It’s 3 p.m. on a Thursday and your stomach begins to rumble. Lunchtime is long gone and dinner is still hours away. What kind of snack will you reach for to hold over your hunger?
Typical vending machine offerings like candy bars, chips and crackers may be the most convenient option in a moment of extreme afternoon hunger, but as you likely already know, most of the foods you’ll find there aren’t the most health-conscious of choices.
To truly quiet your stomach until dinnertime, it’s smarter to snack on whole food treats that are packed with energy-boosting nutrients and preferably some protein, too.
Smart office snacking is simple, if you keep your desk (or the employee fridge) stocked with a few nutritious options you won’t have to take a trip to the not-so-nutritious vending machine or shell out for an overpriced pastry at Starbucks.
Plus, if you keep nutrient-rich whole foods on hand, you’ll be less likely to indulge in the unexpected treats (like morning meeting bagels or donuts for a coworker’s birthday) that inevitably tend to pop up in so many workplaces.
Here are a few healthy desk side snack ideas.
1. Peanut Butter
Don’t shy away from nut butters just because they are high in fat. As the Harvard Heart Letter points out, saturated fat (the kind found in peanut butter) isn't harmful to your health when consumed in moderation. A single serving of peanut butter (usually about two tablespoons) makes for a smart afternoon snack option because it offers about eight grams of protein as well as some fiber and other vitamins and minerals. Try spreading it on whole grain rice cakes or apple slices. Just make sure to keep the calories in check by measuring out a proper portion.
2. Dried Figs
Dried figs (or any type of dried fruit, really) are an excellent snack choice for times when your sweet tooth is calling. Among other nutrients, Figs are a good source of potassium, which helps to control blood pressure, and they also offer a generous helping of fiber, which has been associated with healthy weight management. When shopping for dried figs and other dried fruits, just be sure to check labels and avoid any brands that package their products with added sugar.
3. Fresh Fruit
Keeping fresh fruit, like apples, bananas or oranges, at your desk is an easy way to make sure that you’ll always have a healthy, single-serving snack on hand. Not only do fruits offer a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals but as mentioned with figs above, they also tend to be high in fiber.
4. Trail Mix
Nuts found in trail mix (like almonds, cashews and walnuts) offer healthy fats and protein that will keep you feeling full and satisfied, and dried fruits (like raisins, cranberries and blueberries) that will squash your sweet tooth while also offering important vitamins and minerals. However, just like with dried fruits mentioned above, be sure to check labels and avoid trail mixes with added sugar and candy. And as many of us have likely experienced in the past, snacks like these are easy to eat mindlessly, so make sure to avoid overeating by measuring out a proper portion before you start noshing.
5. Greek Yogurt
Okay, so this snack you’ll have to store in the fridge, but with all the health benefits it has to offer, it will certainly be worth the extra effort. In a recent diet and nutrition column for TIME, five out of five nutrition experts agreed that Greek yogurt makes for a nutritious and nourishing food choice. It’s a good source of both calcium and protein and a single-serving container of the non-fat variety (easily found at almost any grocery store) has about 100 calories. The only downside is that the taste is a bit bitter, so try sweetening it up by mixing in fruit or honey. You’ll likely find packaged versions with fruit already added in, but once again, be sure to check the label and avoid brands that include excessive amounts of added sugar.