It's 3 p.m., your to-do list is reaching record-breaking lengths, and your stomach is growling like a Doberman. What should you reach for that's not a break-room Danish or vending-machine Twinkie?
That depends. "Snacking is an opportunity to get the foods in you didn't get during mealtime," says nutritionist Felicia Stoler, host of the TLC television program, "Honey, We're Killing the Kids!" So, for instance, if you slacked off in the veggie department at lunch, reach for carrots and hummus for your afternoon snack. Ideally, keep snacks to less than 200 calories, with a combination of fiber, protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats. This will help you maintain your blood sugar levels throughout the day so you won't crash, burn and binge, Stoler says.
We checked Stoler's snack stash and polled other experts for their favorites. Pencil in these ideas on your next shopping list.
1. Caprese on a cracker.
Food Network host and nutritionist Robin Miller favors this savory take on the classic Italian caprese salad: Top whole-grain crackers with a bit of prepared pesto and layer on sliced tomato and part-skim mozzarella cheese.
2. Skinny ice cream sandwich.
Try this cool treat from Adam Shafran, co-host of the "Dr. Fitness and the Fat Guy" radio show in Atlanta: Smash a spoonful of low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt between two graham crackers. Pop it in the freezer for a few minutes to harden, and enjoy. Hint: Use whole-wheat graham crackers and you'll get a dose of fiber, too.
3. Minestrone soup.
Soup as a snack? Absolutely. A 150 to 200-calorie serving of broth-based soup like minestrone will fill you with protein and fiber—plus, the sheer volume of a cup o' soup takes up more space in your stomach compared to, say, a orange.
4. DIY trail mix.
Biggest Loser nutritionist Cheryl Forberg loves this mix: Combine 1/4 cup each of dried cherries, whole wheat pretzel knots, low-fat granola cereal and Grape Nuts. Add 2 tablespoons toasted almond slivers and 1 tablespoon chopped pecans. Split between 4 snack bags and stash in your office drawer.
5. Fruity fitness fuel.
Power up for a workout with a simple banana, suggests Kathrine Switzer, 61, the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon. Bananas supply a steady stream of energy and aren't so heavy that they'll slow down your workout. After exercise, Switzer drinks a 50/50 mix of orange juice diluted with water "because it gives me fast carbs, which are important right after a workout."
6. Greek yogurt treat.
Tory Klementsen of Marysville, Wash., shed 102 pounds on the Weight Watchers Online program. This sweet concoction helped her in her endeavor: Mix a container of fat-free Greek yogurt (such as Fage) with fresh or frozen berries and a tablespoon of fat-free, sugar-free instant pudding mix in cheesecake or pistachio. "That thickens it up and gives it a nice flavor," she says.