Are you finding yourself habitually walking down to the pantry for a handful of chips on the hour since you started working from home? The lack of routine combined with being near the kitchen may be setting you up for eating more frequently throughout the day on some less-than-desirable foods.
While having snacks can be part of a healthy diet, it’s still important to be intentional about those eating occasions. There are simple strategies you can take in order to snack more healthfully while working from home.
Make your environment more conducive to healthy eating and snacking.
- Eliminate junk foods from your house or be sure to put them out of sight. When we see foods that we know are tasty, the “hedonic” part of our eating experience takes over and drives us to eat instead of following our hunger and fullness cues. Out of sight, out of mind! While it’s normal to eat for pleasure sometimes, this can be saved for special occasions and gatherings.
- Put healthy foods in sight. Using the same principle above, by making your healthy snack choices readily available you are more likely to choose them. Leave a basket of fruit on your counter. Put cut vegetables at eye level in your refrigerator (not tucked away in a drawer where you won’t see them).
- Plan healthy snacks into your day. I often recommend folks leave about 3-5 hours between eating occasions. If you’re up early, this might mean you need to plan an afternoon snack to get you to dinner without raiding the pantry all afternoon or munching while cooking dinner. If you have a few healthy snack options in mind for the week, you’ll be more likely to eat them.
- Prep healthy snacks for the week. Take your plan a step further and actually prep the snacks so they are easy to just grab and eat. Check out the snack ideas below for inspiration.
Now that you know how to modify your environment to promote healthy snacking, let’s talk about how to build a healthy snack and what kind of ingredients to keep on hand to make it simple and fast.
To make a healthy snack, you want to combine some protein, fiber and healthy fats. These key ingredients will keep you full and satisfied with steady energy so you can carry on with your day. I recommend my clients get at least two of those nutrients when picking out their snacks. Healthy whole-food options are best and include foods such as:
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Can/packet tuna/salmon
- Smoked salmon
- Greek yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Cheese stick
- Deli turkey or chicken
- Powdered peanut butter
- Protein powder
- Fruit: apple, orange, grapefruit, banana, pear, berries, kiwi, dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, cherries, dates)
- Grains: oats, granola, rice cake, whole-grain bread, crackers, cereal, tortilla
- Legumes: canned/roasted chickpeas, edamame, peas
- Vegetables: cucumber, carrot, radish, jicama, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, tomatoes
- Nuts: almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, cashews, Macadamia nuts, peanuts, pistachios
- Nut butters: peanut, almond, cashew
- Seeds: chia, hemp, flax, pumpkin, sunflower
- Coconut flakes
- >70% dark chocolate
*made with olive or avocado oil
Healthy snack combination ideas:
- Tuna + bell pepper slices + avocado mayo
- Greek yogurt + blueberries + chia seeds
- Hard-boiled egg + whole-grain bread + avocado
- Cheese stick + apple + almonds
Healthy snack recipe: Seasoned roasted chickpeas
Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1½ teaspoons kosher salt
2-4 teaspoons spices
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse and drain chickpeas. Place rinsed chickpeas on a clean dish towel or paper towels and dry. Let air dry for a few minutes. The chickpeas should look matte and feel dry to the touch. Place dry chickpeas in bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and toss to combine. Spread chickpeas onto a large sheet pan and roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes. Shake the pan or stir the chickpeas every 10 minutes while cooking. Chickpeas are done when golden and slightly darkened. They should be crispy and dry on the outside. When done, take chickpeas out of the oven and season with chosen spices. Stir to coat evenly.
Jean Larson is a registered dietitian at Essentia Health.