Snacking isn’t always the enemy. When your body needs fuel, having some nutritious nibbles on hand can help keep your energy levels up and give your metabolism a boost between meals. Smart snacks can also help to curb unhealthy cravings and overeating throughout the day.
But for many, snacking at work—especially when much of the day is spent at a desk—becomes more of a mindless habit than a form of sustenance. Food is often used to celebrate special occasions, break up tedious tasks or simply satisfy cravings in moments of weakness or boredom. According to a CareerBuilder survey, 72 percent of employees snack during their shifts, and 12 percent grab processed, packaged options from vending machines.
Next time you feel the urge to reach for a snack more out of boredom or habit than legitimate hunger, try redirecting your attention to one of these healthier workplace activities.
- Have some H20. Thirst can often be misconstrued for hunger, leading to excess calorie consumption and depleted fluids. Keep a full, reusable water bottle at your desk and sip periodically throughout the day to stay hydrated and energized.
- Take a quick walk. Instead of sitting passively as you wait for a craving to pass, stand up and get stepping. Even if it’s just up and down a hallway or staircase, the burst of activity will help to keep unhealthy hankerings at bay.
- Tackle that task you’ve been dreading. Go ahead and craft that email you’ve been avoiding or finish that report you’ve been stuck on. By focusing your attention on a task, you’ll save on calories while gaining a huge sense of accomplishment.
- Plan your next week of meals. If time permits, take a break from work and redirect your snack cravings into assembling a healthy meal plan for the next few days. If you know you're a chronic snacker, be sure to work some healthy, nutrient-dense snacks into the plan.
- Track your food. Whether you’re using an app or a good old-fashioned notebook, entering what you’ve consumed so far could help quiet those voices in your head begging for a vending machine visit.
- Take a breath (or 10). This is something you can do anytime while sitting at your desk. Inhale deeply and then slowly exhale, repeating as needed to relax and calm the body and mind.
- Postpone your craving. Next time you’re tempted by that piece of cake in the breakroom or chocolate from a co-worker’s candy jar, tell yourself you will indulge later—maybe an hour from now, after lunch or anytime except the present. Chances are the craving will have passed when the self-promised snacktime rolls around, or perhaps the treat will have disappeared by then.
- De-clutter your desk. The benefits of a clean, organized workspace go far beyond a skipped snack. Spending a few minutes on this necessary chore will keep you hands and mind occupied until that craving disappears.
- Connect with a co-worker. Piggybacking on that "take a quick walk" idea, get up from your desk and amble over for a face-to-face conversation with a colleague.
- Take the "five-minute test." Ask yourself: "Will I look back in five minutes and feel that eating the snack was a good idea?" If you’re truly hungry and the snack is a piece of whole fruit or a handful of nuts, the answer will likely be yes. If you’re still full from lunch and are pondering a bag of M&Ms, the writing’s on the wall.