When it comes to tasty temptations, the office is the perfect breeding ground for poor nutritional choices. And according to a large study, employees eat more than 1,000 calories a week at work!
The food tended to be high in empty calories, including those from solid fats and/or added sugars. More than 70 percent of the calories also came from food that was obtained for free.
So how can one eat healthier at work? We break it all down for you in our "what foods not to eat at the office" snack food list and offer healthier office snack swaps.
12 Unhealthy Office Snacks to Avoid
From potato chips to doughnuts, reconsider these unhealthy snacks at the office.
1. Potato Chips
Running to the vending machine for a bag of chip is all too common amidst a snack attack. But gravitating to that bag of potato chips costs an average of 150 calories per bag and about 10 grams of fat.
Potato chips are also rich in carbohydrate, which can lead to a spike in blood sugar and lead you to feel dissatisfied.
Office snack swap: If desiring something crunchy, prepare kale chips. Not only are they low in calorie, but bursting with nutrients. Making them at home also allows for tighter ingredient control.
Here’s how to do it: Simply preheat oven to 350°F and line baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the kale leaves from the stems, tear into bite-sized pieces, and wash and dry thoroughly. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning salt and other favorite seasonings. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until edges are browned.
From their exterior, pretzels may seem like a wiser choice over a bag of potato chips. While they are lower in fat, flip the bag over to their Nutrition Label and witness a primarily carb-rich snack and leave you still feeling hungry.
Office snack swap: Rather than grabbing for that bag of pretzels during a snack attack, nosh on popcorn when that craving strikes. Just stray away from the salt-packed and butter-drenched kernels and opt for air-popped popcorn.
Also rev up snacktime with a delicious protein popcorn recipe. Offering protein with snacks helps induce satiety, stabilize blood sugars, and fuel metabolism.
2. Muffins and Cakes
Saving time by going to your neighborhood coffee shop in the morning before work to pick up a blueberry muffin may do you more harm than good. That leftover piece of birthday cake after lunch can, too.
Sugary treats not-so-coincidentally offer nothing more than sugar. This can quickly spike blood sugars and drop them just as fast. Such blood sugar fluctuations can cause that so-called "sugar rush," only to dramatically dip energy levels.
Office snack tip: Have a sweet tooth coming on? Instead of running to the vending machine for a sugary treat, keep dark chocolate squares at your desk.
Dark chocolate contains healthy monounsaturated fats. It also supplies a healthy dose of various vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants. But to keep sugar in check, look for dark chocolate products with minimal added sugars.
3. Candy Bars
Often sweet, often salty, that candy bar is all too attractive when walking past the candy dish.
But does it cure that afternoon hunger? Oftentimes no. And even if mini-sized continuously grabbing for those candy bars can lead to major calories day-in and day-out.
Office snack tip: Replace the candy jar with a fruit bowl. Eliminating the candy jar and keeping the bowl filled with colorful fruits can subtly initiate better health choices.
4. So-Called 'Power' Bars
Although so-called 'power' and granola bars appear as a healthful snack choice, dig a little deeper and most are comparable to a candy bar. Even claimed "natural" bars can be loaded sugar, corn syrup and canola oil, designated itself as one most unhealthy snacks to reach for.
The next time you think you are reaching for a "healthy" snack at the gas station, look for a granola or snack bar without additives and contains wholesome ingredients.
Office snack swap: To keep the desirability of granola bars' convenience factor, prepare these portioned no-bake protein energy balls. Not only are they free of unnecessary ingredients, but loaded with nutrients for a boost of energy.
6. Peanuts (Half Cup or More)
Half a cup is not so large in size and can often go down fast. Though we are not saying peanuts should be avoided, it is all too easy to overeat on peanuts.
But as peanuts can pack on calories quick, they are also rich satiety-inducing protein and fat. A recommended serving of peanuts and nut varieties is 1 ounce, or approximately ¼ cup.
Office snack swap: In addition to downsizing the portion, consider preparing a homemade trail mix rich in nutrients and flavor. Also ration out into small bags or containers for an on-the-go snack to take to the office.
7. Energy Drinks
Reaching for that energy drink to power through a project? You might want to reconsider…There are serious health risks associated to energy drinks. These include mental health problems, increased blood pressure, and obesity just to name a few.
Office snack swap: Step away from the Red Bull and put more pep in your workday step with these caffeine alternatives for a natural energy boost.
8. Coffee Drinks with Syrups and Flavoring
There are numerous science-backed health benefits of coffee, including increased energy and cognition. But to truly gain such benefits, it is important to not rely on coffee drinks decorated with syrups and flavorings rich in sugar.
Office snack tip: Go for a cup of black coffee. The body will reap coffee's caffeine benefits without all the added sugars and fat. Add a splash of milk and sprinkle cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. to black coffee if desiring a little bit of sweetness.
9. Snack Crackers
Crackers may seem like a more nutritious option compared to sugary pastries, but they also tend to be nothing more than refined carbohydrates. And not to mention, they are also easy to overeat like peanuts!
Office snack tip: Crackers can be a nutritious snack with some intention. To make the most out of them, go for a whole grain cracker and stick to a serving size. Also pair with cheese, turkey slices, and other protein sources to help induce satiety and stabilize blood sugar.
11. Large Chocolate Chip Cookie
Tempted by that large batch of cookies in the break room? While indulging on these sweet treats is okay every now and then, those baked goods each week add up.
Office snack swap: Prepare a batch of these chocolate chip cookie dough bites. They offer protein and proportioned to keep calories in check. The recipe also prepares 24 bites, so there is plenty to share!
Taking turns bringing in doughnuts for those morning work meetings is all too common. But doughnuts are rich in empty calories from both sugar and fat. And not the so-called "healthy fat," but rather saturated and trans fats that can trigger inflammation.
Fat also takes longer to digest compared to carb and protein, which can cause discomfort shortly after eating. (Which is not ideal when trying to power through that morning meeting!)
Office snack tip: Rather than regularly bringing in a dozen or two of doughnuts to work, offer to bring in a healthier breakfast option. For instance, bring in individual containers of Greek yogurt and various toppings, including berries, banana slices, peanut butter, chopped nuts, and cinnamon.
12. After-Work Beer(s)
While alcohol is not necessarily a "snack," it deserves great mention. Besides, too much alcohol may lead to more than just a morning headache.
Regular and heavy consumption can add on necessarily calories and, subsequently, weight gain. It may also cause damage to the stomach lining, which may lead to malabsorption issues. It can also exacerbate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and cause diarrhea and constipation.
Health tip: Enjoying happy hour with coworkers does not have to be avoided. However, if deciding to drink, men and women are recommended to no more than two drinks and one drink per day, respectively. Also stay hydrated with water and eat a balanced meal to mitigate the negative side effects.
Additional Tips for Healthy Office Snacks
Unlike popular belief, snacking can actually help you stay on track on health and weight loss goals. These expert tips can help you make the most out of snack time:
• Always Offer Protein: Protein is often left out of the snacking equation, especially if purchasing bagged or boxed products. But as previously mentioned, protein plays an integral part in healthy snacking. As a general rule of thumb, make sure snacks offer an average of 10 to 15 grams of protein. Also keep snacks to approximately 150 calories.
• Pair Protein with Fiber: Fiber is found in plant-based sources such as whole grains and fresh produce. It often lacks in convenience snacks, as they mostly contain refined grains and sugars. Similar to protein, fiber helps keep the body full and lessens the risk of overeating. Healthy snacks to eat between meals should feature both fiber and protein, including Greek yogurt and berries, hummus and carrot sticks, and peanut butter and apple slices.
<• Snack Based On Hunger: Snacking based on boredom or stress can pack on hundreds of unnecessary calories. Acknowledge hunger by identifying stomach growls, low energy, and potential headaches. If truly hungry, consume a fiber and protein-packed snack to tie you over until the next mealtime.
• Ration Out Snack Sizes: To lessen the temptation of continuously grabbing from the bag, portion out a serving and put the rest away. Also remembering snack sizes are the ones of meals.
• Do Not Graze All Day: From the snack table in the break room to the candy dish on the desk, calories can quickly add up (and mostly lacking any sort of nutritional value as indicated in the mentioned study). Eating about every 3 to 4 hours can help keep hunger at bay and metabolism fueled. Also remember pay attention to hunger and satiety cues.
• Stay Prepared: One of the best ways to ensure consuming healthy snacks for work is by having them available. Being unprepared increases the risk of consuming less-than-nutritious products, including chips and cookies.
• Stay Hydrated: Thirst is oftentimes mistaken for hunger, causing individuals to grab for the chip bag rather than a water bottle. One of the best ways to separate the confusion is by drinking a glass of water before eating any sort of meal and if still feeling hungry, resorting to a healthy snack.