Whether you want to keep a healthy snack stash nearby at work or you’re in charge of your company’s healthy snacks initiative, great whole food snacks are easy to stock up on. After all, odds are you are one of the 94% of Americans who snack daily—maybe even two, three, or even four times a day. By making sure most of those snacks are healthy, stocking your workplace with whole foods won’t just be good for your body, they will be good for your productivity too.
The benefits of eating whole food snacks at work: Even when they’re satisfying a craving or allowing occasional indulgences, more Americans than ever are being mindful of how healthy their snacks are. They’re also looking for snacks made with simple ingredients that are fruit- or vegetable-focused, and/or conscious of using healthy protein sources.
The reason is simple: snacking between meals isn’t just a way to prevent you from feeling hungry. Healthy snacking can also improve your focus, creativity, and productivity. If more than four hours passes between meals, a snack that balances complex carbohydrates and protein can be the difference between powering through your to-do list and bottoming out.
After all, your brain is responsible for around 20% of your body’s resting metabolism. All that neural hard work takes a lot of energy, which your brain consumes in the form of glucose for functions such as learning, memory, and thinking.
While junk foods may provide a temporary spike in energy, those cookies, chips, and candy can leave you feeling sluggish and unfocused shortly thereafter. You can work smarter and harder by keeping a stash of healthy, whole-food snacks on hand instead.
Oatmeal + honey + fresh fruit/nuts/spices: Humble, affordable, versatile, fiber-rich oats can be sweet, savory, and/or spicy. Keep a stash of single-serve oatmeal cups or packets in your desk drawer for days when an apple just won’t cut it and you need something a little more substantial. Make sure to use plain oats (not the flavored kind) so you can avoid artificial ingredients. Heat with water or your preferred dairy or plant-based milk, and combine with a touch of honey, cinnamon, and/or cayenne pepper. Add fresh or dried fruits such as berries, bananas, raisins, or apples, plus a nut such as walnuts or almonds, for a snack that has the nutrition and filling quality of a well-balanced meal.
Plain yogurt + fresh fruit/nuts/maple syrup/honey: Where oatmeal is a hot satisfying snack, yogurt is a cold and refreshing way to get your protein and calcium fill. When it comes to sticking to whole food snacks, your best bet in the yogurt department is a plain variety; flavored yogurts are often loaded with added sugar. Berries, nuts, and sunflower or pumpkin seeds can add natural flavor, texture and additional fiber, protein, healthy fats, and minerals. Add a drizzle of honey or maple syrup for a touch of sweetness.
Applesauce + nuts/berries/seeds: Instead of adding just fruit to your snack, make the fruit the main attraction. Applesauce retains the fiber and other nutrients lost to juice, but provides an easy-to-enjoy snack. Mix it up with nuts and seeds for crunch, or add blueberries for color variety and additional vitamins and antioxidants. (Just check the label to make sure there aren’t a bunch of additives or additional sugars.)
Hummus + crackers/veggies/whole-grain bread: Far more than a party snack, hummus can replace mayo in sandwiches and wraps. Served cold or room temperature, it’s a perfect spread or dip for whole-grain crackers or bread, or even favorite veggies such as bell pepper slices, carrots, broccoli, or sugar snap peas. An average third-cup serving of hummus has six grams of protein, plus an array of other benefits including fiber, folate, and minerals. In addition to the party-size tubs you can find at the store or through your office’s snack provider, many hummus brands offer single-serve packages, which take up minimal breakroom fridge space and are perfect for an office snack.
Turkey roll-ups + cheese/hummus/veggies: Deli turkey has many advantages, including lean protein and flexibility. Instead of making a tortilla-based wrap, you can make a savory, high-protein rollup with a few slices of turkey and your choice of fillings. Take four to six slices of deli turkey, and add a tablespoon of raw or steamed veggies, a teaspoon of your choice of spread (such as hummus, mustard, or cream cheese), and maybe a pickle slice for tang and crunch. Roll up like a wrap or taquito, and you have a quick, no-fuss snack that will tide you over until your next meal. To keep this snack as whole food as possible, order natural turkey with no added fillers.
Unsweetened nut butter + an ounce of dark chocolate: Having a healthy, whole food snack doesn’t mean you can’t also entertain your sweet tooth—and what better than the wonderful combination of nut butter and a piece of 70% cacao dark chocolate? Peanut butter, almond butter, and cashew butter, for instance, all contain healthy fat, minerals, and protein that help fill you up and sustain your energy longer than a sugar-laden candy bar. Nut butters come in single-serve packets, or you can just stash a whole jar in your desk. A typical nut butter serving is around two tablespoons, which is more than enough to spread on an ounce or two of dark chocolate, a great source of antioxidants, flavonoids, and outright deliciousness. To steer clear of a sugar crash, go for a dark chocolate variety that’s 70% cacao.
Snacking healthy on the go: Some days may have you jet-setting from meeting to meeting, there may be a crisis, big project, or just a hectic day in the office where a tight schedule makes it challenging to snack healthy. Plus, research shows stressful situations make it easy to want to hit candy and junk food. But if you have plenty of portable, healthy snacks at the ready you can handle that tough day more effectively. Here are a few snack ideas that are easy to keep at your desk, in your car, or in your bag, no matter what the day brings.
Jerky: It’s savory, lean, high-protein and tasty—all qualities that make jerky the perfect on-the-go snack. Whether beef, chicken, turkey, or salmon—or even vegetarian or vegan—there are plenty of options to choose from. For beef jerky, look for grass-fed beef, which contains more omega-3 fatty acids, or stay stocked up with omega-3-rich salmon jerky. Check the label to make sure the ingredient list is short; a little salt and seasonings are okay, but steer clear of tons of sugar and/or artificial ingredients.
Dried apple chips: Apple chips are dehydrated or slow-baked apples. Yup, it’s that simple. Drying concentrates the apple’s natural sugars and flavors, while retaining nutrients. Naturally gluten-free, apple chips are also vegan and don’t contain added oils. Either eat them alone for a satisfying crunch, or combine them with a high-protein companion like your favorite nut or seed for a more complete and filling snack.
Trail mix: Whether you buy a pre-packaged mix or create your own at home, trail mix is the ultimate versatile snack. Combine your preferred nuts (such as almonds, peanuts, or pistachios), seeds (such as sunflower or pumpkin), dried fruit (such as raisins or dried cranberries), and even dried legumes (such as roasted peas, edamame, or chickpeas). The result? A protein-filled, well-rounded snack that is always ready to eat. Add a touch of sweet indulgence too, such as dark chocolate chips. Remember, though, a typical adult’s daily serving of nuts is 1.5 oz. (or one-third cup), so go easy on the handfuls and enjoy every crunchy, satisfying bite. When you’re not rushing around, trail mix can be mixed in with oatmeal, yogurt, or applesauce too.
String cheese: This underrated finger food isn’t just for kids. After all, string cheese is just a hunk of cheese in an easy-to-eat, easy-to-carry, single-serving package. String cheese is a great source of vitamin D, protein, and calcium, with enough fat to help you feel fuller longer. Pair with whole-grain crackers to add complex carbs or with fruit and veggies to complement the smooth, rich flavor of the cheese.
Conclusion: Office snacks don’t have to be junk food packed with sugar, fat, or salt. And healthy office snacks don’t have to be bland or boring either. Whole food office snacks can be simple, last a long time, and be a snap to bring on the go. Not only will you encourage a healthier lifestyle, you may boost your productivity too—and that’s always welcome at the office.