You work hard and deserve good snacks throughout the day to keep you going. Taking a break to have a snack is a good way to give your brain and eyes a break, especially if you have an office job. However, many junk food snacks will leave you feeling tired and gross. So, what kind of snacks are best for work?
A good work snack should include:
- Fiber to keep your belly from yelling at you.
- Complex carbohydrates that digest slowly for a steady energy supply, not a sugar rush and crash.
- Some healthy fats to keep you full longer and also provide sustained energy.
- Low in calories to prevent weight gain.
- Affordable, of course!
In addition to including nutritional value, it is great to have some snacks that can be kept at your desk. While not all of these snacks listed can be kept at your desk, many of them can be. This will save you time in the morning by minimizing the amount of food you need to pack each day to bring to work.
And most importantly, a good snack should taste good too!
Here is a list of simple healthy snacks to help you make it through your day without spending a fortune:
If you are feeling tired, your body and brain may be in need of glucose – this does not mean a sugary donut or Oreos! Your body and brain run on glucose, which is a building block of sugar. You need sugar to function, and nature has provided the perfect energizing snack – Fruit! Fresh fruit is the best snack because it is healthy and cheap. Here are a few common fruits and a couple of benefits for each, in addition to fiber, water, and deliciousness:
- Oranges – Helps immunity, lowers blood pressure, aids metabolism.
- Apples – Improves gut health and reduces inflammation.
- Berries – Antioxidant powerhouses that can reduce the risk of cancer.
- Bananas – Lowers blood pressure, aids metabolism, improves bone health.
- Watermelon – Hydrating, provides antioxidants, healthy skin, improves eye health.
Dried fruit is high in fiber, potassium, and various vitamins and minerals. It also contains sugar, which your body needs to function and produce energy. However, processed sugary snacks are devoid of the healthy fiber and nutrients that your body needs too.
A tip about sugar: Fruit sugar is not bad! When it is in its natural state, fruit contains fiber, water, and many other plant nutrients that slow the digestion of sugars into the body. Dried fruit should be eaten in moderation, since much of the water and some other nutrients have been removed due to drying. One or two servings a day of dried fruit can provide a nice snack, but be sure to not replace fresh fruit with dried fruit in your diet.
Here are a few common dried fruits and their health benefits:
- Prunes – High in potassium to lower blood pressure
- Apricots – Lots of Vitamin A for healthy vision, and potassium for cardiovascular health
- Blueberries – Good source of iron, high in antioxidants, improves immunity
- Apples – High in soluble fiber that lowers bad cholesterol
- Raisins – High in minerals that are necessary for healthy bones
Tip: When choosing dried fruit, make sure to avoid those with added sugars or sulfites. The only ingredient should be the fruit. Trader Joe’s and many health food stores have plenty of healthy dried fruit options. However, unsweetened dried fruit can be harder to find at common grocery stores. If all else fails, Nuts.com is a good source for dried fruit too.
Try something new! Have you tried freeze dried fruit yet? It has an interestingly satisfying texture and makes a tasty and sweet crunchy snack! It is also great to pair with nuts, seeds, or on top of cereal and oatmeal.
I know, when you think of a tasty snack, your mind does not think of carrots and celery. But, if you add this snack to your routine a couple days a week, you can save money and maybe even lose some weight. Even better, you will start to crave healthy fresh snacks and may even make vegetables a snack habit.
To enjoy fresh veggies easier, dip them in bean dip, hummus, nut butter, or tahini. Try other veggies to mix it up so you don’t tire of carrot sticks. Here are a few veggies that can easily become your new favorite work snack:
- Jicama (aka Yambean) – This vegetable is mildly sweet and satisfyingly crunchy. To prepare jicama, simply peel and cut into “sticks.”
- Cucumber – Cucumber is very low in calories and pairs great with other foods. Slice it into “coins” and pair with cherry tomatoes, olives, and hummus.
- Mini Sweet Peppers – These are perfect snack sized peppers that are sweet and addicting. They are great by themselves or with dip.
- Celery – When was the last time you had “Ants on a Log”? Try it and remember the good old days.
- Carrots – Easy, super cheap, and full of vitamin A, which will help your eyes recover from a long day at the computer.
Nuts are less affordable, but when eaten in moderation, they will last a long time at your desk and can give you a healthy energy boost midday. Consuming one ounce of nuts on most days can help keep you satisfied and will not lead to weight gain, despite popular belief. Nuts are high in minerals like magnesium that are essential for metabolism and they are also high in protein, which is useful for weight loss. Remember, too much can be a bad thing. A one ounce serving is equal to about 1/3 cup of whole nuts without the shell. Here is a quick list of nuts and numbers if you want to count out a serving:
- Almonds – 24
- Cashews – 18
- Hazelnuts – 12
- Brazil Nuts – 8
- Macadamia Nuts – 12
- Peanuts – 35
- Pecan halves – 15
- Walnut halves – 14
Tip: Instead of keeping a bag of nuts at your desk, divide them up into small, one serving containers and only keep enough for the week. This will keep you from over-eating. Also, if you buy nuts in bulk, store them in the freezer to avoid spoilage and nutrient loss.
Similar to nuts, seeds are high in healthy fats, protein, and minerals. Seeds are very nutrient-dense, so you only need about 2 tablespoons a day. One serving is around 200 calories, depending on the type of seed. Many seeds like chia, hemp, flax, and pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fats. According to NutritionFacts.org, flaxseeds have been shown to lower blood pressure as well as medications.
Seeds are a perfect topping for oatmeal, a great addition to trail mix, and a perfect pair to dried fruit. Check out this simple recipe for a DIY trail mix you can store at your desk for the week:
1 cup Cheerios, or similar low-sugar cereal
1 cup pretzels
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup cashews
½ cup peanuts
½ cup chocolate chips
1 cup dried blueberries
1 cup freeze dried raspberries
Crackers and Pretzels
Crackers and pretzels are a cheap snack that can satisfy a craving for crunchy, salty, and savory snacks. Be sure to choose whole grain versions, like Triscuits. Crackers with seeds, like Mary’s Gone Crackers, can give you a nutrient dense boost when you are starting to feel sluggish. Pair your crackers or pretzels with hummus, bean spreads, or peanut butter for a more filling treat.
To avoid over-eating, transfer the crackers or pretzels to small serving-sized containers to bring to work.
Popcorn can be a low calorie and super cheap snack, if you choose the right one. Plain popcorn is the healthiest and cheapest, but if you want a little flavor in your life, you can still have it. Kettle corn or lightly salted popcorn that are not made with butter are still low calorie and can knock out cravings for a sweet and salty snack.
For simplicity, Boom Chika Pop makes snack-sized bags that you can bring to work. Their light kettle corn and sea salt flavors have only 35 calories per cup, so you could eat a lot of popcorn without feeling guilty.
If you are looking for the cheapest version of popcorn, buy the kernels in bulk or in a large bag. When you are ready for a snack, add a handful of kernels to a small paper bag, roll up the bag to close it, and heat it in the microwave for a minute and thirty seconds. It will cook just like a packaged bag of popcorn. You might be shocked that you ever paid more for pre-bagged popping corn. You can flavor your super cheap snack yourself with whatever you like.
Another low calorie snack is roasted seaweed. Lightly salted and crisp, seaweed snacks make a good replacement for potato chips. Seaweed snacks are a healthy option because they are high in iodine, which is necessary for thyroid health. The thyroid regulated metabolism and many hormones, so keeping it healthy is necessary. Seaweed is also a good source of potassium, protein, and fiber. Plus, seaweed is a plant-source of vitamin B-12.
Seaweed snacks are made by many brands and are conveniently packages into snack packs and are also available in larger packages, if you would rather save money and use less packaging.
Oatmeal is not just for breakfast. It makes a satisfying snack anytime of the day. Since you can buy flavored or plain packets for very little money, oatmeal is a perfect healthy snack to keep at work. All that is needed is water and a microwave. Easy!
Oatmeal is loaded with soluble fiber, which helps to lower bad cholesterol and improves heart health. The fiber in oatmeal keeps you full and benefits gut health. Plus, oats are high in iron and B-vitamins to help maintain a healthy metabolism.
Tip: Top your oatmeal with seeds and dried fruit for an extra energy boost.
Simple low-sugar cereals make a great work snack because you can keep them at your desk and a box of cereal is not expensive. Look for cereals like Kashi, Cheerios, Raisin Bran, and Chex. These cereals have a lower sugar content than most and are low in calories. You don’t need milk to enjoy these cereals, you can mix cereal with fruit and nuts to make a trail mix, or eat it by itself.
Healthier cereals are often fortified with vitamins and provide some protein and fiber too. Since they are low in calories, cereal can be a good snack if you are trying to lose weight.
Roasted Chickpeas or Edamame
Chickpeas and Edamame (whole soy beans) are high in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They are low in fat and calories, making roasted versions a healthy weight-loss snack. There are many brands available in the snack section of grocery stores and there are also many flavors too. You can choose from flavors like falafel and honey roasted.
For a cheaper healthy snack, you can roast chickpeas and edamame at home. Here is how to roast them yourself:
- Drain a can of chickpeas, rinse, and pat dry.
- Add them to a bowl with 1 tablespoon of oil and seasonings of choice. Mix well.
- Place on a nonstick baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 40-50 minutes, or until dry and crispy.
- Let cool before storing in an an unsealed container in the pantry for up to 5 days.
Rice cakes are very low in calories and also low in flavor. The flavored versions often have a lot of added sugar and salt, unfortunately. But, believe it or not, there are ways to really enjoy a rice cake. Choose the thinner rice cakes, like the Lundberg Thin Stackers or the Real Foods Corn Thins. Then, find a healthy dip or bean spread to top it with – avocado and nut butters are also great toppings.
When it comes to a bean spread, think hummus or Better Bean Company’s ready-to-eat flavored beans. If you like a little spice, some hot sauce makes a great addition to this healthy snack. Beans are high in fiber, protein, and can help improve heart health and reduce blood pressure. Adding tasty seasoned beans to your rice cake will make a crunchy and yummy snack that will easily hold you over until your next meal.