For many of us, our office is like a second home. We spend a good many hours there each week, which means we make a good many food decisions there as well. Depending on where you work, and what’s within arm’s reach, these decisions could be helping or hindering your healthy eating efforts.
Lunch at work is one food situation that deserves some consideration. I’m a fan of packing my own lunch which I’ve posted about often (like here, here, and here). But snacks are another. I think more often than not we feel like we should build a lunch or dinner that meets some kind of nutritional guidelines, but snacks can feel a little like a free-for-all. What snacks are available in your workplace? I may be unfairly stereotyping here, but I’m thinking boxes full of donuts, vending machines full of candy bars and soda, and bowls full of M&Ms and Hershey’s Kisses. Those items can all be enjoyed occasionally, but for regular workplace snacking I’ve got a better way!
I recently moved into a new office on campus that’s given me a lot more room to spread out, and I immediately started thinking about how to stock it with food! My first order of business? I bought an electric tea kettle and brought in a selection of my favorite teas so they’re easy to grab during the afternoon slump. There’s nothing better than an afternoon “snack” that fills up your tummy, satisfies your taste buds, and provides essentially no calories. But I enjoy snacking on actual food, too.
Then I started to think about my co-workers. I share a hallway of offices with about 15 other instructors and staff members and I wondered how they were faring when it came to snack time. And then the idea hit me: build a healthy snacking basket and they will come.
I’m pretty happy with my prototype. I bought a cute basket and stocked it full of single-serve snacking items. I sent out an email to everyone announcing the basket’s arrival…then I sat back and waited for the throngs of hungry people to swarm my office.
Here are the products I started with. We’ll see what’s popular and what gets left behind and I’ll go from there:
- Erin Baker’s Breakfast Cookie Minis: a locally made product with oats and prune puree, these are a favorite with kids and adults. The original size has about 300 calories which makes for a filling breakfast, but these minis are perfect for snacking at just 100 calories.
- Grab & Go Sahale Snacks: these flavorful mixes are mostly nuts and dried fruits, but they do have added sugar and salt so they feel like a treat. The company has come up with some good flavor combinations from spicy to savory to sweet, so I like offering the whole gamut.
- Annie’s Bunny Fruit Snacks: I’m not sure I’ll get these again. They are made from fruit juice, which isn’t true of most fruit snacks and they’re only 70 calories per pouch. But they’re quite a few steps away from actually being a whole food. I think I can do better if I look for an alternative.
- Lärabars: I love these, which is why I’m amazed that most of them are made with only 3 or 4 ingredients (and never more than 9). For example, my beloved Cherry Pie flavor is simply dates, almonds, and dried cherries. Simple but spectacular.
- Nature’s Path Qi’a Bars: I stumbled across these because I’m such a fan of Nature’s Path’s cereals. 180 calories and 6 grams of protein is pretty respectable. And tasty.
- Second Nature Naked Medley: raisins, almonds, and cashews. That’s it.
- Justin’s Snack Packs: I opted for the Classic Almond Butter and Pretzels and the Chocolate Hazelnut Butter and Pretzels combos. They’re interactive snacks…you get to dip! And they’re portion controlled, which is important when chocolate is involved.
- Skinny Pop’s Single Serve Bags: despite what you might think, this is a single serving of popcorn (about 3 1/2 cups) and not an entire bag of microwave popcorn. Salty and crunchy but with just 150 calories and 3 grams of fiber, this is a great afternoon pick-me-up.
- Fruit Bliss Mini-Packs: dried figs, apricots, or plums. Take your pick.
My other thought is that when students come to visit me in my office, I’ll offer them a choice of one item out of the basket. Do you remember when you went to the dentist as a child and they let you pick a prize out of the pirate’s chest? (Or did they only do that in eastern Washington?) It will be just like that! If you come and visit the nutrition instructor, and you’re hungry, healthy snacking will be in your future. I consider it a teachable moment. A delicious teachable moment.
On the second day of spring quarter, two days after sending out the snack basket announcement to my colleagues, I had three visitors who came expressly for something to nibble on. A bonus is that it makes for a more social workday, too. I’m continuing to think about other ways to support healthy habits in my tiny sphere of influence at work. I’m strongly considering getting a mini fridge. Just think what kind of cool snacking support I could provide then!
What products am I missing? Do you have suggestions for portable, shelf-stable, reasonably healthy items I should stack in my basket?