Working eight or more hours a day can make it difficult to eat healthfully unless you plan ahead. Research shows that eating every four hours helps to keep your metabolism charged and your energy level high. Before you dig in your drawer for spare change and head to the vending machine, plan ahead and stash low-calorie, nutritious snacks in a cabinet, drawer, or your briefcase. Each of these snacks has less than 200 calories and are sure to satisfy when the 3 p.m. cravings hit.
Whole Wheat Crackers and Peanut Butter
Save your quarters by skipping the vending machine's peanut butter crackers and packing your own nutritious snack. For a hunger-curbing option, try 10 multigrain wheat crackers (such as Multigrain Wheat Thins) and a tablespoon of peanut butter. This nutrient-rich snack rings in at just 193 calories and offers 2 grams of fiber. The combination of complex carbs and protein help to keep your blood sugar stable and keep you feeling full longer.
Grab an apple, banana, pear, grapes, or other portable fruit as you dash out the door every morning. If you grab a different fruit every day (and change with the seasons), you'll obtain a good variety of nutrients plus fiber, and won't get bored with the same old snack. The average serving of fruit is around 70 calories so pair with a cup of fat-free milk (about 90 calories) for a protein boost as well as extra calcium and vitamin D. This protein and fiber combination will keep you feeling full and prevent mindless eating.
Popcorn with Parmesan
Take regular bagged popcorn to the next level by topping with 2 tablespoons of shredded Parmesan cheese. The nutty flavor of the popcorn pairs well with the rich flavor of Parmesan resulting in a quick, 150-calorie snack. Simply top 3½ cups of 94%-fat-free popcorn with the cheese and your snack is served. If you don't have an office fridge to stash your Parm, nosh on just the popcorn for only 100 calories. This salty snack counts as one of your three daily servings of whole grains and helps to increase your energy and mood.
Make the swap and choose nuts over chips for a crunchy alternative. Nuts are rich in heart-healthy fats but are calorically dense (about 170 calories per ounce) so measure out an ounce (about 24 almonds) and stick to that amount instead of feasting on the entire bag. Stash premeasured baggies of nuts in an office drawer or in your purse to nibble on when the 3 p.m. hunger pains hit. Almonds and other nuts are a naturally high source of vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, and potassium and are rich in protein and fiber.
When you're in a rush at work and want something warm and comforting, heat a packet of plain instant oatmeal (just 110 calories) in the microwave for a quick and satisfying treat. Choose plain oatmeal and add your own flavorings to control the calorie and sugar content. Top with a 42 calorie mini box of raisins for a sweet flavor and added nutrients or sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg. Doubling as a fiber-rich breakfast or daytime snack, oatmeal helps lower cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease.
Mini Pitas with Hummus
Use mini pita pockets to scoop up creamy hummus. Whether you make your own hummus or choose a favorite brand at the grocery store, hummus is made from chickpeas, a great source of soluble fiber. This soluble fiber helps to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. Pair one serving of hummus, 2 tablespoons, with 3 mini pita rounds for a 150 calorie snack. If you want a protein boost, fill the mini pita pockets with an ounce of low-sodium deli ham or turkey. The fiber and protein combo gives the snack some staying power to keep you feeling full longer.
If you're having a sweet attack and are looking for a healthy "bar" that isn't loaded with sugar, reach for one that is all natural. Brands like LaraBar and KIND are good sources of fiber, contain no added sugar, and are made from whole, natural ingredients like dates, almonds, cashews, and cranberries. These bars are rich in fiber, low in sodium, loaded with vitamins and minerals, and run around 200 calories per serving. Pack these convenient bars in a purse or pocket for an instantly sweet and filling snack.
Veggies with Ranch
Beat the high-fat, high-sodium snacks featured at the convenience store and pack a container of fresh veggies like carrots, celery, and grape tomatoes. Raw veggies fill you up because of their high water and fiber content. If you struggle eating veggies in the buff, try dipping them in 2 tablespoons of low-fat Ranch dressing (80 calories), hummus (70 calories), or salsa (10 calories).