You eat a big breakfast and even a satisfying lunch, but it never fails that by 3 p.m. you're famished. Though the office vending machine, with all of its not-so-healthy options, may be good for a quick fix, a better long-term solution would be to stash away a few healthy snacks at your desk. But which ones?
"Focus on the kinds of snacks that are filling, with adequate amounts of protein, fiber and that are nutrient dense, in that they provide a lot of vitamins and minerals that are low in calories," said Lisa M. Davis, chief nutrition officer of Terra's Kitchen healthy food delivery service.
There are many options that fit those parameters, so to narrow the field Davis and other experts shared some of their top choices.
This is a great alternative to your garden-variety fried chips. Yes, those greasy little pieces of heaven are delicious, but all of the excess salt, fat and sugar are no good. Instead, Davis recommends Siete's grain-free tortilla chips. They come in three flavors and all are made with cassava flour, avocado oil, ground chia seed and other natural ingredients.
"It's cool because people who are gluten-free, vegan or following a paleo diet could munch on these," Davis said. "They're crispy, tasty and go great with pico de gallo, salsa or just on their own."
Jica Chips, which are made from the Mexican root vegetable jicama, are another plant-based snack that is high in fiber and vitamin C, while Dang coconut chips provide as much fiber and less sugar than a medium-sized apple. There are also a variety of roasted bean chips on the market offering a balanced mix of protein and fiber to keep you feeling full, Davis said.
If you have a sweet tooth, dark chocolate is one of the healthiest ways to satisfy a midday craving. Studies have shown it can decrease blood pressure and reduce the risk of death from a heart attack.
"Dark chocolate contains less added sugar than milk [chocolate] and it's also higher in antioxidants thanks to the cocoa," said Nichola Whitehead, a registered dietitian and a British food blogger.
You can nosh on a single square, but Whitehead is all for combining dark chocolate with cashews for a sweet and savory treat filled with protein.
Red bell peppers
This low-calorie option is chock full of fiber, potassium and vitamins A and C. Red bell peppers are also pretty portable once you slice them up and put them into a resealable bag, but it's best to keep this office snack refrigerated.
"Most veggies can taste bitter or even a bit sour, but I love starting people off with red bell peppers because they're very sweet," said Ilana Muhlstein, a registered dietitian and nutritionist for Explore Cuisine, a company that makes gluten-free pastas and soups. "Not only do red bell peppers have more vitamin C than oranges, they are also low in sugar."
No one is saying take your toddler's food. There are actually all sorts of squeeze packs for adults that are filled with nutritious fruits and vegetable purees.
Davis is a fan of Mamma Chia Squeeze Vitality Snack, a 3 1/2-ounce blend of chia seeds, purees, fruits and veggies that comes in six flavors such as blackberry bliss and cherry beet. "They are a great source of omega-3," she said. "They are gluten free and vegan, so it caters to different dietary preferences."
Happy Family, a brand known for healthy kid-friendly snacks, promotes its Happy Squeeze line as an option for parents and kids alike, with flavors such as apple, kale and mango. The organic snacks are 100 calories or less and contain a half-cup of fruit.
Eating dried apricots with almonds offers a good mix of fiber and healthy unsaturated fats, Whitehead said.
"The fiber from the apricots helps to keep our digestive systems moving, and healthy fats from the almonds help to keep our hearts healthy," she said.
But be mindful of just how much of this sweet and savory snack you eat. An ounce of almonds, or 23 pieces, is about 163 calories, while six pieces of dried apricots has 100 calories, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.
You can also opt for freeze-dried fruit packs by Crispy Green that come in seven varieties. There are no preservatives or added sugar, and all fruits are 55 calories or less per serving.
Selecting the right granola can get a little tricky. Some products on the market are full of added sugar that can easily derail your healthy diet. Michele's Granola, a Timonium, Maryland-based company, keeps its ingredients simple and wholesome, Davis said.
"It's seed-based and doesn't have oats, so it's gluten free," she said. "It has hemp, sesame, pumpkin and flax. And the ginger hemp flavor they have is out of this world."
The 12-ounce bags come in flavors such as lemon pistachio and cherry chocolate. Davis said you can eat the granola by itself or add a bit of it to your favorite low-fat yogurt.
Hummus and carrots
Like chips and salsa, carrots and hummus are a perfect match.
"Hummus is made from chickpeas, which are a great source of both fiber and protein to keep us fuller for longer, while carrots are not only rich in fiber but vitamin A, too, which is essential for healthy vision," Whitehead said.
You can pack a zip-top bag full of baby carrots with your lunch, and if you have access to a refrigerator at work, keep a small container of hummus stored for daily use.