It happens to all of us. Somewhere between breakfast and lunch, our stomach offers a loud reminder that it needs to be fed. It’s easy and quick to grab a snack from the vending machine or to pull open your secret-stash drawer. You know there’s a price to pay, but you simply don’t have time. You tell yourself that tomorrow will be different.
There are ways to escape this vicious cycle. Most likely, the fridge at work is loaded with a lot of the healthy staples to build a balanced mid-morning or post-lunch snack. It’s a matter of taking a few extra minutes to prepare a plate (a spoonful of hummus and some celery sticks vs. unsealing a packaged snack).
The problem with many packaged foods is that they contain preservatives to maintain freshness and add flavor. But these preservatives add more than flavor—tacking on calories, sugar, and fat. Packaged snacks are convenient. But in the long run, they do more harm than good. Learn how to bypass the vending machine or the snack cupboard and go for fresh, healthy alternatives.
Forage Through the Work Fridge
A 2010 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that a high-protein, low-carb diet helped keep weight off. When the mood strikes, you often crave carbs and sugars to boost your energy, but these foods will only result in a major crash soon after eating them. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are easy ways to incorporate your daily protein quota needs into snackable form.
Learn how to push aside the temptations and find the healthy gems. If your office stocks the kitchen refrigerator with celery and carrot sticks, opt for these when hunger pangs strike. Daily fruit and vegetable requirements are set based on your age, sex, and activity level. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer a helpful online tool to determine your daily needs. For instance, a 30-year-old female who exercises on average less than half an hour a day should be eating 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables a day, based on an 1,800-calorie daily diet. This can easily be managed by choosing one small apple, one large orange or banana, or 12 baby carrots—all considered equal to one cup. To squeeze in half a cup, try a wedge of cantaloupe, one small box of raisins, or six baby carrots.
If you have time, or if the options at work are not so nutritious, prepare healthy snacks ahead of time at home. Pre-chopped fruits and vegetables can be stored and grabbed from the fridge when needed. Apple wedges, carrot sticks, and broccoli florets are portable, healthy options.
You want to eat foods that will keep you fuller longer. Most likely, these won’t come from the vending machine. Fruits and vegetables offer great sources of fiber, in addition to other health benefits. Healthy garnishes (which you also might find in the work fridge) include:
- low-fat yogurt
- Greek yogurt
- cottage cheese
If you’re craving something salty…
The peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a familiar
favorite. But this classic feel-good sandwich is often packed with sugar, fat,
and sodium. To create a healthy version of the classic PB & J, swap less
healthy options for healthier alternatives. Keep it snack-sized by using only
one slice of bread.
- organic, natural, or homemade peanut or almond butter
- no-sugar-added jelly or fruit spread
- whole-grain bread
If you’re craving something crunchy…
Reach for the trail mix. Sure, you can buy a pack, but prepackaged varieties are usually not as healthy. Creating your own trail mix keeps you in control so you can monitor and change up the healthy ingredients and avoid unhealthy packaged options (supplemented with salted nuts, sugary candies, and preservatives). When preparing your own trail mix, look for unsalted nuts and select dried fruit that isn’t packed with sugar.
Customize your own trail mix by blending different types of raw, unsalted nuts—such as almonds, walnuts, or pistachios—with dried cranberries, cherries, or raisins and a sprinkling of pumpkin or sunflower seeds. Just remember to make reasonable portion sizes; healthy ingredients can still add up if mindless grazing sets in. A quarter-cup is all you need for a healthy amount of protein and fiber.
Other crunchy options include:
- pita chips or high-fiber crackers with a side of hummus
- celery sticks or cucumber slices with cottage cheese
If you’re craving something creamy…
Satisfy your sweet tooth while packing in the protein with low-fat Greek yogurt topped with berries or walnuts and drizzled with honey. Greek yogurt is creamier and thicker than other versions and also contains more protein and less sugar. Store it in the freezer for a filling, frozen treat.
Or try avocados which contain fiber, potassium, and a host of essential vitamins and nutrients. They’re also rich in good (monounsaturated) fats, which help lower bad (LDL) cholesterol levels. Try Lady Bugs on a Stick, which combines avocado, celery sticks, grape tomatoes, and some salsa.