What are the best snacks to have on the go or at work?
- Single servings of trail mix– you can buy them in small packages or make up your own mix of unsalted, raw nuts. Serving size should be between 40-50g nuts. Why? Nuts are extremely nutrient dense, packed with vitamins and minerals as well as protein and fibre to help fill you up and keep going and feeling full until your next meal. They are low glycaemic index (GI) meaning they will cause a slow release of your blood sugars after consumption and not cause them to spike too high. As a result, they keep you feeling fuller for longer and provide prolonged energy. Also, they (especially walnuts) contain healthy fats responsible for boosting brain health and cognition.
- Tins of tuna– small (90g) tins of tuna are great to keep in your desk draw at work. Firstly, they can provide the base of any snack or even light meal if you are time poor or have forgotten to bring in your lunch to work. Why? They’re high in protein, zinc and iron (particularly important for women), which helps with oxygen (haemoglobin) transport in the blood to assist with energy. They also contain the all-important omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are very important for brain health. Consumption of these healthy fats may contribute to boosting your brain’s processing power and fighting mental health decline.
- Small tub of yoghurt– If you have access to refrigerator storage at work, small (200g) tubs of yoghurt can be a very smart snack to have, providing you do not have a dairy intolerance. Why? Yoghurt is high in protein and calcium, low GI and keeps you feeling full. Don’t bother with the diet types. They’re filled with additives and sugars, and they are not sustaining. Opt for Natural or Greek yoghurt.
What snacks to avoid eating at your desk/work
- Foods that are high glycaemic index (GI) – these foods are low in fibre and are rapidly digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, leaving us hungry again soon after consumption. They usually contain high amounts of calories in a small volume so we are at risk of overeating before our stomach feels full. Examples include most breakfast cereals that are not wholegrain, potatoes, white bread, short-grain rice, rice crackers, corn chips, muffins, pretzels and any snack/food item that lists sugar high up in the ingredients list.
- Foods that contain refined carbohydrates – think refined white flour and sugar. That’s what a lot of snacks are made from e.g. white bread, crumpets, muffins, banana bread, low fat snack bars, rice crackers and most breakfast cereals. The combination of these ingredients cause them to be high GI and unfulfilling. These foods may also be high in calories, which isn’t good for your waistline.
- Foods that are highly processed – most modern day snacks/foods are highly processed and do not provide any of the essential nutrients for good health. Most of these foods are also high GI and contain refined carbohydrates as mentioned above. They might also contain high amounts of saturated fat and triglycerides, which adds calories to your snack and can increase your risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Examples include deli meats and other processed meats, fast food, some muesli bars, muffins, pastries and baked goods e.g. biscuits, cakes,
Why it can be hard to eat healthy when you have a desk job.
There are many reasons why the workplace can be a danger zone when it comes to healthy eating. Some of these include:
- Vending machines (if available) are often stocked with unhealthy food and drink choices.
- Catering at meetings or training sessions provide few healthy food and drink options and are usually high in refined carbohydrates.
- Foods in workplace cafeterias often lack appealing, cheap, tasty food choices based on vegetables and fruit.
- Fundraising chocolates going around the office (all the time!) are too tempting.
- Shift work can play havoc with metabolisms and appetite, not to mention poor availability of healthy food.
- “Sizzler syndrome” – self-selection facilities for employees can lead to overeating of the higher fat, higher calorie foods and unwanted weight gain.
- Long working hours and stress at work can lead to poor eating habits, such as eating on the run or at the office desk.
- Stressful or mundane tasks at work can affect your hormones and program them to crave unhealthy foods high in fats and/or sugar.
- If your inundated with work and have not planned your snacks or lunch, you are more likely to opt for takeaway foods, which are often high in fat, kilojoules and sugar.