When the 2 p.m. slump rolls around in the office, it can be hard to focus on your work -- especially if your stomach keeps growling. But rather than put more coins into the breakroom vending machine for more candy bars and potato chips, it might be best to go a healthier route. Here are some easy-to-make snacks to keep you focused and stop you from packing on the pounds at your desk.
A cup of white air-popped popcorn is surprisingly nutritious, containing over a gram of fiber and protein. It's fat-free and each cup contains only about 30 calories. All you have to do is keep kernels at your desk and pop them in the microwave using a microwave-safe bowl. Instead of using salt or butter as flavorings, use more healthy alternatives such as cumin or red pepper flakes. In kernel form, popcorn will never go bad.
Beef jerky is a dried meat that has been trimmed of fat, but not every brand of jerky is good for your health. Typically, the meat is salted to protect against bacteria during the drying process, which makes the snack high in sodium. In order for jerky to be a healthy snack, you have to make sure it's low in sodium. Krave Jerky is a healthier brand that is less than 100 calories per serving. This is a snack that lasts, too -- store-bought jerky typically lasts one to two years.
Contrary to popular belief, not all chocolate is bad for you. Eating small amounts of dark chocolate has even been shown to benefit your health by lowering blood pressure and relieving stress. Dark chocolate with 70 to 80 percent cocoa is rich in iron, fiber, and magnesium. Just be sure to ration yourself -- if you eat this snack daily, you will pack on the calories. Chocolate usually lasts up to a year when stored, so you can stash it in a desk drawer for those more stressful days.
Dried fruit is made when most of a fruit's water contents have been removed. The result is a crisp, sweet treat that is not only delicious but also nutritious. The dried fruit is denser, so a small piece contains as much nutritional value as a larger piece of regular fruit. Dried fruit contains a high amount of fiber, but most of its vitamin C is evaporated during the dehydration process. The shelf life varies from fruit to fruit, but most can last up to a year unrefrigerated.
Fruits are naturally low in calories and fat and a good source of potassium, fiber, and vitamin C. You can bring single fruits to snack on, or cut and mix a variety into a fruit salad of sorts. While most fruits are best stored refrigerated, some, such as bananas, can be kept at your desk. When properly stored, fruits can be kept fresh for about five days.
Not all granola is healthy, and many varieties are loaded with sugar and fat. But if you find a granola made of natural ingredients with an oat base, it can be a good source of fiber and protein. If you're overwhelmed by the variety of granola in the store and not sure which one is the healthiest, you can easily make your own by mixing together oats, nuts, seeds, dried fruit and vanilla extract. Granola can be easily stored for six to eight months.
Just like regular granola, granola bars vary in nutritional value. Although people tend to view granola bars as a healthy alternative to candy bars, some are loaded with sugar, chocolate and calories. When purchasing granola bars, pay attention to the label -- especially the sugar contents. Some of the healthiest granola bars you can buy are KIND bars, RXBAR and LARABAR. Typically, granola bars can be stored for six to eight months.
Snacking on nuts is a great healthy option, particularly almonds, cashews, pecans, Macadamia nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios and Brazil nuts. These nuts are packed with fiber, protein, beneficial monounsaturated fats, vitamins and minerals. But be wary -- some nuts are healthier than others, and not every method of preparation keeps the snack nutritious. It's best to eat nuts raw, unsalted and unroasted to insure you're getting the best nutritional value out of the snack. You can store nuts at your desk and they will keep for about three months. If you have access to a refrigerator in your office, you can store your nuts there for up to six months and they will remain fresh and tasty.
Though in excess peanut butter might not be the healthiest snack, if eaten in moderation peanut butter provides a good kick of protein and monounsaturated fat. It's recommended to only eat one or two tablespoons to stick with a healthy serving size and be wary of brands that add excess sugar. It's hassle-free to keep at your desk and stays fresh for up to three months.
When it comes to healthy snacking, you can't go wrong with vegetables. Most veggies are low in calories and fats, and none have cholesterol. Small veggies such as baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, celery sticks, broccoli or peppers can easily be a mess-free snack at work. Just be sure you have a way to keep them cold until they're eaten, either in a fridge or a cool lunch box. Raw veggies can last about a week when refrigerated.
Chickpeas are more than just a crunchy snack. The beans are packed with health benefits that have been linked to reducing blood sugar, reducing blood pressure, and promoting bone and health. They're a powerhouse packed with fiber and protein and can be easily kept at your desk for up to two weeks.
Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are powerhouse snacks that will tide you over until lunch. Pumpkin seeds are rich in protein and magnesium as well as other vitamins and minerals. Sunflower seeds contain a lot of vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects your body against toxins. These snacks are best eaten unsalted and can be kept for about three months or up to a year if you store them in an airtight container.
Loaded with minerals and a plethora of vitamins, roasted seaweed is a healthy alternative to munching on chips or crackers. It might look a little unappealing, but this low-calorie snack has a delicious savory and salty taste. Seaweed has a long shelf life and can last two to three years if stored in a sealed container.
If you can't decide between nuts, oats, dark chocolate or dried fruits, why not combine them? Trail mix is a good snack that offers a variety of flavors. But again, be mindful of which brand you buy because some trail mixes contain a lot of sugar or sodium. If you want to ensure its nutritional value, you can always make your own trail mix. This is another snack that can last for an extended amount of time, anywhere from six months to over a year.