For someone who is moving a million miles a minute, sometimes it is hard to choose healthy, on-the-go options for snacks. One of the requests I get all the time is ideas for healthy, portable snacks. The fact of the matter is, we live in a world that sometimes moves faster than we do, and it is a “keep up or be dragged” mentality. So, let’s hear it for the hustlers! And on the other side of the spectrum, let’s hear it for the meal preppers, and the home-cooked dinner preparers, my hat is off to you. One day, I aspire to be just like you, serving my family well-rounded meals at a dinner table discussing things like Johnny’s baseball schedule and Susie’s class field trip. But for the rest of us enjoying dashboard dining between work and school and that 6 pm pilates class, this one is for you.
Tip #1: Pick a snack that provides a mix of carbohydrates and protein. Choosing a complex carbohydrate paired with a healthy protein option will give you the energy you need to get through the day AND keep you full until the next time you sit down for a meal. Choosing carbohydrates OR protein at a snack is a good start, but combining the two will really provide the most bang for your buck. Complex carbs, such as whole grains or fresh fruits and vegetables, act as the main source of energy for your body and provide fiber to help keep you feeling fuller longer, until that next meal. Protein will help you build lean body mass, so when you are hauling booty at work all day long, you have the strength to take the stairs to and from meetings!
Tip #2: Focus on portion control. It’s so easy to sit down for a small snack like trail mix and resurface after 20 minutes and realize you have demolished the whole container. (Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…) It’s not a far stretch to turn what would have been a healthy snack (quick handful of nuts) into a hefty calorie load, just by forgetting portion control. To kick this habit, make sure your snacks are ready in the correct portion size before you are! Snacks like apples and string cheese are great because there is no “bottomless bag” mentality. Having these always on hand is a great tool to prepare yourself for when hunger strikes!
Tip #3: Learn your labels. In general, I try to avoid pre-packaged foods because it is often loaded with additives and high in sodium. However, I also need something quick and easy that I can toss from my gym bag to my desk drawer without ruining, so I’ve learned what items are exceptions to this rule. You have to know what is shelf-stable AND won’t make you feel guilty at the end of the day. Lucky for you, those products are out there! Looking for sodium or sugar content is a great start if you are just entering the label-reading world. The current recommendation for sodium is 2300 mg or less per day, so keeping all three meals to about 600 mg or less leaves room for 1-2 snacks throughout the day with up to 250 mg of sodium. Don’t dwell on these numbers too long, just keep them in mind when you are flying through aisle five of the grocery store. If those snack crackers you just tossed in your cart have 500 mg sodium in 1 serving, I’d recommend swapping out for something that will give you more bang for your buck. But hey, that’s just me.
Some of my personal favorites:
- Apple slices and 1 tablespoons Justin’s nut butter
- Broiled half grapefruit with almond milk matcha latte
- Siggis 0% fat greek yogurt and 1/3 cup granola
- Whole wheat toast with 1 tablespoon Justin’s nut butter and half a banana
- 15 whole grain crackers/pretzels and 1 low-moisture, part-skim mozzarella string cheese
- 1-2 whole bell peppers (sliced) and 2 tablespoons hummus
- Small handful of unsalted nuts or KIND bar and 1/2 cup blueberries
- Whole wheat toast topped with 1/4 avocado and pumpkin seeds
- Chia seed pudding topped with mixed berries
- Three cups air-popped popcorn and 1 hard boiled egg
And yes, for those of you who were wondering, I have a snack drawer at work. I am 23 years old, and have a snack drawer, and I’m not ashamed. Quite frankly, I work in food, and therefore I seldom get to enjoy the luxury of eating a meal at normal meal hours, because, well… I’m working those hours. I’ve learned to make time in my day for a quick snack at 11:30 before the lunch rush so I am not completely hangry by the time I actually sit down for lunch at 2 pm. And trust me when I say this, my coworkers appreciate the gesture, and yours will too.