You know those days at work where everything is just hard, including balanced eating? We’ve all had days like that, and it can end with you feeling sluggish and guilty if you haven’t made the best food choices. Or perhaps the opposite is true and you rarely get a chance to eat at work. Not eating for long periods can impact energy levels, ability to focus and even mood. Who needs that in their work day?
Fortunately, with a little forethought, you can keep some drawer-stable food items in your desk for those crazy days that will actually do some work for you. The list includes snacks that offer a balance of nutrients (protein, carbs and fat) in a convenient package and nutrient-rich foods that’ll last at room temperature — so your stash will stay far away from the office lunch stealer.
FREEZE-DRIED FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
It’s snack time at the office and you want to eat more fruits and vegetables but, you know, it’s not always that exciting. Welcome freeze-dried snacks into your life!
Freeze-drying is no longer just for space food. It’s a process that allows fruits and vegetables to be more shelf, or drawer, stable. Freeze-drying has been fairly well studied and shown to preserve many of the nutrients and fiber found in produce. So, you actually can leave a package of freeze-dried fruit in your desk, forget about it for weeks and dive back in on a busy day to count the snack toward your 5–7 servings of produce. #winning
Freeze-dried fruits are becoming widely available in grocery stores on the dried-fruit aisle, and some stores carry freeze-dried veggies on the chip aisle as well. Freeze-dried strawberries and apples are a great place to start — not to mention they’re super delicious.
With fewer than 17 calories per cup (and 0 grams trans fat per serving), Orville Redenbacher’s SmartPop! is 94% fat-free popcorn with the delicious, fresh-popped taste you love. Plus, like all Orville Redenbacher’s products, it’s made with no artificial preservatives, flavors or dyes.
Some days you might just be hungrier than normal. In this situation, having a more substantial snack, especially early in the day, might help tame your appetite the rest of the day. Listen to your body and keep a filling snack like instant oatmeal in your desk for days like this.
Instant oatmeal delivers a good hit of fiber and, in some cases, high-nutrient ingredients like nuts, dried fruit or even flax seeds. You can definitely make your own combo, but packaged options make it easier and more feasible to store in your desk. Choose a type that’s lower in sugar (less than 10 grams, if possible), with at least 4 grams of fiber and higher in protein (5 grams or more). This combo delivers satisfying nutrition that can help keep you fuller longer. Don’t forget you can buy instant oatmeal in a single-serve cup so you never have to search the break room for a bowl again.
Let’s be honest, some days at work are boring or monotonous, which can lead you to wanting to snack all day long. Interestingly, research has found when people are bored, they eat just to break up the monotony of whatever they are doing. So if you have a day of boring, stare-at-your-computer work, arm yourself with a healthy and delicious snack that’s also interesting to eat: pistachios.
Pistachios provide fiber, protein and good-for-you fat — the trifecta of a healthy snack. The shells also give you a visual cue of how many you’ve already eaten, providing a built-in mindfulness factor. Lastly, they taste great and can nip that desire for a salty snack right in the bud. Try the Wonderful Pistachios Sweet Chili 100-calorie pack for the perfect pre-portioned snack.
Bars can be a lifesaver in an office setting. They can be the perfect pre-meeting fuel to power you through. Or perhaps you need something substantial before heading home on your commute, so you don’t attack the chips once you walk through the front door.
Fortunately, there are plenty of options and flavors available now. Unfortunately, there are so many varieties, it can be daunting to pick one that’s right for you. There are certainly a lot of ways you can choose a bar, but here are my general principles:
- Choose one with protein. Ideally, at least 8–10 grams is a good amount to help keep energy levels from crashing.
- Look for at least 4 grams of fiber to help you feel satisfied and keeps things, you know, regular.
- Check out the ingredient list. Simpler and more identifiable is better, but not the end all. It’s great to see whole foods listed, such as nuts and fruit.
- Superfoods are a plus. Bars that have unique, nutrient-rich ingredients like flax seeds, spirulina, greens or turmeric, for example, should stand out over the others.
Two great options right now are RX Bars, for their simple ingredients and tasty flavor, and Epic Bars, because they sort of reinvented jerky.
If you just need something to munch on to get you through the day, pop some popcorn. Popcorn is a whole grain and, therefore, has fiber as well as a little protein. It’s also low in calories, making it a great choice for “quantity eaters.”
You can either air pop your own or grab a box of the snack-bag size at the grocery store; just be on the lookout for lower-salt and sugar options.
SINGLE-SERVING DARK CHOCOLATE
In almost every office there’s that spot where you can find candy. Maybe it’s a coworker’s desk or the breakroom, but it’s somewhere — and it can call your name from far away.
Instead of being at the complete mercy of your cravings and someone else’s candy dish, why not pick out your own candy like dark chocolate? Having candy you actually like (as opposed to someone else’s favorite) allows you to truly enjoy that treat and satisfies you quicker.
To make sure you don’t overdo it, store your special chocolate in a place just out of reach. If you have to get up or move to grab it, it gives you a moment to think and make sure you really want it, versus the boredom eating discussed above.
While this is not something to eat, it can be a big help with eating sensibly through your work day. I often hear that drinking enough fluids is a challenge for many people. Plus, it can be boring. This is where flavored hot teas can come in.
These teas make it a bit more enjoyable to drink fluids thanks to the variety of flavors you can choose from (dessert flavor, fruit, floral, chai, etc.). Since mild dehydration can disguise itself as hunger, drinking more at work could help manage your food intake, too. If hunger strikes at an odd time (like shortly after a meal or snack), try having a mug of tea before deciding if you really want to eat something.
If you’re just not that into “snack foods,” perhaps a more sophisticated choice might suit you. Thanks to single-serving olive pouches, you can stash this antipasto item in your desk for weeks.
Olives are a fabulous food for supporting a healthy heart and true overall wellness. For 100 calories you can have about 16 olives, and since they are a source of healthy fat, they could help keep you satisfied longer and prevent those energy crashes we all hate.
Searching for protein-rich snacks that can stay in your desk drawer can sometimes feel like searching for a unicorn. Roasted edamame is a phenomenal choice for a workday snack thanks to its mega protein and fiber. Just a half-cup provides around 15 grams of protein and 4 1/2 grams of fiber. This translates to a really filling, energizing snack that won’t let you down 30 minutes later.
Your best options are to go with lightly salted or dry roasted. These can be easily found at many grocery stores in the nut aisle and are usually relatively inexpensive.
Written by Jenna Braddock, a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified specialist in sports nutrition. She is a mom to two little boys and wife to a football coach. She shares real-life strategies for better health and doable, delicious recipes on her site Make Healthy Easy. She is active on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. *Disclosure: Jenna is a paid spokesperson for Wonderful Pistachios.