Nearly all of my clients struggle with eating during their workdays – let’s not dwell on why no one gets a real lunch break and/or why no one can be spared a 2 minute snack break, but instead, let’s get solution-oriented. (Except, seriously, making everyone work through lunch is the pits.)
Work-Friendly Snacks for your Desk
We’re upgrading from fruit leather and cup o’soup in your desk drawer, and finding solutions that will help you get in some real nutrition, even if they have to stay in your desk drawer for a few weeks.
1. Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Fruit that comes “pre-wrapped”, like apples, pears, oranges, and clementines, can comfortably live at your desk for a couple of weeks. Bananas won’t be as forgiving, but they can last a day or two (I could never roll like that because I felt like everything smelled like bananas, though.)
Tomatoes (like cherry tomatoes, if we’re talking snacks) and avocados can also hang out at room temperature for several days. They might want a little salt and pepper when you’re ready to eat them, though.
If you’re going to keep nuts at work, you should probably either buy them pre-portioned or bring a measuring cup/a container that has a known, appropriate measurement (like 1/4 cup) with you. Nuts are very filling and can be a more nutritious alternative to chips and pretzels, but most varieties have about 200 calories in 1/4 cup. That’s a perfectly reasonable portion of nuts – but it’s also really easy to eat four times that amount while you’re working and end up with an accidental 800 calorie bump in your day. Almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, pistachios, macadamias – and even the flavored versions, as long as you check the label for added sugar – can really brighten up your afternoon.
3. All Kinds of Oatmeal (and Chia Seeds)
I used to keep baggies of 1/2 cup rolled oats with 1 tablespoon of chia seeds and some cinnamon in my desk drawer. I’d cook the oats in my mug with hot water from the office water dispenser, keeping them covered (sometimes with my mousepad!) for about 5 minutes. Some days I’d add a sprinkle of sugar or stevia. The chia seeds helped handle any extra water and kept the oats fluffy. (This is also one of my fave hotel breakfasts!)
Not your speed? There are a ton of oatmeal and mixed grain cups that are ready to “cook” at work – just check the label and make sure that the one you’re choosing doesn’t have more than 9 grams of sugar. And don’t limit your oat consumption to breakfast – I used to eat my oatmeal most often as my 4pm snack so that I would be fueled for my post-work workout.
4. Very Whole Grain Crackers
Crackers that are made out of whole foods, like those from Mary’s Gone Crackers, and not refined flours, are great desk snacks – just know how many are in one serving. If you’re even moderately kitchen-familiar, these 4-ingredient almond flour crackers are another great option. (She also has an awesome goldfish cracker recipe.)
5. Some Bars
The land of snack bars/protein bars is vastly overpopulated and confusing. Try to find a bar that contains less than 8g of sugar and has at least the same amount of protein as it does carbs (to keep it from just being a nicely dressed candy bar) – some brands to check out include Kind, ThinkThin (I didn’t name it), Zing, and Nugo, but you will have to check the label on each flavor. There are lots of other popular ones (like Quest) that include artificial sweeteners, which I can’t recommend to you in good conscience. Don’t trust a bar just because it says “protein” on the package.
If you can find a high fiber, low sugar cereal that you like – and stop yourself from eating the whole box in one sitting – it will keep well in your desk. (Again, a measuring cup or portion-controlled container will work much better for keeping an eye on portion control than the handful system.)
7. Some Popcorn
There are some healthier brands of popcorn that are out there in pre-portioned bags and they can be a fun treat with a lot of flavor – just check the sugar content (compare it to plain popcorn to know what the damage is). The fiber will help this snack stay with you longer than just simple carbs will.
Work-Friendly Snacks for the Fridge
Having access to a fridge, whether its your own miniature one under your desk or the slightly dangerous team one in the break room, vastly opens up your work food options! All of these foods can stay at the office for at least a week.
String cheese, sliced cheese, miniature cheeses that make the little wax pac-mans when you unwrap them – cheese is a great work snack because it provides calcium, protein, and fat in one easy to snack on package.
2. Cut Vegetables
Vegetable sticks cut from carrots, celery, peppers, and cucumbers can happily stay in zip-top bags or containers with lids for at least a week. I’ve never personally tried making mason jar salads, but I’m told they’re pretty great, too.
3. Hard Boiled Eggs
Great with your desk crackers, cheese, veggies, or on their own, hard boiled eggs can also happily hang out in the fridge for a week.
Whether you bring a 32oz container or individually packaged cups, yogurt is great to keep in a work fridge. (I think people are less likely to touch the big container, but do what works for you!) Greek yogurt is a great way to get more protein into your day.
5. Cut fruit and/or Berries
I won’t even judge if you don’t cut your own fruit! Don’t pre-wash your berries – they will stay fresh longer.
6. Cottage Cheese
Go ahead and ignore me – topped with some of your desk cereal, it’s a great snack that will keep you full for quite a while!
7. Deli Meat
If you eat meat, you might want to stash 1/4 pound of deli meat at work for some quick meat and cheese roll-ups (there’s probably a stash of mustard or mayo packets handy). This won’t last more than a week, so know yourself – if it’s better to bring a whole packed lunch, stick with that.
I’m not saying you can’t keep these foods at work, but I will tell you why I think they’re not the best options.
1. Dried Fruit
Reasonably-sized portions of dried fruit are abysmally small, and the sugar (albeit natural) will likely only leave you hungrier. If you’re going to have dried fruit as a snack, keep your measuring spoon nearby and always pair it with nuts or something that contains fat and protein.
Seems obvious, but I’m also including “health foods” that are candy in cute packaging – anything that is fruit and nuts “dipped in dark chocolate” is still candy. This will leave you hungrier than when you started, and more often than not my clients report finding a pile of wrappers on their desk but don’t recall even eating the candy.
Our goal here is to fill up on a healthy, high nutrition snack, or maybe even a mini-meal – while chips come in conveniently small bags, they don’t offer a lot in the way of vitamins. Yes, even the “veggie chips” – which are mostly made of dehydrated, flaked potatoes.
4. Most Bars
Bars are so convenient, but they really require a careful label analysis. Between added sugar, fillers, and preservatives, I wouldn’t count on bars to be a staple food – they’re great in a pinch, but you’re probably better off with (real) cheese and crackers or an apple.
So what are your go-to snacks? What did I miss? What snacks do you have questions about? Let me know! It’s important not to get too hungry at work, and to be fueled for your after-work activities, too.