We all probably snack more than we realise. Stuck at your desk with that mid-morning mood dip? Lacking energy mid-afternoon? Chances of lunch anytime soon fading fast while you’re stuck on a call?
It’s easy to get into the habit of grabbing a coffee, bag of crisps or bar of chocolate to stave off those hunger pangs.
Snacking itself isn’t the problem. Many of us need a snack in-between regular meals to maintain energy levels. But snacks can be full of added ingredients like saturated fat, salt and sugar, all of which are terrible for your waistline and long-term energy levels. Too many of these poor choice snacks, coupled with a sedentary lifestyle, can lead in time to serious health problems like heart attack, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
When you feel yourself flagging at work, try these healthy, guilt-free snacks instead for an instant energy boost to keep you powering through to your next meal.
Lemon water and/or melon
If you’re even mildly dehydrated, you’ll feel tired and sapped of energy. The Association of UK Dietitians recommends always having a large glass of water or fruit juice first before reaching for a snack, as we often mistake hunger for being thirsty.
For an instant boost, adding lemon to water transforms regular H20 into a natural energy drink packed with electrolytes, which are critical for cells to produce energy. Keep a jug on your desk and keep your glass topped up all day.
As 90% of the weight of a juicy Cantaloupe melon is made up of water (plus vitamins and minerals), the same principle applies and it’s almost calorie free.
Take a bag of veggie sticks to work with you for times when a snack attack threatens. Carrots, celery, baby sweetcorn, peppers and radishes all go towards your 5-a-day, providing essential roughage and nutrients but with negligible calories.
Apple and peanut butter
A teaspoon of peanut butter with fresh, crunchy apple will give you an energy boost (and a taste sensation) and keep you feeling on top form.
Homemade popcorn (with no added sugar or salt) boasts only 30 calories a serving but retains its grain-based fibre goodness, keeping you feeling fuller for longer and making it an ideal snack. No wonder popcorn is Madonna’s snack of choice.
A much better option than potato-based crisps, kale is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet: 100g of kale provides 133% of your daily vitamin A requirement (more than any other leafy vegetable), more calcium than milk (150 to 125mg) and, gram for gram, more than twice the vitamin C of an orange. Just double-check the packaging for salt content.
These slightly nutty tasting sesame seed lookalikes have been dubbed ‘the running food’ and ‘the ultimate superfood’. Ancient Mayans and Aztecs prized the black seeds as an energy food and ‘chia’ is the Mayan word for ‘strength’. A great protein source, they contain more omega–3 fatty acids gram for gram than salmon, more fibre than flax seeds, plus calcium and B vitamins. Two tablespoons, or 29 grams of chia seeds, contain 11 grams of fibre and 4g of protein, making them one of the world’s best foods for providing fibre without an energy slump and preventing food cravings.
Half a cup of Edamame beans provides protein, slow-digestive carbs and fat to keep energy levels steady. Plus these beans of goodness are packed with nutrients like folate, iron and magnesium.
Cashews, almonds, and hazelnuts are high in magnesium, which plays a key role in converting sugar to energy. These nuts are also a good source of fibre to keep your blood sugar levels even and they provide a range of nutrients, including large quantities of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and moderate amounts of protein. Instead of reaching for sugary snacks, a handful of nuts - that’s 20 almonds or 15 cashews or 20 hazelnuts - will stave off hunger and produce an energy boost. Always choose unsalted nuts.
Naturally pre-packaged food with no knife and tupperware faffing, bananas are super-convenient and crammed with cramp preventing potassium for muscle and nerve health and filled with fibre, which keeps you feeling fuller for longer.