If you work in an office, chances are you’re familiar with that “snack attack” that strikes around 10 or 2. When the hunger hits and you don’t have much time for a break, it’s hard to make a good choice—especially when the vending machine features an alluring array of empty carbs, soft drinks that may contain 10 teaspoons (!!) of sugar, and cleverly rearranged iterations of corn. Many of these snacks are not only bad for you, but they’re also overpriced, not very filling, and can set you up for a “sugar crash” later in the day.
Fortunately, healthy office snacks aren’t too hard to come by. They can even save you money and help you feel fuller and more alert at work. Here are 5 healthy snack options that take little or no preparation:
Plain yogurt with fresh add-ins
Yogurt is a great source of calcium and protein, but commercially prepared yogurts are often filled with high quantities of sugars and artificial ingredients. (Boston Cream Pie and Cheesecake flavors, anyone?) An easy way to make yogurt into a healthy office snack is to buy plain, unflavored yogurt (regular or Greek, depending on your preference) and add natural ingredients to it, including honey, fresh or frozen fruit (berries are especially good), sunflower seeds, and even spices such as cinnamon.
Save money by buying a larger container of plain yogurt and choosing fruits that are in season—they’re cheaper and have the best flavor. Spoon the yogurt into small re-sealable containers and mix the ingredients before you reach the office, or bring a squeeze jar of honey and a baggie of other mix-ins to add when you’re ready for your break.
Yogurt is naturally tangy, so if you’ve only eaten the high-sugar varieties it may take a while to get used to this more natural version—but overall it should be more satisfying and will definitely have a better impact on your health. (photo by Janine)
Almonds, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts and even the humble peanut are a highly satisfying snack that can keep you feeling full for a long time—perfect for those 9:30 stomach rumbles. Nuts are also high in protein, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, and some studies suggest they can help prevent heart disease.
Nuts do have a high fat content (though they’re unsaturated, “good fats”), so snack slowly and keep in mind that a small handful goes a very long way in keeping you feeling full.
Also, be aware of added salts, and opt for low-sodium or unsalted if you can. Also, “honey-roasted” anything is a bad idea, as are most other artificial flavors that may be added to canned nuts. (photo by Bram Cymet)
Sometimes you’re not so much hungry as you are craving something to munch on. So instead of reaching for a bag of overprocessed corn chips with chemical-laden flavors (how exactly do they make a chip taste like a “late-night taco?”), try one of the following veggies instead:
- Carrots: High in vitamin A and antioxidants, and research reveals they can protect against heart disease and some kinds of cancer.
- Celery: Also high in antioxidants, plus it has some anti-inflammatory properties. Add a moderate dab of natural peanut butter or hummus for extra protein.
- Cabbage: This one sounds a bit weird, but it’s actually good! Slice up raw cabbage for a snack that’s crunchy and a bit tangy. Cabbage is high in fiber, a good source of vitamins C and A, and according to the American Institute for Cancer Research, cabbage (along with broccoli, radishes, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts) “convincingly lowers the risks of” colon cancer, as well as other cancers.
- Bell peppers: Very high in vitamin C. These can be sliced into strips, or you can take advantage of new mini varieties that you can pack whole. (photo by francesca!!)
Popcorn is naturally low in calories and high in fiber, and while it’s not extremely filling, it makes for a great office munchie. Unfortunately, commercially-prepared microwave popcorn takes this simple snack and ladens it with huge doses of fat (sometimes from partially hydrogenated oil), sodium, and several unpronounceable chemicals.
The good news is you can make popcorn yourself at home, divvy it up into baggies, and bring it into the office—not only is it healthier, it’s also significantly cheaper. The microwave popcorn marketers of the world would have you believe that making popcorn on your own is tedious and hard, akin to grinding your own flour, but all you really need is a pot or kettle with a lid and a bit of vegetable oil. (The oil does impart some fat to the snack, though significantly less than commercial popcorn; for an even healthier option you could use an air popper or even cook it in the microwave.)
When you make your own popcorn, you can also keep an eye on how much flavoring you’re using—and there’s a world of options beyond just butter and salt. Here are two of our favorites:
- Cinnamon Spice: Put hot popcorn in a bag or container with a lid. Add a conservative amount of sugar, a moderate amount of spices such as nutmeg and allspice, and a liberal amount of cinnamon. Close the container to shake and distribute spices evenly.
- Savory Sesame: While popcorn is still hot, drizzle a *tiny* amount of sesame seed oil over it and stir or shake. Sesame seed oil is very flavorful, so if you have two cups of popcorn, you’ll need ¼ of a teaspoon or less to do the trick! (photo by kozumel)
If you really can’t stave off your chocolate craving, reach for a small square of dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants and recent studies have shown that when eaten in moderation, it can help lower blood pressure. Milk chocolate just doesn’t have the same health benefits (some suspect the milk ingredients interfere), plus it tends to have more fat and sugar.
Keep in mind that dark chocolate is still high in sugar and calories, so you’ll want to keep portions small. But the strong flavor delivers more “punch” than milk chocolate, so a small square or two can be quite satisfying. (photo by el patojo)
Have more questions about healthy eating habits, nutrition, or good health in general? Talk to Dr. Robert Fiss or Dr. Ryan Fiss during your next appointment, or contact us for more information.
All photos via Compfight.