We live in a world of ergonomic work spaces and futuristic video-conference meetings, so it’s fairly dumb that our work snacks are still salty, preservative-filled objects that plummet out of automated machines by the bathrooms.
To help determine what to bring to your office space, we hit up two nutritionists who were full of practical advice—”It obviously doesn’t take a degree in nutrition to know that an apple is better than a Snickers,” one told us. “Where people struggle is knowing how to switch”— as well as a couple of surprises.
Here are 5 delicious, guilt-free snacks to bring to work:
1.) Veggie sticks and hummus
Work breaks are maybe 12 percent about food, and 88 percent about inventing an excuse to get up and do something that is not work. “We don’t want to eat something in two bites and be done with it,” says Emily Brown, a retired professional runner and wellness dietitian at the Mayo Clinic. “Anything that takes a little bit of time to eat gives us a manual distraction.” If you want to make your own hummus in a food processor so you’re sure you’re not getting any gnarly additives, knock yourself out: Chop up two cloves of garlic, one can of garbanzo beans, 1/3 cup tahini, and a splash of lemon juice. Once it’s smooth, add 1/2 cup roasted red pepper and a little basil, then process until it’s all finely chopped.
2.) Yogurt, for your gut
In addition to being weirdly satiating, yogurt populates your GI tract with pleasant little bacteria. “Yogurt is absolutely necessary for your immune system, for prevention of disease, everything,” says Katherine Tallmadge, a Georgetown nutritionist and author of Diet Simple, who has her clients eat at least one cup a day. If you need extra flavor, sprinkle in dried fruit, an oatmeal packet, or nuts. And speaking of nuts…
“We know that nut eaters have fewer heart attacks and maybe even less cancer,” Tallmadge says. Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Pecans are full of antioxidants, which are good if you’re full of oxidants. Pistachios contain the pigment lutein, which fights off macular degeneration and cataracts. Almonds are also good for you, and (bonus!) may not actually be responsible for the whole California drought thing. Sadly, a portion size is only about 1/4 cup— and there’s nothing we can do about the salt all over the keyboard. Opt for raw, salt-free nuts whenever possible.
4.) Celery and carrots that you [gasp] cut yourself
Precut vegetables are more expensive and only justifiable if you are a child who has not yet learned to use a knife. Dip in thick, plain Greek yogurt, which is a lot like sour cream without actually being sour cream.
Maybe not exactly health food, but your third-grade fallback packs 120 to 160 calories for the bread, 100 per tablespoon of PB, and 50 calories per tablespoon of J. And who doesn’t like PB&J?! If you don’t, you’re obviously some sort of fake American who won’t last long under a Ted Cruz administration anyway. Add slices of apple (for flavor) or strips of banana (for Elvis).
Anything in bar form
Tallmadge has no love for high-fiber bars (“candy bars with fiber”), protein bars (“candy bars with a little added milk”), or weight-loss bars (“calorie bombs”). They’re full of things you can get in more complete form from other sources. “Bars are great for active people who need something quick before a hard workout or as a recovery snack,” Brown says. “But if you’re in an office, it’s not as if you’re working out hard.” Plus, bars promote convenience, which means they give you an excuse for not preparing anything yourself. “They reinforce the idea that preparation is hard work, and to opt for something more convenient,” she adds. “I’d rather switch to the mindset that we can make our own convenience foods by cutting up our carrots and celery when we bring it home.”