Healthy Eating

The Best Snacks to Beat Mid-Day Brain Fog

These snacks will also keep your hunger and energy levels steady throughout the day.

By: Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, CLEC

What is it about the late afternoon hours?  Why do we sometimes feel like we’re actually in a fog — head in the clouds, unable to concentrate, and maybe borderline hangry? To combat this feeling, some of us may reach for sugary or heavily caffeinated snacks to give us a boost — which can give a very temporary fix followed by a sugar or caffeine crash.

You are better off limiting your super-sugary gummies and extra-grande latte and sticking with more balanced and cognitive-boosting choices when you are choosing the best snacks for brain fog. Ahead, you’ll learn how to pick the optimal mid-day nosh to help keep your brain crystal clear and your fog a thing of the past.  

What is Brain Fog?

While brain fog is not a medical condition or diagnosis, feelings of confusion, a noticeable energy dip, being distracted, or an inability to concentrate can be overwhelming. During the global pandemic, more people may have noticed this cluster of symptoms because of the heightened anxiety.  Also, life slowed way down, and for the first time, we may have connected with fluctuations in energy and moods. 

Being unable to concentrate intermittently because you didn’t sleep well doesn’t classify as brain fog — you would need to experience the cluster of symptoms over several weeks.  If you start to feel this way, monitor your symptoms and follow up with your healthcare provider if they worsen — the symptoms could be a sign of an underlying health issue that may need attention. 

Can Certain Foods & Habits Affect Brain Fog?

Let’s talk about some of your current habits. First, how is your sleep? Are you falling asleep and staying asleep? Are you struggling to wind down and can’t seem to doze off?  How many hours are you sleeping soundly per night?    

Stress and activity also impact how we feel. What is your overall stress level, and has it changed? How do you manage stress, and can you pinpoint the triggers? And how long are you sitting each day — are you on Zoom calls back to back or running around?  

Now, let’s take a look at food and hydration. 

Hydration

Are you well hydrated? For most people, 64-100 oz should cover you. In the summer months, you will need extra water, especially if you live in a warm and humid climate.  

Caffeine

In addition to water — what else do you drink? Do you drink soda, iced teas, sugary, or energy drinks?  And then there is coffee. How many cups on average per day? It is common to want to reach for a caffeinated beverage to get that quick boost.  Be mindful of the potential caffeine cycle and avoid relying on it to increase energy and productivity.  Another potential pitfall is that you may end up needing more and more to get the same lift. Instead, keep an eye on your habit and fight the urge by swapping out the afternoon coffee break with a glass of bubbly water or decaffeinated iced green tea.

Sugar

Sugar, like caffeine, can be a quick and easy fix for the afternoon slumps — and these sweet treats are readily available in vending machines, coffee shops, and convenience stores.   Getting into the sugar cycle is similar to getting hooked on the caffeine cycle. A better plan is to opt for a more nutrient-packed afternoon snack that will keep your energy sustained throughout the day.   

The Best Snacks to Beat Afternoon Brain Fog 

When the 3 PM slump hits, understandably, it is super-convenient to make a visit to the vending machine and snag something that gives you a boost but isn’t the healthiest choice for you. Instead, a little pre-planning can help you combat brain fog in a very simple way. 

Generally speaking, finding snacks with a mix of lean protein, heart-healthy fat, and fiber will help decrease cravings, stabilize blood sugar and keep your metabolism humming all day.  

Plus, choosing foods that have potential cognitive benefits can help keep your brain in tip-top shape.

Some simple and delicious snack ideas that marry these concepts include:

Roasted chickpeas sprinkled with sea salt, peanut butter, and banana sandwich on whole-grain bread, a handful of nuts and a piece of fresh fruit, sliced cheese, and whole-grain crackers, cottage cheese, blueberries, and walnuts, or dried mango slices and a piece of string cheese.

Craving something a little more savory? Try avocado toast, a hard-boiled egg dipped in sesame seeds, or Nori seaweed sheets topped with avocado slices. 

And along with your snack, having a glass of water to help combat dehydration can help your noggin feel its best too. And if you need something cozy, a cup of herbal tea can help you continue the ritual of drinking something warm if you are a coffee drinker. 

Healthy Afternoon Snack Recipes

Need some recipe inspiration? Here are two delicious recipes that will help keep your blood sugar balanced, your energy levels stable so you can keep that afternoon fog at bay. 

Lime & Paprika Guacamole

Paired with whole-grain crackers or sliced veggies of choice, this guacamole makes a delicious and nutritious afternoon snack option. 

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 large avocados, halved and pit removed
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 3 tbsp red onions, finely diced
  • ⅛ bunch coriander leaves, finely chopped (optional)

Directions:

Step #1: Place the avocado flesh into a mixing bowl and use a spoon or vegetable masher to mash the flesh.

Step #2: Add the lime juice, paprika, red onion, and chopped coriander if using, and stir to combine. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.

Step #3: Guacamole is best served fresh, but it can also be kept stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Vegan Peanut Butter Protein Bars 

Ditch the store-bought refined sugar-filled bars and try this yummy homemade version instead. Made with whole food ingredients, this afternoon snack will be a welcome treat. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup medjool dates, pitted
  • ½ cup almond flour
  • 3 tbsp chia seeds
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1 tbsp filtered water

Directions:

Step #1: Line a small baking dish with baking paper.

Step #2: Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined.

Step #3: Spoon the mixture into the baking dish and gently press down to cover the base evenly.

Step #4: Drizzle the bars with extra peanut butter.

Step #5: Place in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. Cut into 8 bars and serve chilled.  

Combat Brain Fog With The Right Snacks And A Proactive Approach 

Experiencing brain fog is not your destiny. With a few small changes, you can beat the brain “fuzzies” and keep hunger and energy levels steady throughout the day.  Focusing on hydration, activity, time spent sitting, and making a point to have a nutrient-packed snack that is balanced and satisfying will help you thrive all day. 

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