A good-for-you snack at work can provide the energy boost you need to get through the day. Here are some choices that will fill you up without filling you out.
Previously published at W Dish.
This delicious chickpea spread is easy to eat at work. For a snack size, Stowell recommends having 1/3 cup of hummus with 1 cup of mixed veggies, such as baby carrots, sugar snap peas and grape tomatoes. “These three [veggies] add color and a variety of nutrients,” she says. “And hummus is rich in the right fat and also offers a bit of protein.” With the large variety of hummus flavors out there, it shouldn't be hard to keep it interesting for your taste buds.
For a sweet afternoon pick-me-up, registered dietitian Allison J. Stowell suggests having a banana with almond butter. She recommends Justin’s All Natural Almond Butter packets (each an individual serving). “Almond butter is a nice alternative to peanut butter and these convenient, affordable packets make it easy,” she says. If you prefer to buy a jar of Almond butter, 2 tablespoons is about the same size of a package, which delivers around 200 protein-packed calories.
Trail mix is not only good on a hike; it's a great work snack, too. Stowell suggests making your own. Mix 6 almonds or cashews (or 2 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds) with 3/4 cup of high-fiber, low-sugar cereal and 2 tablespoons of raisins or unsweetened dried cranberries. “This mix will offer heart-healthy fat from the nuts or seeds, fiber and a serving of fruit for a snack that is balanced and sustaining,” she says.
Don’t think of it as just a breakfast food. “Oatmeal is a great source of soluble fiber, which will keep you feeling full longer,” says registered dietitian Lanah J. Brennan. She suggests making one packet of plain instant oatmeal, with no added sugar or other additives, and topping it off with 1 to 2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts. “Nuts are a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats,” she adds. If you’re not a fan of nuts (or allergic to them), ground flax seeds are a great alternative.
“This is a quick, balanced snack that does not require refrigeration,” says Brennan. She suggests eating half a peanut butter sandwich when the munchies hit -- one tablespoon of peanut butter on one slice of bread. To maximize your health, go for whole wheat or sprouted grain bread and natural peanut butter with no additives.
Since most crackers contain carbs and fat, says Brennan, you don’t need extra fat in the topping, too. “Instead of peanut butter or cheese, choose a lean protein.” She recommends one serving of crackers with an ounce of lean turkey or an ounce of tuna fish mixed with reduced-fat mayo made from olive or canola oil. “For more fiber, choose crackers with a whole grain, whole wheat flour, brown rice or quinoa listed as the first ingredient.”
This snack combo provides a nice balance of sweet and savory. It also packs some satisfying protein, says Brennan. She suggests mixing1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese with a 1/2 cup of berries, such as raspberries or blueberries. Berries not only up your daily fruit intake, they also boost your health in other ways. One study, for example, showed that blueberry extract improved memory in older adults, says Brennan.
“This snack combines protein and carbohydrates for a well-balanced snack,” says Stowell, and it will keep you satisfied through the afternoon. Pair an apple with 2 ounces of low-fat cheese or two cheese sticks. If convenience is an issue, Stowell suggests picking up some pre-sliced apples.
Granola bars made with fruit and nuts are easy to carry and store, making them a good desk snack. But with the abundance of choices out there, figuring out which are the healthiest can be overwhelming. One option: Stowell recommends Kashi's TLC granola bars. "I prefer these bars because they offer 6-7 grams of protein per bar. Most bars only offer 2 grams of protein," says Stowell. Her personal favorite flavors are Peanut Butter, Honey Almond Flax and Dark Mocha Almond.
This snack isn't just a party food. “Avocados are rich in monounsaturated, 'good-for-you' fat and baked chips save on calories,” Stowell says. When the cravings hit, she recommends having a Wholly Guacamole 100 Calorie Snack Pack with a serving of baked tortilla or potato chips.
Edamame, soybeans in their pod, pack a powerful protein punch that will keep you feeling full. You can buy them already prepared or get them frozen and to steam at home. Hammerstein recommends eating half a cup of edamame for a snack (make it one cup if still in the shell). “This is an especially good option for non-meat or non-dairy eaters,” she says, since there are 11 grams of protein in a half cup. To balance out your snack, add some fruit. Hammerstein recommends having a small pack of raisins, to add a little sweet to the savory.
A whole grain or whole wheat tortilla, filled with your favorite veggies or spread, can hit the spot. But use a small one, says Hammerstein. (“Anything bigger makes it more like a meal.”) She recommends using fresh ingredients, like avocado and tomatoes, and hummus to add a bit of protein. Roll up your tortilla and snack away.
A combo of wasabi peas and dried cranberries may not be the most nutrient-dense snack out there, but it’s still a good option, says Hammerstein. “They are whole foods without much added sweetener,” she says. To keep it snack size, mix together a handful of each. “It satisfies sweet and salty cravings. It's nutritious enough and curbs cravings,” she says.
All yogurts are not created equal. “Greek yogurt is very high in protein, very low in sugar and very satisfying,” says Stowell. She suggests having non-fat, plain Greek yogurt with a serving of your favorite fruit for a balanced snack. If you want your snack a little sweeter, you can add a bit of honey, but don't go overboard.
A refreshing smoothie can hit the spot during the workday. Hammerstein, also author of Fat Is Not a Four-Letter Word, recommends store-bought brand Mix-1 smoothies, because they are “portable, 200 calories and balanced in protein and carbs.” If you're really motivated, you can make your own smoothies. Keep a blender in the office kitchen or break room and mix together 8 ounces of vanilla or original almond milk, 1 cup of frozen or fresh fruit, a frozen banana and a scoop of protein powder, she says
One hardboiled egg with sliced cucumbers or cherry tomatoes makes a satisfying snack, says Julie Hammerstein, a certified nutritionist and wellness expert. “Eggs are a good source of protein and portable,” she says. While she sets no limits on how many veggies to eat, she says one serving is usually about the size of your fist. To make snack time easier, boil half a dozen eggs on the weekend so you're set for the work week.
During colder months, a mug of hot milk can warm you up and quench your thirst. Paired it with a side of your favorite fruit, and you’ve got a perfect snack. Soy and regular milk, either low-fat or whole, are both good sources of protein, says Hammerstein. “Almond milk doesn't have much protein but can satisfy a sweet tooth without eating ice cream or cookies.”
Carb-filled pretzels aren’t very satisfying on their own. But when you add a side of protein, like cheese or almond butter, this snack becomes a winner. “Take out a single serving size of pretzels,” says Hammerstein. “Don't eat with your hand in an open bag; otherwise you'll eat more than one serving.” Look for whole wheat or whole grain brands of pretzels with 2 to 4 grams of fiber per serving.
“Healthy snacks include a high-fiber carbohydrate source, lean protein and a little healthy fat. This balance will keep you feeling satisfied until your next meal,” says Brennan. She suggests having a medium-size apple with a small handful of almonds (about 15). Almonds are a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, while apples have quercetin, an antioxidant that can protect against cancer and promote heart health.
Not all chips (and dips) are bad for you. Hammerstein recommends having Pop Chips, because they’re low in calories and have one-third less fat than most chips. “It satisfies the need for salty and crunchy.” To balance out the snack and boost its nutritional content, Hammerstein suggests dipping the chips in a serving of hummus, guacamole, baba ghanoush or a healthy bean dip.