Health at Your Desk: Better Snacking

When I was working in an orthopedic office a few years ago, we were inundated with drug sales and medical equipment reps supplying us with great lunches or other tasty surprises in order to get face-to-face with the two physicians who worked there. If it wasn’t a Bundt cake or donuts, it was an array of yumminess from Olive Garden, Einstein’s Bagels, or in some cases, PF Chang’s. Every week there would be something brought in for us and it was hard not to resist those temptations, especially when we hadn’t brought in something for ourselves that day. Is this something that happens in your office? It’s really hard to resist when it’s right in front of you. Sigh.

Now I don’t know about you, but wearing scrubs at work was not good for me. They were way too comfy and far too easy to “grow into.” I hope I’m not alone in this reflection! The struggle was real as my “freshmen 15” grew into an additional “coding 20” in a matter of a year or two. It wasn’t healthy nor was it fun.

I found that I could sit with a pile of authorizations or payments to post and literally gorge on foods without even realizing that I had done it. I would then go home and eat a full meal for dinner and not even think twice about it!  I realized that I needed to stop the mindless eating that would occur as I did my work and focus on mindful eating and movement. 

I started with making better choices about snacking and meals. I paid attention to what I was doing and drank more water. This was important because I had forgotten how thirst can seem like hunger to the body and I was more often than not just dehydrated, not hungry! I started choosing nutrient-dense snacks that provided my body with benefits. I chose freeze-dried fruits and veggies, nuts, hummus with veggies, popcorn (this was a hard one as the smell would permeate through the office and patients would comment), fresh fruit, and most importantly, I reduced sodas and those wonderful calorie-laden coffee drinks from Starbucks. I would premeasure healthier choices in snack-sized bags so that I wouldn’t be tempted to knock off the entire bag/box in one sitting. 

I also started stepping out of the office during lunchtime for fresh air and a brisk walk, and during the day, I would walk over to see colleagues at their desks rather than call or page them if I needed them. This helped me in not sitting at my desk and getting lost in work, as well. It took time, but I saw results.  My clothes fit better, I physically felt better, my skin looked better, I stayed fuller longer, and as a result, I was a happier person. It was a win-win all around.

Importantly, I took the time to limit my distractions while I was snacking. I would stop working on what I was doing and take the time to eat more slowly and savor the flavor. This helped me relax as well as I didn’t feel rushed all the time.

It was hard, as those of us who find ourselves in a job that requires us to sit for long periods of time fully understand, and I still have struggles to this day, but I’m making better choices in the first place so that I do not have to work that hard again.

The following includes ideas for healthier snacking:
•Sliced up fruit and veggies: This is a no-brainer as we all know that kids are more inclined to eat “McDonald’s” apples (as we call them in our house) than a whole apple, so why shouldn’t we? By making it more convenient, it is easier to work into our day. You could always make a smoothie with some yogurt and fruit as well. One thing that I have particularly enjoyed is freeze-dried fruit and veggies. They last longer on your desk and don’t require refrigeration. Quality is the key here so look at where they were sourced as some countries do not have the same standards that we have in the U.S.

•Protein-rich foods: Items such as unsalted or lightly salted nuts, hummus or bean dips, or boiled eggs make you feel fuller, yet don’t leave you needing to lay down in a food coma afterward. 

•Whole grain foods: Small servings that are high in fiber yet low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium, such as whole wheat crackers, cereal, or popcorn. Limit refined-grain foods.

•Drink water: Excessive thirst can seem like hunger to most people, so by drinking water and staying hydrated, your body won’t misidentify your symptoms. Also, many calories are consumed via sodas, juices, or coffees, so either reduce, replace, or remove these from your diet. Think about swapping out half of the glass of juice with seltzer water to reduce calories and add some bubbles to your day!

•Dairy: A glass of reduced fat milk, skim milk, or almond/coconut milk can help get you through to lunch or dinner. You could also consider having a yogurt or cheese stick as well.

Some healthy snacking tips to consider:
•Create your own personal sized snacks: Use snack-bags to create smaller portions rather than keeping items in the packaging they come in. This helps with those moments when you realize you’ve just finished an entire packet of Thin Mints without even thinking. By premeasuring the amount or making smaller amounts, you can avoid overeating.

•Chew slower: Enjoy the flavor and texture of the foods you are eating. It takes about 20 minutes for feelings of satisfaction to reach our brain, so by eating quickly, you will most likely eat much more than what your body actually needs. And remember that a snack is not a meal. 

•Decide if you are hungry or thirsty: Again, thirst can mimic hunger pains, so drink water throughout your day to stay hydrated.
•Think about why you are eating:  Are you actually hungry, or are you bored, stressed, sad, or just feeling emotional? Our state of mind can wreak havoc with making poor choices while we eat. 

It is not necessary to run out and throw all sugar-laden, high calorie foods/snacks into the trash and dream about them in the throes of a sugar withdrawal coma. We can still have the yummy cakes and other stuff (my weakness is cakes and chocolate!), but just in moderation.  Truth be told, we don’t need them every day (my 8 year old daughter may disagree, but thankfully she is not a BCA reader yet!). Our bodies don’t need those empty calories that come in the form of refined sugars, processed foods, white flours, and preservatives, etc. Our health doesn’t either. But sometimes we need those for our soul and we should not always deny that. Just be mindful of how much you’re enjoying!

There are many resources available online about healthy snacking, but it is just a matter of making better, mindful choices for ourselves and our families. 

Health at Your Desk is thrilled to be giving away a selection of Thrive Life freeze-dried fruit and veggie snacks to one lucky BC Advantage reader. You can win this awesome and tasty basket by emailing your favorite healthy snack or recipe to Nichole Anderson at by Monday, June 18th, 2018. The winner will be notified by email on Tuesday June 19th, 2018.