If you're used to walking a few steps to your kitchen to get your afternoon snack, it's time to start thinking ahead. For those with health and fitness goals, planning healthy snacks helps minimize trips to the dreaded vending machine or grab-and-go store that has limited options. Below you'll find a few healthy snack ideas that you can easily bring to your office.
What Constitutes a Healthy Snack?
Before you choose what to bring to work, remember that a snack is a mini-meal with a mission. Your snack should provide both you with nutrients you need and satisfy hunger you get in-between meals. The general rule is if you go about five hours between meals, it's a good time to snack. If you find yourself hungry at the same time daily, that is also a good time to snack.
Snacks should be around 150 to 200 calories, but can be slightly more or less depending on your individual needs and activity level. It's best to combine several foods together in order to get more of the nutrients you need and also to be able to incorporate foods that help keep you satisfied.
You do not want a snack that isn't filled with nutrition, meaning it's all empty calories and provides nothing your body truly needs. A bag of potato chips or five cookies, for example, provides nothing more than momentary satisfaction. You want to minimize snacks that only contain carbohydrates or simple sugars without any fiber. Eating a handful of enriched crackers won't fill you up since the carbs get absorbed quickly, leaving you hungry within 30 minutes. Other snacks, like candy or juice, have simple sugars that are similarly absorbed quickly by the body. By pairing snacks like these with other nutrients, you can help slow down the absorption to keep you satisfied for a longer period.
There are three nutrients that can help you feel full and should be included in your snacks: healthy fats, fiber and protein. Healthy fats can be found in nut butters, nuts, seeds, avocados and hummus; fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, peas, lentils, nuts and seeds; and protein can be from animal sources like cheese, eggs, chicken, turkey, or from plant sources like beans, edamame and lentils. Combine several of these foods together, in portioned amounts, to get the most out of your snack.
5 Healthy Snack Ideas
1. Peanut Butter and an Apple
Spoon one tablespoon of peanut butter into a small re-sealable container and pack with an apple. Either slice at work or just bite and dip! The peanut butter provides healthy fat and protein, while the apple provides fiber.
2. Cheese and Whole-Grain Crackers
Bring a few slices of your favorite cheese with a handful of crackers to munch on during your snack. Cheese provides calcium, which is a nutrient under-consumed by most Americans, and whole-grain crackers provide fiber to help keep you satisfied. If you need to add on to this snack, tuck in a handful of refreshing grapes.
3. Hummus and Baby Carrots
You can dip any cut up veggie into hummus, but baby carrots are among the easiest to grab and pack. The hummus provides healthy fat and some protein, while the carrots have fiber.
4. Homemade Trail Mix
This is a good shelf-stable option to meal prep, especially if you don't have a refrigerator in the office. Combine your favorite nuts, seeds, dried fruit and a touch of dark chocolate to make a filling trail mix. Each serving should be about ¼ cup.
5. Ricotta Cheese with Strawberries
This simple recipe from "The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook" is made by combining part-skim ricotta cheese, cashews and a touch of honey, and then serving with a handful of strawberries. Both a sweet treat and a satiating snack, this is one that your co-workers will envy.
With a little planning ahead and a smart strategy, snacks can easily fit into your workday without disrupting your health goals or lowering your energy levels. Don't worry—the vending machine will be just fine without you!