: The virtues of water are many, but for a lot of us, it's not always the first thirst-quencher we reach for. Smoothies are one of the most popular afternoon snacks and fastest growing trends. Even though they are tasty and seem nutritious, the sad truth is they are loaded with sugar. A large smoothie can provide as much as 20 teaspoons of sugar! Coffee is also a culprit. A specialty coffee with flavoured syrup or a large double-double from the corner coffee shop can offer more sugar than a chocolate-glazed donut. When you crave something different, try smoothies made from scratch using fresh or frozen fruit, milk, yogurt or soy beverage or go for a plain coffee, latte or tea. And when all else fails, buy the smallest smoothie available or ask your barista to reduce the amount of flavoured syrup by half or more.

Martina Gornik-Marion is a registered dietitian with the Winnipeg Health Region.

Wave: March / April 2015

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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