Here’s what we know for sure: offices are riddled with unhealthy temptations. In fact, a 2016 study into office eating habits found that even health-conscious employees get their diets sabotaged by “food altars,” or “any site within an open workspace where food provided by individuals and brought from home is made available.” You may eat a salad for lunch, but those cookies your coworkers brought from home are a siren’s call that will lure you into their sugary depths.
In the long-run, these kind of snacks are where diets are won and lost. About one-quarter of the calories we consume on a daily basis come from snacks. The choice of snack foods available at your office are likely to determine your overall diet, one worksite wellness study found. If your office offered fruits and nuts, you were likelier to have a better diet quality, but if your office offered sugar-sweetened sodas and candies, your diet was likely to be poor. To combat the allure of unhealthy foods your office is tempting you with, you need to come armed with healthier snacks. Here are some of the best:
Vegetables with hummus
Celeries and carrots fulfill one of the best qualities of an office snack: portability. Nowadays, you can make these crunchy vegetables more flavorful with packets of hummus you can put in your lunch box. Take it from a nutrition expert who loves this combo. “Veggies not only help keep me full between meals, but snacking on them is also an easy way to help meet my daily vegetable goals. I opt for fresh-cut carrots, red bell peppers or, if I’m feeling a bit spicy, sliced radishes,” Chris Vogliano, former teacher of food systems at the University of Washington, told CNN. “If I’m looking for a more complete snack, I’ll often pair my veggies with hummus, which is packed with plant-based protein and adds some additional fiber.”
Nuts like pistachios and cashews are another portable snack that you do not have to worry will melt on your commute. Almonds are a protein powerhouse that are particularly good at keeping hunger at bay. A 2013 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that “almonds, consumed as snacks, also reduced hunger and desire to eat during the acute-feeding session.”
Plain, low-fat, or Greek yogurt is a nutritious snack that can give you calcium, potassium and protein benefits. Unlike crunchy vegetables and noisy nuts, they are also a quieter snack to consume if loud chomping makes you self-conscious. One word to the wise, however: avoid the flavored yogurts with jammy fruit at the bottom. As nutritionist Lisa Drayer put it, “Steer clear of those with ‘fruit on the bottom’ or other sweeteners, which can double or triple the sugar content, turning your healthful cup of yogurt into a higher-calorie dairy dessert…Add your own fresh berries to yogurt to boost natural sweetness and fiber.”
Although less popular in the big food business than yogurt for its texture, cottage cheese can have nutrition benefits that yogurt lacks. One recent New York Times profile documenting cottage cheese industry’s comeback noted that, “Cottage cheese can have twice the protein of some yogurts, though it has a lot more sodium.”
Popcorn can be a versatile, guilt-free snack to tide you over until your next meal. As Eating Well magazine noted, “A 1-ounce serving (about 3 cups) of air-popped popcorn has 4 grams of fiber, almost 4 grams of protein, just over 1 gram of fat and clocks in at 110 calories.” You can go beyond the typical salty profile and dress yours up with different flavors like nori seaweed, garlic or chili seasoning.
Requiring no refrigeration and widely available during every season, bananas are a cheap, fiber-filled snack. One banana has about 3.5 grams of fiber. As an easily digestible food, bananas are also the ideal snack if you are dealing with an upset stomach at work.
Apples with peanut butter
Apples are a versatile fiber-filled fruit that can handle some jostling in your carry-on bag. Pair them with a swab of natural peanut butter and you are in business. Although they have about 16 grams of fat per serving, peanut butter’s tastiness helps dieters stay on track. “Studies now say that you don’t just lose weight on the diet, but you stick with the diet better, because peanut butter is tastier and more satisfying, compared to other low-fat, high-carb diets,” Holly McCord, nutrition editor of Prevention magazine, noted about the nut butter’s benefits.