Easy, Healthy Workplace Snacks
12 portable goodies that will keep you away from the vending machine
By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, LD
Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
There's never enough time in the workday, is there? And one of the ways many of us try to save a little time is by eating snacks (and even our lunches) at our desks. Come on, you know you do it!
Some of us feel that we can't even spare the few minutes it takes to walk to the cafeteria or down the street and buy a snack. When we do take time to eat, some of us can be seen sneaking bites in between checking email, shuffling papers, and answering the phone.
Aside from the fact that it's good for mind, body, and soul to work breaks into the workday, this desktop dining habit is a potential health disaster, according to nutrition experts. Here's why:
So how do you overcome these pitfalls? One answer is to put aside your work for those few minutes you're eating and take time to really enjoy your food (plus, you won't risk getting crumbs all over that important report you're working on). Another is to make sure you choose healthy workplace snacks composed of foods you should fit into your daily diet anyway (things like fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, and yogurt).
It's also important to seek balance in your snacks -- and to remember that snack calories do count.
Katherine Tallmadge, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, tells her clients to snack up to three times a day but to limit calories to 100-200 calories for each snack.
"I like to recommend snacks that provide a little carbohydrate, protein, and a small amount of fat, if any," she says.
That's not so easy to do if you're at the mercy of your workplace vending machines or snack shops. Most offer mostly high-sugar, high-fat snacks with little nutritional value. And few meet Tallmadge's snack guideline of 200 calories or less. For example, typical offerings include potato chips, with 303 calories and 19.6 fat grams in a 2-ounce bag; and chocolate chip cookies, with 277 calories and 16 fat grams in a 2-ounce package.
Your best snacking strategy is to plan ahead. Keep some healthy options in your desk or office for those times when you don't have time to get lunch, or when you need a little nutritional boost during the day. You can also bring fresh snack food with you every day from home, providing your workplace has a refrigerator.
Here are some examples of snacks that are good to keep handy in your desk:
Here are some simple perishable snacks you can bring for the day:
It's also important to make your desktop drinks work for you, not against you. That means either choosing beverages with zero calories that quench your thirst or drinks that have some nutritional value but not too much sugar.
Good non-caloric choices include:
Beverages that offer some nutrition, but not a lot of sugar include:
Originally published May 13, 2005.
SOURCES: ESHA Food Processor II, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September 2002; November 1999. News release, American Dietetic Association, Jan. 15, 2003. Katherine Tallmadge, RD, spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association.
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Last Editorial Review: 6/1/2006