You want to snack smart at work, but it's tough when there's a vending machine down the hall and a coffee shop around the corner. Your best defense? Arm yourself by always having smart snacks within easy reach. After all, enjoying a small snack is a good idea for both work and weight loss: Eating something in the afternoon will keep your blood sugar even, pump your energy level up, and curb your appetite until you get off work.
Ideas for healthy foods to stock your at-work "snack stash" include:
- dried fruit (My pick? Dried cranberries.)
- low fat trail mix
- single serving fruit bowls (My pick? Del Monte Fruit Gels.)
- reduced-fat or natural peanut butter to spread on a banana, an apple, pre-cut celery sticks or a slice of whole-grain bread
- almonds (natural or roasted without salt)
- mini chocolate chips (Hint: Melt a few to make dip to turn fruit into a special treat!)
- unsweetened cocoa or low-cal hot chocolate (My pick: Swiss Miss Sensible Sweets. It only has 25 calories, but it's so rich!)
- fat-free milk (Hint: Bring some healthy cereal, too!)
- light mozzarella cheese balls or string cheese
- flavored yogurt or Greek yogurt (Tip: Flavor it with honey -- makes it yummy!)
- hard-boiled eggs (These are a must for me. A boiled egg white is "0 points" on Weight Watchers and the protein helps curb my hunger.)
- low-fat drinkable yogurt
The Dreaded DishThe candy dish at the office strikes fear in the heart of any dieter. It's somehow magically full every time you walk by it! If you regularly help yourself, you may assume it's just lack of will power. But have you ever considered that maybe it's not just the candy pulling you over to that coworker's desk? You may be craving the social time, not the sweets. Try chatting sans sweets a few days in a row and you may notice you don't even miss the edible treat.
If you stock the communal candy dish, consider these pointers for keeping tabs on temptation:
- Try to choose hard candy -- it only contains about 25 calories a piece and takes a few minutes to eat so you're not popping one after another.
Put the candy in an opaque container or one with a lid.
Stock the dish with candy that you're not crazy about.
Put the bowl elsewhere -- a University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign study showed people ate two-thirds less candy when a dish was stored six feet away.
Smart Snacking TipsFruit is often my top choice for an afternoon snack because the fructose gives me a quick energy boost; pairing it with a little protein such as some low-fat cheese, yogurt, or peanut butter gives it extra "staying power" until dinner.
If you find yourself seeking out a high-cal snack every afternoon, that's a sure sign you're not eating the right lunch. Get in a good mix of fat, protein and healthy carbs at lunch. If your lunch has the proper nutrients, and is filling, then a small snack (around 100 calories), such as a piece of fruit or an ounce of nuts should be satisfying.
Don't let stress-inducers like an approaching deadline or an upcoming meeting drive you to reach for food to tame tension. Try deep breathing for just a few minutes -- it's effective and works quickly.
Wansink, Brian, et al. The office candy dish: proximity's influence on estimated and actual consumption. International Journal of Obesity. 30, 871–875. 1 May 2006.