The Best Snacks for Improving Your Workday
You make a lot of decisions at work. In fact, you can make so many decisions, your body and brain get pretty tired. So make one decision of your day easier: Choose to refuel your body with a healthy snack that will help you to attack the rest of your workday.
Plenty of so-called “snack” items are available for you to nosh. But not all will truly satisfy your cravings. Sure, they might make you temporarily less hungry, but many pre-packaged foods are full of sugar, preservatives and other ingredients that will make you hungry again in a short time (not to mention add pounds in the long run).
“The easiest rule of thumb in this case is to choose snacks that are in their whole form," said nutritionist Kyle Buchanan. "If it comes in a box, or has a list of ingredients, don't use it as snack food.”
There are lots of options when it comes to finding your perfect snack food. Though Buchanan says what works for your coworker may not work for you. “Everyone's body is its own wonderful thing, so there's never a ‘one-size-fits all’ perfect snack,” he said.
That being said, he adds that foods high in good fats that fuel the brain and keep you satiated are a pretty darn good pick.
He also suggests making sure you stay hydrated to stay satisfied throughout the day. “Have a big glass of water 15 minutes before you snack, if you can remember,” he said. “You'll most likely be more satisfied with your snack and less likely to want more if you are hydrated."
Nuts are easy to store, easy to carry with you and easy to eat. But beyond the conveniences, raw nuts are packed with healthy unsaturated fats to curb your appetite without a ton of carbohydrates. Your body tends to metabolize carbohydrates more quickly than proteins, leading you to be hungry sooner and often crash faster if your carbohydrate intake is high.
Cashews, pistachios, peanuts and almonds all have their individual benefits, depending on your personal preference. But make sure you stick with raw nuts. “Don't buy any nuts that are roasted in other oils (like vegetable oil) — these are heated rancid fats that promote inflammation,” Buchanan said. “Only buy raw.”
Almonds will not only curb your appetite, but they’re a great source of fiber and deliver a good amount of magnesium and vitamin E.
Do be aware, though, nuts are packed with calories. One ounce of almonds has about 164 calories. So make sure to be moderate about your intake.
Sure, it’s long been associated with salty, buttery goodness at movie theaters. But if you can reframe how you think about (and how you consume) popcorn, it can be a surprisingly good snack.
It has 3.7 grams of protein per ounce (more than eggs or spinach!), is low in calories and one cup provides about 1.3 grams of fiber. All that means it packs some excellent nutritional benefit. So if you want something you can mindlessly snack on during your mid-afternoon brainstorm, it’s an excellent choice.
Of course, adding a ton of butter and salt negates some of the health benefits, but you can add some simple, delicious toppings in moderation to spice it up if you get bored.
3. Apples and Nut Butter
Fruit alone is always a healthy choice for a snack. But fruits, though nutritional, don’t often pack a ton of protein per bite, which means they tend to metabolize pretty quickly in your body. Though you’ll feel refreshed, you may get hungry pretty quickly after that afternoon apple.
An easy nutritional hack to help combat this is to simply combine your apple-per-day with some nut butter. As mentioned above, nuts contain lots of fiber and protein. Depending on your preference, there are lots of great nut butter options that are delicious when paired with healthy fruits. So when that nut butter is combined with that sweet apple (and the fiber, antioxidants and disease prevention that come along with it), your body will have tons of energy.
4. Trail Mix
This snack could fall on either end of the health spectrum, depending on how it’s made. If your trail mix consists of a ton of sugary goodies and just a sprinkle of seeds or raw nuts, it’s probably not the best option for a snack. Something like Archer Farms Black & White Trail Mix can contain 180 calories per ¼ cup serving. And with those calories, you’ll get 15 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of sugar and only four grams of protein.
Buchanan suggests a healthy and satisfying mix that can be good for you. “Raw nuts paired with some dark chocolate is always a surefire hit,” Buchanan said. “I make a ‘Thyroid Trail Mix’ that supports metabolism and overall health: equal parts (all raw) Brazil nuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and almonds combined with some 85 percent dark chocolate.”
The diversity of tastes you’ll get in one handful of trail mix is usually even more satisfying than any of its parts alone.
A refreshing yogurt with some mixed fruit or nuts can be the perfect afternoon pick-me-up. The probiotics naturally found in it are great for balancing a funky-feeling belly. Plus, it’s packed with protein so you’ll feel full for longer.
A cup of average Greek yogurt contains around 100 calories and delivers 17 grams of protein. Plus, it has magnesium, potassium and tons of B vitamins, including B12, which may help with your overall energy levels.
Like other products, many yogurts contain a high amount of added sugar. Usually, Greek yogurt tends to be the highest in protein and lowest in natural sugar, so it’s a generally safe but. But it’s always smart to check labels so you don’t get a ton of hidden sugar in your snack that leaves you hungry and crashing not long afterwards.
6. Boiled Eggs
Simple, economical and packed-to-the-gills with benefits, boiled eggs are the best midday snack that you’ve been overlooking all your life.
Each boiled egg (though dependent on size) is around 80 calories, six grams of protein and five grams of good-for-you fats. Beyond all that, they have a ton of nutrients like vitamin A, B5, B12, B2, folate, magnesium and selenium. Since everything you eat should contribute to your overall health, a moderate amount of eggs is certainly a strong contender for the perfect snack food.
7. Carrots and Dip
By themselves, carrots (like all vegetables) are extraordinarily healthy foods and have a ton of nutritional benefits. Carrots, specifically, will not only provide nutrients you need, but they may help prevent certain cancers, help control diabetes and improve your eyesight.
If you have a hard time downing carrots on their own, a simple dip like a French Onion can add a little flavor without mitigating too many of the overall benefits. A carrot by itself has negligible calories, and add in two tablespoons of French Onion dip, you’ll add in 50 calories with one gram protein and two grams fiber.
There are healthier options outside of salad dressings or popular dips, including guacamole, hummus or plenty of DIY options.
8. Pita and Hummus
For a bit more of a savory snack, consider some hummus and pita bread. Made from chickpeas, hummus naturally has a lot of the benefits its main ingredient brings including the fact that it’s low in sugar and carbs while high in protein and iron.
Do be aware that you’ll get a little more overall carbohydrates with this combo (the pita bread is mostly carbs), but the protein in the hummus should help you from crashing too hard. One hummus and pita bread snack combination will pack about 267 calories, 10 grams of protein and five grams of fiber.
It also has 555 milligrams of sodium, which is 20 percent of the overall daily recommended intake — so moderation is key.
9. Cottage Cheese
This easy and simple snack can curb any intense craving. With 222 calories per cup, it’s not something you need to eat a ton of. But when you do have it in reasonable portions, you’ll also get that coveted protein that helps to combat a midday lull.
And you’ll get magnesium, which is great for controlling blood sugar levels (to keep you from crashing). Plus a ton of other great nutrients, like calcium.
10. Protein Bar
Protein bars of all kinds are a great go-to option for on-the-go people.
The fact that they’re so portable and so available makes them excellent for throwing in a purse or gym bag in case you feel yourself starting to get hangry. But, like many easy on-the-go options, there’s a range of health benefits you can get from them, depending on the brand.
Buchanan is a fan of this snack choice, but advises to watch the sugar amounts. Aim for ones under 10 grams of sugar, he says. Even better is under five grams.
Many brands are packed with sugar and preservatives that cancel out the protein energy you’re getting. If you’re extremely active, consuming some sugar and carbs isn’t a big deal since you’ll likely burn it off quickly. But if you’re sedentary and looking for snack for your less active lifestyle, steer away from brands that overdo it on those fronts.
11. Seaweed Snacks
Dried seaweed snacks can be surprisingly satisfying. Seaweed provides not only a delightful crunch, but some great health benefits. Dried seaweed is filled with antioxidants and is considered a healthy carbohydrate.
Like other dried foods, it has a lot of sodium content you need to be aware of. Of course, regular seaweed will have health benefits without a lot of the drawbacks from the dried stuff. But it’s also harder to get (and at least to me) not nearly as tasty.
12. Dried Fruit
Dried fruit retains many of the nutritional benefits of regular fruit, making it — in many ways — just as healthy as its juicy predecessor. But be aware that with the water taken out of the fruit itself, it does lose some of its overall hydration to your body. It also allows it to last longer and stay good in all sorts of environments, making it more portable.
Some places will add in extra sugar or preservatives to their dried fruit, so be on the lookout for that. But a handful of healthily dried fruits will have minimal calories and pretty much the same nutritional benefits as fruit itself.
13. Roasted Chickpeas
An easy thing to make at home or find at your local store, roasted chickpeas may soon become your favorite go-to snack. Chickpeas provide a healthy amount of iron that translates to easy-to-eat small snacks you can take anywhere.
Something like Biena Chickpea Snacks with Sea Salt will provide 130 calories per ¼ cup, and will give you 8 percent of your daily iron recommended intake along with those calories (and six grams of protein to enjoy with the crunchy and delicious taste).
A longtime favorite snack for busy people because of its portability and ability to withstand all sorts of temperature variations, granola — either loose or in bar form — can be a great food option.
Like many other great options, part of its problem is that when it’s highly processed, it comes with more sugar and preservatives that take away from its health benefits. But if you’re looking for a high-in-fiber food that’s not only filled with nutrients and protein (that will help you feel good all day) but also help improve your digestion, skin and blood pressure, healthy granola options are the way to go.
15. Meat Jerky
Many carnivores swear by the hearty deliciousness of a good meat jerky. Meat is packed with protein without carbohydrates, so your body will take longer to process it and you’ll feel full for a while. Plus, jerky is pretty durable and portable, so you can keep it at your desk instead of making the long trip to the shared fridge.
Like most popular snacks, not all jerkys are created equal, so make sure to read the labels before you down an entire bag and assume it’s totally healthy. Plus, it’s high in sodium (and often sodium nitrates and preservatives) so don’t overdo it. But a half cup of beef jerky will deliver about a 185 calories and a solid 15 grams of protein with four grams of sugar.
16. Energy Balls
Little no-bake balls of goodness can really perk up your day and make your mind and body more alert. Whether you get them pre-packaged and use them as an alternative to your afternoon coffee or make them yourself, they’re basically like rolling up lots of good low-carb, high-protein nutrition that you can take with you throughout your day.
Many people like adding in dark chocolate or cacao nibs to give a little energy kick along with the nutrition. Like trail mix, this is totally dependent on what you put into it to determine the calorie and nutrition content. But if you wanted to make a prepackaged easy-to-do recipe like Creation Nation’s Cocoa for Coconut mix, two energy balls from this would give you 120 calories, seven grams of protein, three grams of fiber and five grams of carbohydrates.
17. Dark Chocolate
For any chocoholic out there who lives by their sweet tooth, fret not. A moderate amount of dark chocolate can give you lots of antioxidant benefits, a little caffeine perk to help get your brain moving and satisfy your cravings.
One snack-sized dark chocolate bar will have only about 80 calories without delivering any protein along with it. But sometimes a satisfied sweet tooth is all you need to concentrate better and get on with the rest of your work day. It’s possible a little sprinkle of dark chocolate in a trail mix or an energy ball is enough.
Be aware of the percentage dark chocolate available in your snack. The higher the healthier; Buchanan suggests 75 percent or higher.
No matter what, enjoy but don’t overdo it.
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