When I hear the word “snacking” mentioned it often comes with a negative or unhealthy connotation. This should not be the case. Snacking is great way to support a balanced diet and should be encouraged. During a busy day at work, good quality snacks can help get you through the long mornings until lunch and over the final furlong in the afternoon before dinner time. Of course from a nutrition and health perspective, it’s really important to pay attention to the snacks you’re consuming.
Here’s a look at how I include snacks in my work day:
I’m a big believer in making the healthy choice the easy choice. We don’t like when things are complicated. When in a rush, chances are we will grab whatever is convenient. In a coffee shop this is often a scone, a pastry or the dreaded muffin! With a little advance preparation however we can give ourselves the option of making a healthier choice.
Every morning before I leave for work, I make sure I’ve got plenty of healthy snacks in my bag to get me through the day. These bad boys can also serve to keep hunger pangs at bay if deadlines or meetings mean that lunch time is delayed.
For me, having these snacks in the bag is just as important as the laptop!
Healthy Snack Ideas
So what kind of snacks am I packing??
It’s so easy to pick up a colourful mix of fruits at your local supermarket or grocery store. Fruits are a great source of vitamins, minerals, fibre and simple sugars. They’re also an anti-oxidant. I try to buy different fruits each week to keep at home then choose a selection of them to bring to work each morning. Stock up with some oranges, apples, grapes, bananas, blueberries, strawberries and kiwis for starters and you won’t go too far wrong. Like anything though, don’t overdo it on one particular fruit each day. Mix things up!
As well as fruit I’ll always have nuts to snack on too. Nuts are underrated as a nutritious food. They’re packed with protein, fibre, and essential fats. They have a bad reputation regarding their calorie count and it is true they are high in fat, but a certain amount of fat is necessary in your diet and nuts provide a healthy source of fat in moderation. Plus they are bursting with other great health benefits.
So should you be eating nuts coated in chocolate, sugar glaze or some kind of yoghurt? Are you nuts? I’m talking about the unsalted varieties with no added gimmicks. Nuts like walnuts (omega-3 fatty acids), almonds (fibre), cashews (iron & zinc), pecans (heart healthy anti-oxidant), brazil nuts (selenium) and pistachios (lowest calorie nut and possibly the tastiest!).
Some of these will require access to a fridge and some cutlery! If you have a canteen or kitchen area at your workplace then don’t let it go to waste. Stock up the fridge with quick fix snack solutions like wholegrain breads and pitas, some hummus, cottage cheese, tomatoes, cucumber etc. Combine these snacks with fruits and nuts and you’ll be well on your way to making your work day a healthier one.
Here’s a few of my personal favourites:
- Wholegrain toast/pita with peanut butter or cottage cheese
- Celery and carrot with hummus dip
- Greek style natural yoghurt (no added flavour)
- Good quality protein bar (the nutrition value in these bars has improved significantly in recent years)
The Power of Habit
My daily habit is to always ensure my bag is packed with the snacks I need. Can you do the same? Or perhaps your habit will be buying fruits for the week on your morning break every Monday. We are creatures of habit and we have the power to create new ones.
Keeping cakes, chocolates and crisps to a weekly treat is easier said than done but something I like to aim for. We certainly want to avoid making them a daily habit. If they are already a habit then start substituting them slowly with some of the healthier choices above. Habits aren’t created overnight, they take time. Small, incremental changes over time can lead to amazing results.
How Much and How Often
How much and when you snack depends on the time of your main meals and how many meals a day you’re eating. Historically the traditional diet in Ireland revolved around three huge meals a day and maybe some random snacking in between, and that’s fine if that allows you to maintain or improve your health. Whatever works for you is what’s important.
Personally I try to eat 4 to 5 smaller portion meals a day. It can be challenging to have so many meals in a day while working in an office though so this is where the snacks come in. I use the old fashioned eyeball method to measure out portion sizes for meals and snacks, allowing for a balanced mix of macro and micronutrients. I have used the My Fitness Pal app before and if you are the type of person that needs to see exact numbers and figures then it’s an incredibly powerful tool and could be perfect for you (plus it’s free!).
How often should you be eating? Well it’s perfectly normal to be hungry every 2 to 3 hours so listen to what your body is telling you. Don’t ignore it, have some healthy snack options close at hand to feed your craving when hunger strikes and avoid the evil vending machine trying to tempt you with a chocolate fix or a sugar rush!