Ever wonder what the experts who teach others how to eat healthfully pack in their bags to snack on at work? The right grub can help you stay focused, energized, and full for hours, so you can concentrate on the tasks at hand and maintain the stamina to stay awake during meetings (even the boring ones). We asked nutritionists to share the healthy foods they nosh on throughout the day for lasting body and mind benefits. The results will have you looking forward to snack time.
Full-Fat Cheese Stick Wrap
“My primary go-to snack is a cheese stick wrapped up in a mini high-fiber wheat wrap,” says Marjorie Nolan Cohn, RD, CDN, a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. “I choose regular cheese sticks, not the low fat or fat free variety. I love this snack because the cheese stick is high in protein, the wrap is high in fiber, and because I'm not avoiding fat (in the cheese stick) it keeps me full for longer. It's super portable—I prep it ahead of time so that I don't even have to unwrap the cheese stick while I'm working.”
Oatmeal and Peanut Butter
“I keep rolled oats and a jar of natural peanut butter in my office so it's always available,” says Nolan Cohn. She scoops ½ cup of rolled oats into a mug and adds hot water and a tablespoon of peanut butter. The whole grain oats are high in filling fiber, the peanut butter offers a punch of protein, and the warmth is really comforting on a cold day, she says. Bonus: Oatmeal contains zinc, which may help boost your immune system, making you less susceptible to those water cooler germs.
Chicken Salad Portable Pack
The Cranberry Almond Chicken Salad by Good Foods is delicious and comes in single serving containers—ideal for taking to work, says Mitzi Dulan, RD, author of The Pinterest Diet: How to Pin Your Way Thin. They’re made with Greek yogurt and have 20 grams of satisfying protein in a 4-ounce portion for just 150 calories. (The packs are also available in 6-ounce portions depending on where you buy them.) The protein helps you to feel satisfied while the carbohydrates provide fuel for your brain. The almonds also offer satisfying healthy fats so you won’t feel starving two hours later.
A Low-Sugar Snack Bar
Kind bars are a top pick of the “Nutrition Twins,” Lyssie Lakatos RDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames RDN, CFT: “Our recent favorites are the Nuts & Spices bars,” says Lakatos Shames. Flavors include Madagascar Vanilla Almond and Caramel Almond & Sea Salt. “You can see and pronounce the ingredients, they’re delicious and only 5 grams of sugar per bar so you get an energy boost without the sugar high and crash that can follow if you eat high-sugar granola or snack bars,” she says. Most of them are about 180 to 200 calories per bar, and are satisfying with 5 to 6 grams of protein and 6 to 7 grams of fiber.
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Fresh Fruit and Cottage Cheese
“I love to put about 1 cup of fresh strawberries with about 10 grapes combined with 1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese together for a snack,” says Dulan. The strawberries are loaded with more vitamin C than an orange and a Harvard research study showed that eating two or more serving of flavonoid-rich berries like strawberries or blueberries may be associated with delaying memory decline. Strawberries are also naturally low in sugar so they won’t cause a blood sugar spike that will leave you crashing and burning, says Dulan. Grapes are a satisfying and delicious snack that provide antioxidants, which can help to promote overall health. The cottage cheese packs a full 14 grams of protein to give you energy for only around 100 calories.
These “peas” (also called garbanzo beans) are a good source of satisfying protein and fiber. If you can’t find packaged roasted chickpeas in a store, make your own by draining them for 5 to 10 minutes and then patting with a paper towel or cloth until they are completely dry. Then, roast them at 400 degrees F for about 45 to 60 minutes until the chickpeas are crispy and brown. Pull them out of the oven, then add flavoring like lemon juice, sage and pepper rub, or a couple of teaspoons of soy sauce or barbecue sauce. Return to the oven to bake for about 15 minutes more until the seasoning is absorbed. “These are different, fun to eat, and provide long-lasting energy with the fiber-filled quality carb and protein combo,” says Lakatos.
Pita Pocket Tuna
Try making a snack with seal-pack tuna in water on half of a whole-wheat pita pocket, says Lakatos Shames. The water-packed tuna is a satisfying, protein-packed snack and convenient because you don’t have to open a can. Use a fork to spread the tuna into the pocket, and you have a power-protein mini meal for just 70 to 80 calories. The whole-wheat pita provides fiber and carbs for energy on top of the protein in the tuna. Nutritionist Jim White, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios, likes to spread his tuna on light rye or multigrain Wasa crisp crackers for a simple snack and a crunchy cracker nosh that doesn’t contain added sugars you might find in white flour crackers. “This snack is a great way to increase your protein and not eat anything heavily processed with too many added ingredients like you might get in a protein bar,” he says.
Nut Butter and Banana on Bread
White recommends snacking on whole grain bread with ¼ of a banana and 1 tablespoon of almond butter to hold you over before lunchtime. It tastes like a treat but gives you lasting energy without a crash like some energy bars will. “This is also a great option for a late afternoon snack if you plan to exercise before returning home from work,” he says.
Greek Yogurt Parfait
If you have a fridge or cooler available, White suggests combining plain low-fat Greek yogurt topped with about ¼ cup of unsweetened dry whole oats, nuts, and wheat flake mix (muesili). Including a serving of yogurt helps you get needed calcium, the oats and muesli contain fiber, and the nuts provide additional protein (and crunch!). Make the snack versatile by adding cinnamon, fresh berries, or a variety of nuts. The options are endless!
Fresh Green Beans
Green beans are a great way to satisfy a crunch craving. “I like this snack because not only is it very simple to pack and assemble, you also feel accomplished by eating vegetables outside of your main meals,” says White. Green beans contain about 20% of your daily-recommended intake of vitamin C. Pair these with hummus for a snack that fills you up, thanks to all that fiber and water content.
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