Eating healthy at work can be a challenge, thanks to readily available vending machine junk food and office break rooms cluttered with unhealthy (and often free) treats such as donuts, cookies and cake. If you can manage it, though, consistently eating well during the day is one of the most beneficial lifestyle habits you can adopt, benefitting your weight, mood, heart health and more. Along with staying active, choosing to eat better at work can make a profound impact on your health.
While it’s simple to stash a handful of granola bars or a box of crackers in a desk drawer, there are better ways to snack smart in an office setting. Consider these five better-for-you snack options that are not only delicious but also packed with fiber to keep you full, good fats to support your mood and natural sweetness to satisfy cravings.
1. Real, whole fruit
Skip the sugary juices and expensive smoothies! Instead, fill a basket with fresh, real, whole fruit such as apples, oranges, pears and bananas and keep it at your desk. Fruit will help you meet your daily quota of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants while also providing plenty of fiber to keep you full and promote good digestion. If you have access to a fridge, stow some berries or cut-up melon when they’re in season. Make it a practice to reach for colorful pieces of fruit no matter what you choose and rotate the ones you eat each day.
2. Raw nuts
Raw nuts are loaded with nutrition, but remember to be mindful of calories and fat grams. It’s easy to go overboard when you’re scooping handfuls from a canister! To make things easy, look for individual packs of almonds, walnuts or nut blends. Raw nuts are a good source of magnesium to support healthy nerves and a healthy brain, and they provide B vitamins and healthy fats to help protect your heart and brain. If possible, pair a small handful of raw nuts with a piece of fruit for a nutrition-packed snack that will power you through the day.
3. Raw fruit and nut bars
Raw bars are typically made only from fruit such as dates, figs and/or raisins, plus raw nuts and seeds such as almonds, cashews, walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds. If you enjoy fruit and nut trail mix but have a hard time resisting the bag all day, try these bars instead. They’re a less-processed snack than protein bars, and they provide some of the fiber naturally found in raw plant foods. One of the most popular brands, Larabar, offers a variety of flavors so you never get bored. Just be sure not to eat more than one or two a day! Try to pair them with a lunch salad or some veggie soup, or enjoy one with a side of raw cut veggies for additional fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
4. Natural brown rice cakes with nut butter
Rice cakes are a great option if you crave processed crackers or high-fat chips from the vending machine. Supplying a nice crunch, fiber and satisfying healthy fats, rice cakes topped with nut butter are a power-packed snack that also makes portion control easy. Keep a sleeve of organic, low-sodium or salt-free brown rice cakes handy along with some mini packs of nut butter, such as Artisana’s packages of cashew butter. Spread the nut butter over two rice cakes and enjoy them mid-morning or mid-afternoon to tide you over until it’s time for a meal.
5. Organic dark chocolate
If you have a sweet tooth, organic dark chocolate is the perfect snack for you! It’s loaded with health protective antioxidants, along with magnesium, iron and even probiotics to support gut health. The fats in chocolate are also free of cholesterol (as long as you purchase one without dairy – be sure to check labels!).
Portion control and quality are key here; choose products with at least 80 percent cacao (or higher) for the least sugar and added fats, and eat one or two small servings at a time. Delicious and healthy organic chocolate bars include Sacred, Sunspire (which is 100 percent cacao and free of sugar), as well as Endangered Species, Green and Black's, Pure 7, Taza, and Pascha. Look for fair-trade items and those low in sugar whenever you can.
Have access to a company fridge? Great! A fridge can help you store even healthier options to stay satisfied at work, as well as to help you increase your intake of fruits and veggies. Mini packages of hummus, guacamole, pre-cut veggies and even mini salads and even homemade meals are great to keep in the fridge. If you eat breakfast at work, bring along some oatmeal and top it with dried fruit, granola and maybe some cinnamon.
All of these snack foods are very easy to store in a desk drawer or tote along in a lunchbox, so make it a point to keep them handy! You’ll easily improve your health just by opting for these healthy items instead of sugary candy bars or high-fat vending machine snacks such as chips, crackers, dairy-based protein bars, and high-sodium and high-fat oil-roasted nuts. Remember, every small choice really does add up!