We all know the feeling. It’s past lunch, but not time to clock-off just yet. The whistle of the coffee machine, the crunch of a chip packet or the sight of an unassuming chocolate bar can be enough to set anyone off. You glance at your watch – it’s choc-o-clock. “Oh, I might just have a little something sweet.” Your head peers over to your colleague. “Anyone want some chocolate?” you ask with a cheeky grin.

HALT …Rewind. What led you to this moment? And how can you make healthier snack choices, or better, avoid being at the mercy of your cravings altogether?

What causes my craving?

Afternoon cravings can be caused by any number of factors including diet, sleep patterns, exercise routines and stress-levels. If we’re tired, lacking motivation, or simply hungry after an unsatisfying lunch, it’s easy to fall victim to the trap of the 3pm treat.

So it’s important to take notice of how you feel when your craving hits and tackle it by addressing the root of the problem.

1. HUNGER

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Your lunch has a big impact on how you will feel heading into the afternoon. Nutritionist Tanya Zuckerbrot, recommends a colourful lunch bursting with protein and fibre to stay full and ward off unnecessary sweet cravings later.

“A lunch that combines fibre and protein will keep you full and happy all afternoon,” she says. Her idea of a perfect lunch is: “mixed green salad topped with broccoli, hearts of palm, and protein – salmon, chicken, or tofu.” Adding avocado will help slow digestion- keeping you full longer.

Slowing down the rate at which you eat lunch will keep you feeling fuller too. A 2015 study conducted by the University of Bristol found those who eat slower feel fuller and feel they’ve eaten more than those who eat fast.

2. FATIGUE
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Your eyes are slowly drooping, and your head is feeling heavy. Resist. That. Yawn…. “There seems to be a natural rhythm or set clock in our bodies, so many people tend to feel a little sleepy around 2 or 3 in the afternoon,” says Lona Sandon, RD, MEd, assistant professor of nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre.  Apart from this natural energy drop in our body clock (which some cultures acknowledge with siesta!), there are a number of other causes of afternoon fatigue.

What’s the science behind this lull in energy? And how can we stay alert and productive into the afternoon without reaching for some cake?

Afternoon fatigue is most often related to the body’s inability to effectively burn fat known as ‘post-lunch hypoglycaemia’. Switching your carb-heavy meals with foods rich in good fats is an effective way to train your body to burn fats instead of energy from carbohydrates, and eliminate these drops in energy levels. So crackers partnered with a hearty serving of avocado or small portion of virgin olive oil, or grilled fish with vegetables, is the better option than a bowl of pasta.

Rather than reaching for a caffeine-dense coffee, Snackwize recommends chai or matcha tea to help kick those zzzs. Cinnamon in chai tea helps to increase awareness, and cardamom works as a mood-booster. If you’re still after a small caffeine fix, matcha tea is packed with a natural relaxant, which means a constant energy increase without the caffeine knock-out. 

Finally, exercising midday is a proven way to give your body an energy boost for up to three to four hours, helping you to avoid a ‘pick me up’ simply because you’re tired. As an added bonus, you’ll be less likely to reach for a snack that would undo all your hard work!

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3. A PSYCHOLOGICAL RESPONSE
More often than not, afternoon cravings are a psychological response to what’s going on around us. If we’re stressed, bored or unmotivated, a sweet treat seems like a quick fix. Yet in reality, sugar hits and carb-loaded foods will work as a short-term pick-me-up but may only leave us with a headache, feeling bloated or even more tired than we were before.

If you’re reaching for food to have a much-needed break from your desk, the better option would be to go for a walk. But we’re only human, and sometimes when we’re feeling down, only a sweet treat will do. That’s when you pull out your cheat-sheet of sweet alternatives. (See end of article).

www.tourdeoffice.comMaking better choices
Remember, snacking isn’t necessarily unhealthy. It all comes down to what you’re eating. Your afternoon craving can be an opportunity to fuel your body to sneak some extra nutrition and boost your energy levels for the rest of the day.

What’s the best type of food to reach for when those afternoon cravings refuse to give up? High protein and low sugar snacks will be your best bet. Avoid white bread, crackers, chips and pretzels – these simple carbohydrates won’t keep you full.

Your 3pm Craving Cheat Sheet

A collection of ideas from Snackwize and Chobani Australia.

Something substantial

  • Bean/ lentil/ legume soup
  • Whole-grain toast with organic, low-salt peanut butter
  • Carrot/ cucumber/ celery sticks with hummus or low-fat tzatziki
  • Small can of tuna with 2 wholegrain crackers

Just for a nibble

  • Hummus Chips
  • Sugar-free high-fibre cereal (skim milk optional)
  • A handful of raw almonds
  • Apple slices and natural nut butter
  • Air-popped pop corn
  • Rice cakes
  • 1-2 boiled eggs

When only sweet will do

  • A high protein such as the Chobani ‘Flip’
  • Sugar free or dark chocolate
  • Banana cut up with organic peanut butter on top
  • A fruit smoothie
  • Handful of dark chocolate covered nuts or raisons

Whatever craving hits you after lunch, you can satisfy it with a healthy alternative.

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The Chobani CHOteam

Being healthy at work doesn’t end with choosing the right foods to fuel your body. Get active during the working day, and spread the message of health and wellness at your workplace, with the Tour de Office corporate cycling relay. With custom events now available, Tour de Office is happening in workplaces across Australia all throughout the year. The Chobani CHOteam will be visiting workplaces across Australia for Tour de Office in August and September, delivering their brand new creamy Greek yogurt with a Crave-worthy crunch, ‘Chobani Flip’.

Editor’s note: This article was published in partnership with Chobani Australia and Snackwize.