Level Up Your Work Snack Game
The first rule of snack club is: don’t get bored. Snacking is an important part of how you’ll get your extra nutrients for the day, so make it fun. Setting yourself up with a snack station customised to your personal tastes and dietary requirements means you’ll have something to pick you up and sustain you between meals. Done well, snacks can curb the urge to eat your packed lunch by 11 a.m. or make you think twice about that order-now-regret-later takeaway feast. Over time, they might even phase out that all-too-familiar feeling of crashing and burning like a fiery comet straight into a bacon-wrapped sugar rush sometime between breakfast, lunch or dinner. Swap that fleeting grab-and-go mentality for the subtle art of snacking.
Level one – Your one-ingredient nibbles
These are your entry-level snacks. Bonus points if they fit into your pocket or are easily portable in Bento-style lunch boxes. Three squares of dark chocolate (stick to the bitter, darker varieties with 85% cocoa or more) give your bloodstream a nice top-up of antioxidants. You can also mix-and-match or eat on their own: pomegranate seeds, frozen bananas (a great alternative to ice cream when blended), dried fruit or a single serve of fresh fruit. On the vegetable front, there’s raw broccoli, celery and carrot sticks. Otherwise, your go-tos could be string cheese, unsalted pistachios, dried raisins, Greek yogurt, dried and salted seaweed, mandarins, olives. Serve alongside a hot herbal tea. (Try to steep it in a covered vessel if you can, otherwise it turns into more of a natural room deodorizer and loses some of its medicinal properties).
Level two – Your two-ingredient snacks
Once your level one snacks become daily staples, you may feel like experimenting a bit more. Your two-ingredient go-tos may require a little extra thought and preparation, but they’re usually super flavourful and have a good mix of textures to them. Roasted chickpeas, for example, are great sources of fibre and potassium. Make them even better by adding your own spices (think cinnamon; cumin; cayenne pepper) in a sealed bag and shake to flavour.
For the adventurous among us, have a go at ‘eggs with kick’ – boiled egg halves drizzled with a smidgen of sriracha sauce on them. These can be made in advance too. Make a batch on Sunday to peel and use during the week. If you’d rather cut back on the spiciness, replace the sriracha with hummus mixed gently into the hard-boiled yolk. Other options include: mini pitas with hummus; cucumber slices topped with feta; rice cakes with nut butter; pretzels dipped in mustard (known for its migraine-easing qualities). Other ideas include bagel slices with peanut butter; yoghurt topped with fresh fruit or dates stuffed with almonds.
Level three – Your three-or-more ingredient fixes
These are your expert-level snacks. At this stage, you’ll probably have a small line-up of flavour boosters stashed on your desk or in the kitchen: good quality olive oil (this usually means the extra virgin variety), sea salt, cracked black pepper, honey and cinnamon. Your work friends may or may not be marinating in a curious blend of envy, awe and disbelief, half wanting to ask you if they can sample some of your creations; half wanting to just observe from a distance out of respect for your snack-building abilities. Most of these do require some time to put them together, and may or may not get a bit messy, so proceed with confidence only.
‘Ants on a log’ or ‘butter boats’ are celery sticks filled with peanut butter (or another nut butter of your choice) and topped with raisins (your Vitamin B fix). For something a bit sweeter, there’s the raspberry ricotta waffle – pop a waffle in the toaster, top it off with a dollop of low-fat ricotta cheese and raspberry preserves. That’s fruit, whole grain and protein in a snack that’s ready by the time you’ve checked your morning inbox. For something a bit more portable, try cheese kebabs (cubes of your favourite cheese on toothpicks sandwiched between two serves of vegetables – perhaps cherry tomato and cucumber slices).
For a new take on a plain old handful of almonds – turn them into rosemary roasted almonds! Chuck them in a pan on high heat for about a minute and add in olive oil, salt and rosemary. The secret is in tossing them in paprika before eating for some extra flavour. Other options include NSDF: a protein rich trail mix of mixed nuts, seeds and dried fruits. Or try a commuter-friendly snack: overnight oats, best served cold, straight out of the fridge.
Timing is important, so try not to snack right before your main meals. Oversnacking can undo some of the hard work you’ve put into eating thoughtfully and keeping your blood sugar levels steady. Avoid multitasking when snacking. This can be tricky in an office environment, but it’s important to allow our brains to develop ‘meal memory’ – this is what makes us realise not just how much we enjoy the flavour or texture of a food, but how satisfied we feel after eating.
Most snacks shouldn’t be considered ‘meals’. If you decide use a snack to replace a meal, try to eat a slightly larger snack. Try to snack on a plate when possible, as the empty plate at the end of a meal helps us feel ‘full’ at the end of a meal. If this all sounds a bit overwhelming to begin with, remember it’s near-impossible to eat a perfectly ratioed protein-fibre-fat snack every time. With practice, you’ll figure out what suits your body and brain best, and is snackable for you.
Nathania is a writer, video editor and snack enthusiast based in Melbourne. You can find her on Twitter @unicornology