By Anthony St. Clair
You’re stressed with work, trying to get through the day without too much piling up—and then workday hunger cravings hit. You know what happens next.
Your mood plummets and your concentration vanishes faster than you can say “donut break,” so you make a beeline for the office vending machine. But the chips, cookies, and candy typically found in vending machines may only offer short-term relief.
The office vending machine can be a fact of life (and a source for the occasional indulgence), but it doesn’t have to be your only option when you need a snack. In fact, there are healthy snacks to fit every diet and palate, and it’s easy to keep a stash at your desk or in the office fridge. These nine snacks aren’t just affordable, satisfying, and tasty: They also provide a nutritional energy boost that can improve productivity.
- Nut butter packets and fruit
The sweetness and tartness of fruits pair beautifully with the rich flavors and textures of nuts. A packet of peanut, hazelnut, or almond butter is packed with protein and healthy fats. Spread some on single-serving fruits such as an apple or a banana to make a healthy, simple, satisfying snack. Prefer the crunch of whole nuts? Bring a container of your favorite mix or single nuts, and dole out about a handful per snack. If you’re going for nut butters, look for an ingredient list that’s only nuts, or has only minimal sweeteners or other additives.
Pronounced “Ed, a mom may,” edamame is a young soybean that is typically boiled before you buy it. Like other legumes such as peas, lentils, and chickpeas, edamame is full of nutrients, from minerals (including iron) and vitamins (including vitamin K) to protein and fiber. In fact, edamame is a plant-based, high-quality protein source. A mere 4-ounce (or half-cup) serving contains all nine essential amino acids that the body requires but cannot produce on its own.
Edamame can be found dried, fresh, or bagged in the frozen produce section at the supermarket. Whether boiled or steamed at home, or microwaved at the office, you can quickly cook up, portion, and season edamame to your taste for a satisfying office snack.
- Celery and hummus
Celery is mostly water, so snacking on this light veggie cuts down on calories and carbs, yet bumps up your intake of various phytonutrients, antioxidants, and other nutrients, including vitamin K, fiber, folate, and potassium.
Celery’s mild flavor, satisfying crunch, and natural trough shape also make it the perfect counterpoint—and edible dipper—for hummus. At its most basic, hummus can be just a soft, spreadable dip of chickpeas, salt, lemon juice, and olive oil. Yet its proteins, complex carbs, and iron make hummus both filling and healthy. Hummus also comes in many flavors and varieties.
Bring a couple of rinsed, whole stalks of celery for dipping and munching, or pre-slice your celery into grabbable sticks or bite-size pieces. Either dip it directly into your tub of hummus, or keep a butter knife on hand for spreading.
- Hard-boiled eggs
Part of what makes healthy snacks easy is that so many of them come pre-portioned. Eggs are a great example. One or two eggs make a perfect snack either on its own or with fruit, nuts, or crackers. It even comes in its own tough, protective, disposable travel container.
In addition to healthy fats and 7 grams of protein, one large egg contains vitamins A, B, D, and E, folate, phosphorus, choline, and selenium. Eggs are also associated with raising HDL, the “good” cholesterol.
Eggs are relatively inexpensive and they’re even available hard-boiled at the grocery store or in some small markets. Alternatively, you can quickly steam or boil eggs at home, then bring one or two to the office each day. Use these instructions to steam or boil up to six eggs in a large pot, such as a Dutch oven:
- String cheese
Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you can’t dip into the simple pleasures of being a kid. Enter: string cheese. It adds a bit of take-you-back-to-your-childhood-lunchbox fun to your office snack time.
The nice thing is that string cheese also has important health benefits you can appreciate more as an adult. One piece of string cheese made with 2% milk can contain 7 grams of protein, 60 calories, and 200 milligrams of calcium.
Beef, pork, poultry, game and even salmon jerky is a long-lasting, protein-packed snack. It contains important minerals such as iron and zinc, but more importantly, it is chewy, filling, and satisfying. Just keep an eye on the amount of sodium, fat, and added sugars. Low-sodium versions help you monitor your salt intake, and jerky can even be lean: Many brands have a 10:1 protein-to-fat ratio.
Savory snacks are all good, but there’s no reason you can’t have a bit of chocolate. Just keep the milk-based options at home and bring dark chocolate to the office. Typically you’ll find dark chocolate advertised as containing 70 to 99% pure cacao or cocoa solids, and the flavors will have more complexity, depth, and a touch of satisfying bitterness.
Full of flavanols, polyphenols, heart-healthy oleic acid, and various minerals, dark chocolate is linked to improved cardiovascular health and cognitive function—and the latter may help you be more productive and better equipped to handle stress at the office.
It’s easy to pair dark chocolate with other healthy snacks, such as bananas or nuts, or enjoy on its own for an indulgent, energy boost in the afternoon.
- Cottage cheese
When you need to curb hunger pains at the office, the high-protein content in cottage cheese is perfect. Casein, the main protein in dairy, digests slowly (meaning it can keep you fuller longer) and pumps your muscles and systems with amino acids. Sweet and tangy, cottage cheese is also relatively low in calories and sugar.
Cottage cheese is versatile and is a perfect match for many other healthy snacks on this list. Enjoy cottage cheese with a bit of your preferred sweet, savory, or spicy seasonings, or mix with some fruit, nuts, or dark chocolate (or all three).
- Healthy granola bars
Reports have raised concerns about the high sugar or calorie content of some granola bars. However, it is possible to find healthy granola bars that aren’t loaded with sugar or hard-to-pronounce ingredients. Look for bars with at least 5 grams of fiber and five grams of protein, fewer than 8 grams of sugar, and no more than 10 ingredients—preferably with names that don’t require a chemistry degree to decipher.
Granola bars also come in vegan, gluten-free, and paleo varieties, so no matter what your diet needs are, you can find a granola bar to match. Need more than just a granola bar at snack time? Enjoy it with a piece of fruit or another healthy snack on this list.
There are many options for healthy and filling office snacks. Try some of these combinations the next time hunger pangs get between you and a productive day.
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