Having snacks at work has become an integral part of our office lives, and munching on crisps and biscuits at our desks is a common occurrence for many of us throughout the day. However, when we snack like this, we can tend to not realize how much we’re eating at our jobs.
In fact, one study by Google and Yale researchers found that employees eat 48% more when food is placed in front of us at our desks than when it is out of sight or out of reach. Some of the most popular snacks include chocolate bars, packets of sweets and crisps, and biscuits, as they last a long time and can be stored in a desk drawer for easy snacking throughout the day.
It’s easy to see why unhealthy office snack ideas are popular – things like packets of crisps and chocolate bars are inexpensive, come ready to eat, and require no preparation of your own. Busy schedules mean that many people have less time to prepare homemade meals or snacks, and they fall upon shop-bought snacks or fast food to keep them satisfied throughout the day.
However, fast food and office snack ideas that are high in sugar, salt, or unsaturated fats are proven not to fill us up as much or for as long as cleaner and less processed foods. Vegetables, nuts, and whole grains, among other things, are great healthy office snack ideas that also act as sources of energy, keeping us full and energized for hours. Something like a packet of sweets will release a short burst of energy which might make you productive for an hour or so, but you’ll soon need something else to satisfy you and replenish your energy in order to carry on working.
When we take into account that we spend over 36 hours per week in our offices, we realize that our snacking habits at work start to have a major impact on our general health, and eating healthy at work is really important. Studies have shown that when we give in to unhealthy foods like crisps, chocolate, or sweets, our brain starts to crave these kinds of foods more often. So, when we snack on salty, sugary snacks in the office, we’re more likely to give in to eating a more unhealthy dinner. When we make this a daily occurrence, it eventually becomes a routine, and we can get stuck in a rut.
However, with more than 70% of adult Americans now being overweight or obese, it’s important that we start to look at our snacking habits and attempt to combat them. Spending so much time at work, it’s a good idea to start bringing healthy snacks to the office to start becoming healthier.
Benefits of Eating Healthy
It’s important to have healthy snacks in the office so that you can keep your mind full of energy, stay productive and be able to produce the best work possible. We’ve put together a list of the main benefits of keeping healthy food around you whilst you work, both for your job and yourself. With each benefit of healthy eating, we’ve provided a list of foods that are thought to or proven to aid these.
We’ve known for a while that eating certain foods that are high in unsaturated fats can have a positive effect on your ability to recall information and increase memory function within your brain. At work, it’s important that we are able to think clearly and remember things such as the tasks we need to complete and information about projects. Therefore, eating the right healthy snacks can have a positive effect on the way that we work and help us significantly within our jobs.
However, there is now also evidence to suggest that some unhealthy foods, especially those containing high levels of saturated fats, can be having a detrimental effect on memory function. While fatty substances clog arteries within the body, damaging the heart, this also occurs within the brain. High cholesterol levels mean that arteries become blocked, reducing blood flow to the brain and impacting how it can function. On a day-to-day basis, this might not be noticeable at first, however recent studies from Harvard have shown that unhealthy eating might be a factor in those who develop dementia. It’s too early to be able to conclude anything for certain, but it’s definitely a reason to keep an eye on those saturated snacks and swap them out for leaner foods.
- Dark chocolate
Foods that are high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats are great healthy snacks to add to your diet, as they not only contribute to fuelling your body in a healthy manner but can help increase overall levels of happiness. Some people associate sugary foods like sweets or ice cream with a mood boost, and while they may make us feel satisfied at the time because we enjoy the taste, they don’t leave us feeling happy for a long period. They provide a boost of energy, or a ‘sugar high’, which essentially means our mood peaks quickly, but comes down again afterward, leaving us feeling even lower than before. Snacks that release energy slower leave us feeling better for longer periods of time.
Chocolate may also be considered a healthy snack, despite being a ‘treat’ food. The best way to consume chocolate is in moderation and in its purest form, however, as cacao powder contains flavonoids; naturally occurring plant compounds that come with a wide range of health benefits. Flavonoids increase blood flow to the brain, which increases brain health and helps you to work better. Milk chocolate contains added milk and sugar, however dark chocolate is purer and contains fewer additives. It’s thought to release endorphins, triggering a psychological response that improves your mood.
Being in a good mood at work is certainly important, as we’re proven to work 13% more efficiently when we’re in a good mood, so it’s a good idea to integrate some of these healthy snacks into your diet while at work.
Getting a good night’s sleep is always important before a day of work. Most people will have to wake up early to start their day, and don’t want to feel groggy or find it hard to wake up before heading into the office. Poor sleep has been linked to a number of negative effects such as irritability, stress, anxiety, a lack of productivity, and reduced brain function. Sleeping well reduces harmful levels of cortisol and adrenaline that are produced by the body as a coping mechanism after a lack of sleep. This in turn means you’re more relaxed, able to concentrate well, and be productive at work.
Our diets can also have an effect on how we sleep as obesity, alcohol and excessive fat consumption can cause the airways to become blocked while sleeping. While reducing the amount of alcohol and fat we consume can help to keep airways unblocked and improve the ability to breathe well during sleep, it’s also beneficial to start adding certain snacks into your diet as well.
Food containing high levels of melatonin, such as kiwis and cherries, is thought to have an antioxidant effect on your body which makes it easier for you to fall asleep at night. There is still a lot of research being done in this area, in order to conclusively determine whether certain foods are more ‘sleep-inducing than others, but so far the data shows that diets affect sleep patterns. Taking healthy snacks into work that contain these nutrients can not only keep you full and give you something to snack on throughout the day but also improve your sleep quality in order to help you get up in a good mood the next day.
Set a Good Example to Others
Recent research has shown that behavior in the workplace is often copied by colleagues and those around us. This means that when bad habits are exhibited by one employee, they can become a habit for other people in the office, which can have a detrimental effect in a number of ways. 37% of those studied were more likely to pick up bad eating habits if they worked with someone displaying these behaviors or with a history of bad habits.
Conversely, when good habits are exhibited, these are also followed by others around you, and this includes what you’re eating. When one person starts to eat more healthy snacks in the office, the people around them may start to do the same and be encouraged to become healthier. As discussed earlier, switching to healthy office snack ideas can benefit the way we work in a number of ways, so when many members of a workforce can change their snacking habits to become healthier they will also become more productive and work better.
The Cost-Benefit of Bringing Healthy Snacks into Work
There’s not just a health benefit to think about when changing to healthy office snack ideas, but also a financial one. Preparing food in advance, whether it be snacks, breakfast, or lunch, in order to take to work saves you money on eating out or ordering food into the office. This can also apply to your morning coffee – if you swapped a $6 latte from Starbucks for a homemade coffee, you could save about $30 a week, or $1,570 a year. If you can save that much just from coffee, think how much you could be saving if you swapped out restaurant meals and shop-bought snacks for homemade ones.
In the UK, the average worker spends over £2,500 (which is around $3,300) buying meals and snacks to consume during their working day in a single year. Even making just lunch at home can save over $100 a month, which equates to about $1200 a year, and the savings when we take into account snacks and drinks will be significantly more. This is especially poignant on the topic of healthy office snack ideas, as healthy meals can be much more expensive at restaurants than fast food options, so it’s always more cost-effective to It’s one of those things that people can often not realize is costing them a significant amount of money, but could make a huge difference when it’s put into effect.
There are some great blogs and articles about healthy homemade food that can be really useful for those looking to change their habits but unsure where to start. We’ve listed a few bloggers who also create budget-friendly food here for inspiration, but there’s plenty more out there!
- Budget Bytes – This blog not only provides delicious and healthy snack and food ideas, but lists the cost of each ingredient, serving, and for an entire meal (she recommends making multiple servings to freeze and use later on in the month!)
- Don’t Waste the Crumbs – Based in California, Don’t Waste the Crumbs is a blog dedicated to creating ‘real’ food on a realistic budget, as well as giving you great money-saving hacks and tips around the kitchen
- Melissa Rudy – Melissa’s blog is not strictly food-centered, however, it is perfect for finding interesting and new snack recipes as she frequently posts about her kitchen endeavors (such as this 24 Heavenly Hummus Recipes post which is perfect for healthy office snack ideas), as well as posting about work and office hacks, perfect for a workaholic!
- A Girl Called Jack – UK-based Jack Monroe started her blog when she had just £10 a week to feed herself and her son and has now gone on to write her own cookbook. Her recipes are easy, quick, budget-friendly, and perfect to bring to work or cook at home for the family.
Healthy Office Snack Ideas
Now that we’ve explored the benefits of eating healthy and bringing snacks to the office, it’s time to look at some examples of healthy office snack ideas that you can rely on to keep your mind and body full!
It’s important to get your 5 a day in order to keep your body healthy, as different fruits all contain different vitamins and minerals that help improve heart and brain health in different ways. Fleshy fruits such as apples, pears, and bananas contain high levels of fiber, which helps digestion and keeps your gut healthy. Citrus fruits like lemons or oranges are high in vitamins and calcium, which helps keep your bones, hair, and nails healthy, whereas berries contain vitamins proven to help prevent heart attacks and are natural anti-inflammatories.
Taking a piece of fruit to the office is one of the simplest and easiest ways to snack healthily if you don’t want to prepare anything, however, you could also make a fruit salad or even dip strawberries in dark chocolate and leave to solidify the night before for a guilt-free treat.
One of the simplest office snack ideas that require almost no preparation is nuts. Just a handful of nuts is thought to contain the right amount of healthy fat to keep us fuller for longer and stop unhealthy cravings. Most supermarkets will sell ready-made bags of mixed nuts in snack portion sizes for those who don’t have time to prepare their own.
Rice Cakes and Nut Butter
A simple but tasty and healthy office snack; rice cakes are low in calories and naturally gluten-free but provide a convenient base for a range of toppings. Some favorite combinations include:
- Peanut butter and apples
- Cream cheese and tomatoes
- Avocado, chili flakes, and black sesame seeds
- Ricotta cheese, cucumber, and ground pepper
- Cream cheese, smoked salmon, and chives
- Hummus and red peppers
- Melted dark chocolate and raspberries
Yogurt and Granola
Often a healthy breakfast option, granola with yogurt, berries, and honey can also be a filling office snack or even healthy dessert option for after lunch in the office. Granola can be high in sugar, so it’s a good idea to keep to the recommended portion size of 30 grams, but adding natural yogurt and plenty of toppings such as fruit, almond flakes, coconut shreds or chia seeds can give you an office snack that will keep you going for a while. If you want to save this office snack for later on during your workday, keep the granola, yogurt, and toppings separate until you need it to avoid the cereal going soggy.
Oatmeal, or porridge, is another one that’s a great option for both breakfasts on the go and a healthy office snack, while still being versatile. Carbohydrates are a great way to start your day as they keep you full and you can top oatmeal with almost any fruit, nuts, or seeds to add flavor and texture to what is sometimes seen as a dull dish. It doesn’t take long to prepare, even if you’re making it from scratch, or you can buy one of the many pre-packaged options available to heat up in a microwave once you get to the office or for a snack later on. Alternatively, for those who like to prepare their meals the night before for an easy start to the day, you could try this recipe for overnight oats and eat them cold in your break the next day.
Fresh fruit juices are yummy, full of essential vitamins and minerals, and easy to make even without a juicer (find out how here). Carton fruit juices from the store are often not as healthy as those made from scratch as they can contain a lot of added sugar and preservatives to keep them fresh. Consuming juices can be beneficial for digestion and is thought to ‘reset’ your gut as they are easier to digest than whole fruits and vegetables.
Like juices, smoothies are a great way to ensure that you’re getting your daily 5 fruit and vegetables, however, are easier to make and even better for you. With smoothies, the whole fruit or vegetable is blended which means you’re getting all the fiber and nutrients that the flesh of the fruit provides and not wasting any of the fruit. Banana, yogurt, and oats all act as thickeners for smoothies, or try blending frozen fruits with milk or yogurt for a creamy iced smoothie!
Recent research has found that, contrary to what we previously believed, soups keep us fuller for longer than solid foods. This is due to its high water content and the fact that our bodies don’t have to use up the same amount of energy digesting blended foods as solid foods. If you don’t fancy liquid food for lunch, try a smaller portion for a healthy office snack during the day. Soups are super easy to make the night before and bring into work to heat up (check out these 88 recipes for ideas), or even to buy from the store if you don’t have time.
One of the healthiest office snack ideas that can be made in bulk when you have free time and kept for a few weeks is roasted chickpeas. They take almost no effort, and require just a can of chickpeas, seasoning, and potentially some sauce to serve them with, and are full of nutrients that aid digestion and fight off heart problems. For a change, you could try roasted garbanzos or kidney beans for a crunchy, satisfying treat that you can enjoy guilt-free!
While dried fruit has a reputation for being unhealthy for having a high sugar content when eaten in moderation you can still reap the benefits. The sweetness of dried fruit also makes you feel like you’re enjoying a treat, even while getting antioxidants and high levels of fiber. Most stores sell packets of dried fruit, or you could try making it yourself here following the instructions in this video.