Healthy Stressed Out Snacking At Work

SUMMARY POINTS

> Snacking on junk food when you’re stressed is the worst thing you can do
> Smart snacking maintains productivity and consistent energy levels
> Healthy snacks with minimal or no prep are easy go-to options
> Stock up core snack ingredients at work for quick-n-easy bites

10am.

The meeting is in an hour and there’s no way you’re gonna get the presentation finished.

Feeling stressed and not able to concentrate on this freaking presentation anyway, you figure a quick trip to the vending machine will take the edge off.

A can of soda and a chocolate bar later, you’re back. Feeling mostly guilty and still stressed.

You’ve slipped into this pre-lunch junk food routine and it also carries over into the afternoon with another snack attack at the vending machine.

You’re blaming it on stress. This place is like a boiler room. Snacks are like little glimmers of light in the black, suffocating, endless tunnel of workday tension and to-do lists.

They might be glimmers of light, but they’re also packing on the pounds. Your favorite work pants are getting tighter and there’s definitely some extra jiggle going on when you stomp off to the meeting at 11am.

We’re not talking Beyonce jiggle either. We’re talking muffin-top jiggle. 

Why We Snack When We’re Stressed

Stress at work definitely ramps up the craving for sugary snacks and drinks while simultaneously lowering our willpower to choose a healthier option. It’s a double-whammy of a problem. Great.

Research has revealed that stress leads to stress-induced eating and when we’re under the gun on a work deadline or just generally frazzled, we’re not mindful of what we shove into our face. Usually the bad stuff - a can of soda, some chocolate or a bag of chips.

And eating bad stuff is what gives our brain so much of that dopamine pleasure.

When you’re stressed and the cortisol is coursing through your body, dopamine helps to offset it. Eating junk food gives you that dopamine hit. It feels good and when you’re stressed, you just want to feel better, so you munch away.

Downing a chocolate bar also seems like a better form of stress relief than punching your boss in the face. He thinks it’s ok to ask for another report by 5pm when it is 4.45pm.

While you may get a temporary hit of relief, and save your bosses face, these types of snacks are not helping your work game or your waistline long term.

That said, snacking plays a crucial part in your work performance. You just need to do it the right way.

Why Snacking Is Essential At Work

Let’s face it. Our working lives are crazy busy. There are those mornings we’re rushing out the door all frazzled and on an empty stomach.

Or, those hellish days at work where we don’t have the time to eat lunch and we just plow our way through the entire day without food then, when we get home, we binge.

And of course, the stress-based junk food snacking we mentioned above.

We don’t need to tell you that all of these things aren’t healthy. You know that already.

However, it’s easy to turn this around with some simple healthy snacking.

When it’s done properly, healthy snacking at work is a great way to keep your office mojo going. Here are some positive points on why it’s essential to snack at work.

1. Improve Concentration And Focus At Work

Want to get the edge on your workmates and send your productivity through the roof? The right snack choices could be your secret weapon.

When your eating healthy snacks, your helping fuel your electrical impulses for learning, memory, concentration and heavy cognitive tasks.

Research shows that one way our snacks increase cognitive function is the change in blood glucose that results when we eat food. Glucose provides the brain with almost all its energy - aka, it’s super important stuff.

As our glucose levels dip low, our mental function is seriously impaired. Try to tackle some mind-bending work problem or understand anything that’s being said in a meeting when you haven’t eaten for a while. It’s tough!

Now you’re thinking “Well, glucose is sugar right?? So, helllloooooo all you sugary snacks and soft drinks in the vending machine!”

Nope. Put down that can of soda and step away from the vending machine and nobody will get hurt. 

Not all sugars are created equal and you need to make sure you’re fueling your body with the right type of food. 

Let us explain with a quick crash course in glucose nutrition.

After we eat carbohydrates, both sugar or starches, our body digests it into glucose. Glucose is a simple sugar that our body and brain use for energy and glucose is also known as blood sugar. 

The thing is, some carbohydrates raise your glucose levels quickly and dramatically - sugary snacks - while others release glucose more slowly, sweet potato, for example.

Carbohydrates are measured on the Glycemic Index (GI) with a ranking between 0-100 to show how certain carbohydrates will raise the level of glucose in your blood. 

Low GI food raises blood sugar slowly and rates 0-55 on the index.

Medium GI food raises blood sugar moderately 56 - 69 on the index.

High GI food raises the blood sugar level dramatically 70 - 100 on the index.

Eating food with a high GI rating - like Snickers or any common candy bar - sends your glucose levels soaring quickly….but crashing just as fast. This is why when you grab a doughnut for a snack, you feel energized for about 20 minutes and then fuzzy headed for the rest of the afternoon.

Foods rating lower on the GI scale release glucose more slowly, which means sustained mental energy for a longer amount of time. We’ll talk about the benefits of snacking for consistent energy levels soon.

So, now you’ve had a little crash course in how the brain uses glucose, you can see that regular snacking on the right types of food will improve your cognitive function throughout the workday.

A little further on in the article, we’ve got some tasty and quick snack ideas using those foods.

2. Control Weight Gain (If You Snack Right!)

The most common temptation to overeat or make bad food choices is when you’re hungry.

Think about the last time you were starving like your stomach was eating itself. You were ravenously hungry. You ate the salad right? Yeah, we didn’t think so.

Snacking healthily throughout the day means you won’t go crazy with hunger and make stupid choices at lunch or dinner.

Be careful about choosing store-bought snacks with low-fat labels. While these might seem like a smart idea if you’re watching your weight many of these low-fat commercial snacks are incredibly high in sugar. 

3. Avoid “Hangry” Confrontations With Your Co-Workers

Hungry + Angry = Hangry.

Hunger can turn us into raging psychopaths with zero patience. Not a great combination for winning friends and influencing people in the workplace.

When we’re hungry, the simplest thing can set us off.

I told you double-sided printing, dammit!! What is this single page shit??!

Do you think this office is made of money to pay for single-sided prints??

And what about the trees?

THE TREES!!!!!


Building strong, positive relationships in the workplace not only makes it a happier place to be, but it also opens doors to more professional opportunities.

It may sound simple, but healthy snacking can really help you stay level-headed and calm with challenges or pain in the ass co-workers who don’t follow instructions.

Check out this quick 4-minute video for why hanger isn’t an excuse for lashing out, it's a physiological and psychological phenomenon. Yep, science proves it.

VIDEO: Why Do You Get Hangry?
YOUTUBE: SciShow
LENGTH: 3:42

Summary points:
> Hunger impairs self-control
> Hunger and anger look a lot alike physiologically
> The feeling of hunger signals your body needs glucose

4. Maintain Consistent Energy Levels At Work

A healthy, balanced diet is a powerful way to keep your energy levels consistent throughout the workday. Especially if you are a shift worker, clocking up longer hours or irregular hours outside the normal 9-5.

Smart snacking plays a big role in a healthy diet and can make all the difference to your productivity levels and mood throughout the day.

If you’ve gone without a mid-morning snack, by the time lunch rolls around you’re likely to be a ravenous beast. After pigging out at lunch, you get back to your desk feeling sluggish, fuzzy headed along with the onset of a full-blown food-coma.

Then, you see it. An email from your boss asking for a quick budget update on the latest project.

It should just be a matter of pulling a few numbers together, but with this brain fog it feels like untangling the most complex math problem ever.

Any energy you felt before lunch has long disappeared and it takes you the entire afternoon to put together the report which really should have only taken half an hour.

The mid-afternoon can also be a dead energy zone where the temptation to reach for a sugary treat is high. As we explained earlier, this will boost your energy briefly but you’ll come crashing back down to earth in no time.

Swapping the donut for a healthy 3pm snack will see you powering through for the rest of the afternoon, energy levels blazing.

The goal of workplace snacking should be to keep your energy levels slow and steady throughout the day, rather than swinging wildly up and down. 

5. Opportunity For A Quick Break

Snacking is a great opportunity to take a quick break away from your screen. Working for long periods, especially on challenging tasks leads to stress and decision fatigue.

One of the most famous studies on the power of a break tracked the work day of judges and how they sentenced prisoners. The study found them more likely to grant parole to prisoners after their two scheduled breaks in the day. On returning from their breaks, the clearly felt in a better mood and refreshed!

Ok, so maybe you aren’t granting prisoners their freedom but taking a break can help you return to the project your working on feeling reinvigorated. Especially if you’ve made a good snack choice.

Use your snack as a trigger to take your break. Instead of chowing down at your desk, spend 10 minutes eating your snack in the break room away from your PC. 

Easy-N-Simple Snack Ideas With Zero-To-Minimal Prep

We’ve made it clear why snacking is so important at work and have armed you with a few key facts on how your body uses food as fuel.

Now onto the fun part - the snacks!

We’ve put together a list of some of the simplest, low-prep snack ideas incorporating some of the healthiest food options. These snacks are packed with nutrients that will keep you satisfied without a killer sugar crash. 

Morning Snack Ideas

1) Yogurt with honey or frozen blueberries
Put yogurt on your weekly food shopping list.

If you choose the type wisely, yogurt is a seriously healthy snack. Yogurt is nutrient-rich, including high-quality protein, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B12, potassium, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus.

Your best option is a single serving of plain or Greek yogurt mixed with a small dollop of honey or a some frozen berries stirred in to sweeten to taste.

Steer clear from the artificially flavored stuff, this can contain a lot of added sugars!

Office snack tip: keep a jar of honey in your cubicle cabinet and a bag of frozen blueberries in the lunchroom freezer.

2) Mashed boiled egg on a whole grain crackers
Eggs get a bit of a bad rap as workplace snacks, that eggy smell is pretty distinct!

Eggs, however, make a great brain food snack. Their yolks are choline-rich and choline has been shown to improve memory function.

Nowadays, you can buy eggs pre-boiled and ready-to-eat in the refrigerated egg section of your local supermarket.

Or, you can just as easily hard-boil a bunch of eggs on Sunday. Let them cool off after boiling then throw them in the fridge. As the work week progresses, grab one or two for the day and bring them to work.

​And please, DO NOT microwave eggs - ever, especially at the office. Just boil them at home beforehand and eat ‘em cold at the office.

VIDEO: Huge Egg Explosion
YOUTUBE: Infrared213
LENGTH: 0:55

When your stomach starts growling a bit, get your hard-boiled egg, mash the egg with a fork and then, spoon it on top of wholegrain crackers. Munch away!

3) A handful of almonds
Snacking on nuts can save the day if you’ve got a big task to tackle that will require a lot of thinking power.

Almonds are packed with brain-friendly nutrients like vitamin E and are moderately rich in protein, which not only helps boost energy levels and but also improves cognitive function.

Don’t go overboard on the almonds, one handful is a good snack size amount.

So, buy a bag of unsalted roasted almonds on your next weekly food run. Then, keep the bag in your cabinet and when you’re hankering for a small crunchy snack, just reach up and grab a handful of brain-boosting energy.

4) Carrot sticks and natural hummus
Made from chickpeas and sesame oil, hummus is high in protein so it makes a great energy-boosting snack.

Buying store-bought hummus will save you time, just be sure to check the ingredient label and stick with an organic option. If there are single-serving packs, those are ideal. And the crunchy carrot sticks make the perfect dipping companion.

Afternoon Snack Ideas

1) Sliced banana with all natural peanut butter
This is such a delicious and stomach filling combo when you’re craving something sweet in the afternoon for a pick me up.

Rich in fiber, nutrients and antioxidants, bananas are one of nature's easiest ‘on the go’ snacks and a regular banana contains around 105 calories.

Pairing your banana with a teaspoon of natural peanut butter supercharges this snack.

All natural peanut butter is packed with protein and potassium. The boost of protein will keep energy stable during the afternoon.

A great way to combine the two is to slice the banana lengthwise and spread a teaspoon of peanut butter across the halves.

2) Natural popcorn
Yep. Popcorn actually makes a fantastic healthy snack when you make it yourself, not those store-bought bags of popcorn with a bunch of additives.

You can find all natural popcorn kernels at most every supermarket.

It’s simple to whip up your own microwavable popcorn in a paper bag. Throw a handful of kernels in a brown paper bag, close the end of the bag with some tape, then microwave for 2-3 minutes.

If you want to kick it up a notch with a bit more flavor while still keeping it reasonably healthy, check out this 2-minute video.

VIDEO: Homemade Microwave Popcorn From Scratch
YOUTUBE: The King Of Random
LENGTH: 1:49

Summary points:
> Making your own popcorn is healthy and saves money
> You’ll need popcorn kernels, vegetable oil, salt and a brown paper lunch bag
> Combine all ingredients in the bag and microwave

Heads up - if you do this often enough at work, you’ll become a very popular person and you’ll have visitors coming by your cubicle a lot.

3) Cottage cheese on rye crispbread
Rye is a superfood, it’s one of the healthiest grains in the world. Choosing rye crispbread means you’ll pack in more vitamins into your snack than you would with a regular cracker.

Top your rye crackers with a dollop of cottage cheese, high in protein and calcium, for a great snack combo. The contrasting texture of the crispy rye cracker and the cool creamy cottage cheese is a winner.

4) Trail mix
Possibly the most classic office snack, a handful of good old trail mix will help you steer clear of the vending machine.

Like many other "healthy" commercial foods, store-bought trail mix can be packed with hidden sugars. Always read the ingredient label and opt for mixes that are heavier on the nuts and lighter on the dry fruit.

If you can find the organic version, that’s the best kind to get.

Semi-Healthy Snacks When You’re Craving Comfort Food

If stress has got your craving for comfort food through the roof, don’t pig out on a bacon double cheeseburger and fries at lunch.

Try these extra comfort snacks instead. While these are on the healthier end of the comfort food scale, don’t go overboard. Save them for a comfort snacking emergency.

1) Toasted raisin bread and cream cheese
This is could be the perfect comfort snack. Toast a slice of raisin bread and spread it with a teaspoon of low-fat cream cheese. It’s a great option instead of eating a much heavier carb bagel or God forbid, reaching for a cinnamon roll.

2) Dark chocolate covered almonds
In possibly the best study ever, researchers found that dark chocolate can actually help reduce the level of the stress hormone, cortisol. An ounce of dark chocolate covered almonds makes a great option, stress relief from the chocolate and protein from the almonds.

3) PB&J the healthy version
Get a slice of wholegrain bread and spread it with 1 tablespoon of all natural peanut butter or even better, almond butter. Add 1 teaspoon of natural fruit spread, the kind with no added sugar or preservatives. 

Stock-Up On Some Snacks For Your Cubicle

Preparation is what will save you from 3pm vending machine raids.

It doesn’t mean you need to do hours of prepping and slicing at home. Getting your work cabinet stocked with healthy snack-a-licious stuff is the way to go for hunger emergencies or when you’ve rushed out the door, snackless.

Here are the products and core ingredients that we listed above that you should get at your next food shopping run. Most of this can be stored in your cabinet and only a few things need to be kept in the office fridge.

Take a photo of this list below and refer to it the next time you’re at the supermarket:

> Greek or plain yogurt
> Frozen blueberries
> Whole grain crackers or rye crispbreads
> Raisin bread
> Whole grain bread
> Unsalted, roasted almonds
> All natural peanut/almond butter
> Natural hummus
> Popcorn kernels
> Trail mix
> Dark chocolate covered almonds
> Natural fruit spread
> Cream cheese
> Cottage cheese
> Eggs
> Bananas
> Carrots
> Natural honey

Take a few small empty Tupperware containers to work to store your snacks in so they stay fresh once you’ve opened multi-serve packets.

Get Your Boss On-board

How does your boss or the company feel about footing the bill for having healthy snacks delivered to work?

There are a bunch of different companies that specialize in delivering fresh and healthy snacks to the workplace, like Simpalo Snacks or Snack Nation.

You can use a few good reasons to support your request:
- The team will be more energized
- Increased productivity
- Better brain focus
- A happier workplace (because seriously, who doesn’t love free snacks?)
- A healthier team

If your boss doesn’t agree, get everyone at work to sign a petition to demand free, healthy office snacks. If the demand isn’t met, you’ll all go on strike.

Ok, that’s kinda dramatic but getting buy-in from the team will definitely help your case.

Hopefully, we’ve shown you a little more about how snacking - good and bad - can seriously impact your workday productivity, energy and general mood.

Our snack ideas prove that hours of prep aren’t required for healthy snack options. Seriously, people, there are no excuses not to try at least one of these snacks.

You’ll be bouncing off to next week’s meeting with a complete presentation thanks to all those brain-boosting energy foods….and hopefully with less muffin-top jiggle.

Feel Better,
[Cubicle|Therapy]