It's nearing 4 p.m., you're still wrapped up in chains of unread emails, and — boom — a hunger headache hits. As if the last few hours of the workday weren't brutal enough, right?
According to the National Headache Foundation, hunger headaches tend to strike right before it's time to eat and can occur because of factors like low blood sugar, muscle tension, missing meals, and oversleeping.
Treatment for a hunger headache begins with eating. The National Headache Foundation notes regular meals containing "adequate protein and complex carbohydrates" can help prevent the pain from popping up.
Lee Cotton, RDN recommends honoring your body's hunger cues and eating a balanced intake throughout the day — which could also mean reaching for a snack after lunch.
"Consuming a snack mid-afternoon can provide energy and increase productivity. It is important to be in touch with body cues and providing the fuel the body needs, Cotton says.
And if you're prone to migraines, the American Migraine Foundation actually suggests making small frequent meals a priority.
You can get prepared by storing some healthy eats in your desk or fridge at work.
To help you out in that department, we reached out to two registered dietitians who shared their favorite (and simple) post-lunch snacks.
Almonds and Apples
"Almonds and apples provide the body with the three essential macronutrients," Cotton says. "The almonds contain protein and fat. The apple contains carbohydrates."
Pumpkin Seeds and Pears
This pairing packs some serious power. Cotton says that pumpkin seeds are a great source of plant-based protein, while the pear provides the body with carbs and fiber. "Pumpkin seeds are packed with vitamins and minerals such as zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and magnesium," she adds.
Peanut Butter and Whole Grain Crackers
"Peanut butter or a nut butter on a cracker fuels the body with protein, carbohydrates, and fat," Cotton says.
Carrots With Tahini
"I love this combo!" Nicolette M. Pace MS, RDN, says. "It's crunchy and creamy and packed with cancer-fighting nutrients that protect you against heart disease and stroke. It'll boost your energy and brain instead of making you feel sluggish and tired like other snacks."
It's filled with vitamin A, B, E, magnesium iron calcium, antioxidants, as well as fiber, she notes.
Popcorn With Hot Sauce
"This beats flavored bagged popcorn in a heartbeat, plus gives you a great health benefit with whole grain fiber, antioxidants in the corn, vitamin C, and anti-inflammation fighting from the hot sauce," Pace says.
Pace says that these beans are at the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet, and are a rich source of protein, fiber, potassium, and magnesium.
Skip the potato chips and call on kale! If the leafy green isn't your thing, Pace says you can make veggie chips out of almost any vegetable, including sweet potatoes, beets, and zucchini.
Dark Chocolate and an Orange
Satiate your sweet tooth with this treat from Cotton. "Dark chocolate is a great source of magnesium and antioxidants. The vitamin C in the orange combined with iron in chocolate boosts the non-heme iron your body absorbs," she says.
Oatmeal Packet With Blueberries
"Oatmeal is a great source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber," Cotton says. Add blueberries for extra antioxidants and chia seeds or flax seeds for omega-3 fatty acids.
Banana and Almond Butter
Keep a jar of almond butter in your desk drawer and pair it with a banana for a delicious protein-packed snack! Cotton says the banana is also a solid source of vitamins and minerals.