how to pack healthy snacks

by Stacy

You eat breakfast, but can’t make it all the way to lunch. Or after lunch you hit that wall about 3:00 and feel sleepy. Time for a snack. Sound familiar?

There are several schools of thought on snacks. Some research claims that eating small meals or snacks throughout the day raises metabolism. Other schools of thought say that snacking adds unneeded calories to the diet and has no effect on metabolism. Many people are not thinking about any of this, because they are standing at the vending machine buying a candy bar to get them through the afternoon.

After posting about healthy lunches to take to work I thought I would tackle workday snacking. No matter what the actual snack item is, I try to follow a few guidelines.

i like to eat eat apples and bananas

Bring single-flavor snacks.

You know when you’ve eaten so much salty, buttery, starchy dinner on Thanksgiving you think you’ll never eat again, yet somehow you still have room for pie? That’s because of flavor satiety: you get tired of tasting the same flavor. Even if you love apples, you don’t want to sit down and eat 6 apples in a row. Snack manufacturers know this and add extra flavors to prevent your taste buds from getting bored.

By bringing single-flavor snack items you’ll be less likely to eat too much.

Portion them out ahead of time.

Studies have shown that the more we see, the more we eat. Portion out your snacks to prevent mindless over-eating. Can I sit down and mow through multiple servings of snacks out of a large bag? Definitely. By only bringing a handful of food with me I can ensure that I don’t eat too much.

Snack mindfully.

Usually the point of snacking is to prevent crashing blood sugar between meals, but snarfing down sweets isn’t going to improve that situation. I try to savor my snacks by eating one bite at a time, chewing fully, and only eating more once I’ve finished the previous bite. It gives your body a chance to feel satisfied and helps improve digestion.

My formula: fiber + fat + flavor

If I eat something with fiber, I feel more full. Fat keeps me full longer. Flavor makes it worth eating.

Here are some options for snack that work for me; your results may vary.

Fruit is a great option. You can stash it in your purse/bag/desk/fridge and leave it for a few days. Grapes, berries, apples, bananas, and oranges are easy. Melon, mango, or other large fruits can be diced and brought in containers. Their natural sugars also help reduce sugar cravings.

raw almonds

Nuts such as almonds and walnuts are crunchy and filling and provide healthy fats.

Raw veggies like carrots, celery, even zucchini and jicama are other crunchy options. To add protein to the mix, bring some hummus for dipping.

homemade granola

Plain yogurt with granola satisfies with creaminess and crunch.

Granola bars or Aussie bites can be good snacks, but some brands are full of sugar and refined ingredients that can lead to a sugar crash later. Read labels and eat slowly.

Cheese can satisfy salt cravings and a little goes a long way. Bring a few crackers for crunch!

apple and cheese

I also like to combine the above items. A small fruit and cheese plate with a few crackers, fruit or veggies with peanut butter, or veggies with hummus are all light-but-filling options. Or I make my own trail mix by tossing nuts, dried fruit, and possibly a few chocolate chips in a small container.

Personally I try to avoid starchy snacks because I eat too many and then have a sleepy sugar crash soon after. A few whole grain crackers that I really take the time to enjoy are fine, but that’s my limit.

To maximize your snacking experience, take the time to really chew each bite of food. Instead of a handful at once, eat almonds one at a time. Don’t take another bite until you’re done with the previous one. Eating slowly helps digestion, gives your body a chance to feel full, and lets you appreciate your food.

Next up: a few tips on avoiding the need to snack in the first place!

What do you snack on at work?

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Alyssa October 19, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Thanks for the post! It reminded me that I packed some delicious almonds today for exactly this purpose – a healthy snack! I’ve also taken to packing some chai tea for a mid-afternoon pick me up. I make it myself so it’s not as sugary as the coffee shop and it’s also a heck of a lot cheaper!


Stacy October 20, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Ooh, it’s been a bit cloudy and rainy all week — that chai sounds fabulous right now!


Paige October 19, 2010 at 5:45 pm

I love the tip on “single flavor snacks.” That’s something I’d never really thought about and something I will definitely try!


Stacy October 20, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Glad you found it useful. =)


Erika October 20, 2010 at 11:15 am

Bah!! I never knew that it had an official term, but Troy is always teasing me for being “sick of the taste,” saying it’s not a real thing. I’ll love something until all of a sudden I’m sick of the taste. Now I can wave the “flavor satiety” flag in his face!


Stacy October 20, 2010 at 4:11 pm

It’s totally a real thing! *wave wave wave*


Bridget October 20, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Hard-boiled eggs are another good one! And feta makes a great “salad dressing”, I’ve found, giving a bowl of healthy greens plenty of flavor. And I know this doesn’t work for you, but this week, I mixed up leftover roast chicken with greek yogurt and more salt, then wrapped it up on butter lettuce leaves (packed separately), and it was such a nice way to mix up my normal snack routine.


Stacy October 20, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Those all sound yummy (and I would substitute tempeh for chicken in the lettuce wraps). =)


Stacy October 20, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Stay tuned for the next post, too, on how to avoid snacking!


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