The #1 Snack to Eat When You Need an Energy Boost

What should you snack on next time you need a pick-me-up?

Ah, the dreaded afternoon slump. The time of day when your energy levels tank, and you feel tired and groggy for no apparent reason. During these times of need, many people turn to caffeine, energy drinks and other quick fixes to overcome their low energy. However, this often adds fuel to the fire by providing short-term energy bursts that elevate cortisol levels and result in subsequent energy crashes, making you more exhausted than you were in the first place. If this sounds familiar, you're not alone. On average, U.S. adults experience energy dips, sleepiness and lack of focus three days per week, according to a 2020 survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation. That's why it's imperative to fuel your body properly with snacks that don't cause you to crash and deliver sustained energy that keeps you feeling good all day long.

If you're looking for a quick and easy snack to pick you up next time you feel down, keep reading. We chatted with Kelsey Lorencz, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and nutrition advisor for Zenmaster Wellness, who shares her wisdom on the best snack to eat when you need an energy boost.

a photo of a woman slicing an apple
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What to Look for in an Energy-Boosting Snack

Sugar, coffee and energy drinks can seem like an easy answer when you're feeling low on energy and craving a snack (especially if you're hungry). Unfortunately, these fixes don't provide sustained energy and could be surefire ways to crash. Instead, you'll want to ramp up your energy with nutritious whole foods that provide long-lasting energy to help you feel and perform your best. Specifically, foods containing B vitamins, vitamin C, iron, magnesium and zinc have been shown to increase energy levels, per a 2020 review published in Nutrients.

When you need an energy boost, choose snacks containing complex carbohydrates, protein and fiber that take longer to digest, providing sustained energy and helping you feel full longer. Consider combining a few different foods for a nutritionally balanced energy boost, such as Greek yogurt and berries or banana and nut butter. Also, staying on top of your hydration is critical for maintaining good energy levels.

"Energy-boosting snacks should have a carbohydrate source, preferably a complex carb like fruit or whole grain, and either a small amount of fat or protein (or both). Carbs are a quick energy source, but relying on refined carbs can lead to a surge of energy that doesn't last long," explains Lorencz. "By choosing a carbohydrate with a good amount of fiber, like fruit, veggies or whole grains, you'll get that quick energy, but it will last much longer and feel more stable. Also, pair your carb with protein and healthy fats to help fill you up and slow down digestion, leading to more energy for a longer period."

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The Best Snack to Boost Your Energy Levels

Now that you know the best snacks for providing sustained energy are healthy, nutritionally balanced foods, let's hear what Lorencz recommends eating next time you need a pick-me-up. "Pairing fruit with nut or seed butter will fill you up and give you the energy needed to get through a morning or afternoon slump," says Lorencz. "Sliced apples dipped in a mixture of peanut butter and Greek yogurt is a perfect energy-boosting snack. The natural sugars in the apple will help you feel energized almost immediately, but the extra protein and fat from the nut butter and Greek yogurt will help you sustain that energy into your next meal."

Besides being an undeniably delicious combo, apples and peanut butter provide a perfect nutritional balance. Apples are high in soluble fiber and a good source of vitamin C, which we know is excellent for boosting energy. The soluble fiber in apples will help keep you feeling full between meals, so you're not reaching for another snack soon afterward. Be sure to eat the apple's skin, as this is where most of the fiber is found, per Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Also, apples contain several bioactive compounds (flavonoids and antioxidants) that can reduce your risk of chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease and cancer, per a 2019 systematic review published in Current Developments in Nutrition.

When it comes to nutritional value, peanut butter is no slouch, either. Peanut butter is a great source of healthy fats, protein and niacin (vitamin B3)—a water-soluble vitamin that helps your body metabolize food into energy. In addition, peanut butter can decrease triglycerides (a type of fat found in your blood) and reduce your CVD risk, according to a 2022 study published in Frontiers in Nutrition.

The Bottom Line

Everyone experiences low energy from time to time, but what you choose to eat to boost your energy can significantly impact your day and your long-term health. Instead of turning to quick fixes, consider eating healthy, nutritionally balanced snacks that provide protein, complex carbs, healthy fats, fiber and other essential nutrients for sustained energy. Eating snacks like Apple Wedges & Peanut Butter will help you feel your best throughout the day while keeping energy slumps at bay.

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