It’s 3 p.m. You’re at your desk and suddenly the cravings hit. Hours spent sitting at a desk or in meetings, coupled with the stress of deadlines, can really leave you craving that “pick-me-up.” It can be a real challenge to resist the intermittent grazing of food high in sugar, salt and fat, especially when vending machines and office birthday celebrations beckon.
Although I’ve always been health conscious, even I would fall prey to the sirens of bad food and end up in a cycle of snacking. As an integrative plant-based nutritionist, I aim to help others break through the never-ending saga of eating unsatisfying food that leaves me wanting more.
The key to good snacking (or good eating at any time) is avoiding sugar highs and lows, keeping mental clarity high, managing healthy weight and, of course, enjoying delicious, fresh, healthful food that fuels your body and your brain. We are, however, hardly achieving that lofty goal. A 2014 study conducted with over 19,000 adults on snacking found that 17 percent snacked miscellaneously, 12 percent snacked on cakes, cookies and pastries, while 9 percent snacked on sweets. The study concluded that education on nutrients in diets and more nutrient-dense snacks is needed to improve snacking patterns.
What not to snack on
The list of snacks below may offer quick temporary hunger relief, but could leave you needing a nap, or worse—more snacks.
- commercially prepared cookies
- string cheese, loaded with fat and preservatives
- “energy bars,” loaded with more fat and sugar
- hard boiled eggs (yes I know they are touted for high protein but there are better options for getting your protein with less saturated fat)
- processed lunch meats loaded with sugar, preservatives and saturated fat
- most every pre-packaged foods
- anything that you can “stash” at your desk for more than a day, because it will surely be loaded with additives and sugars
So, with that long list of unhealthy snack options, here are the good options for healthy snacks that you can make at your desk. Recipes are categorized by the type of craving you want to address.
Crispy, cool and filling
Apple slices and almond butter
Apples are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. My favorite is the Granny Smith apple with its sweet and tart flavor. Combining the flavor of apple and satiating qualities of almond butter produces a quick and easy-to-make snack. Apples are on the dirty dozen list of foods meaning they can have heavy levels of pesticides, so be sure to wash them thoroughly or buy organically grown apples. You may want to watch a quick video about the most nutritious apples available.
- 1 apple
- A jar of almond butter, made with roasted almonds and no oil, sugar or salt added.
Slice the apple into wedges and place on a serving dish. Place a scoop of almond butter in the middle of the plate. Dip a slice of apple in the almond butter and enjoy!
Crunchy, somewhat heavy and filling
Avocado spread on flax seed crackers
This snack does require a little preparation at home, but is then easily prepared at your desk.
- 1 avocado
- 3 tablespoon chopped basil or parsley
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- Box of healthful crackers made with seeds such as Mary’s Gone Crackers brand
Puree the avocado, basil or parsley and lime juice in a food processor or blender. Place this mixture in a glass container, with a secure lid for transporting to the office. Putting the snack together is easy. Just take out a few crackers and top with avocado spread.
Sweet with a “pop” of flavor:
Berries and balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup of frozen berries
- Naturally flavored and good quality balsamic vinegar, such as regular “aceto” balsamic vinegar. Fig, apple or pear balsamic vinegars are also good choices if they are readily available.
Purchase frozen organic berries and keep them in your freezer at home. Before leaving for work, place one cup of frozen berries in a container. Either bring a small container of the vinegar to work with you or keep a bottle in your office area. It doesn’t need refrigeration. When ready for your snack, top the thawed berries with the balsamic vinegar and enjoy!
Refreshing and high in nutrients
Carrot, zucchini and cucumber with a “twist”
- 2 large carrots
- 1 zucchini
- 1 cucumber
- 2 – 3 tablespoon of sesame seeds for sprinkling on top
- Pinch of salt and/or fresh ground pepper
For this snack you will need a vegetable peeler or other similar gadget that “spiralizes” vegetables in minutes, making them a wonderful quick snack.
Peel desired vegetables to make great curls or spirals. Top with sesame seeds and seasonings.
Remember the goal of good snacking is avoiding sugar highs and lows. Snacks don’t have to be fancy to be fulfilling. “Real food” prepared simply and easily pays big dividends for your health and could help boost your energy at work. You can access unique plant-based recipes covering everything from breakfast to snacks in my recently published book, Real Food for Healthy People; a recipe and resource guide” available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all iBook formats.
Tell us: What’s your favorite healthy snack option for work?