With Pancake Day now behind us, have you locked your treat cupboard? Are the biscuits banished, the sweets swept away and the chocolates behind bars? An unhealthy diet can affect your concentration in the workplace and leave you feeling sluggish and unproductive, so it might even boost your career to ditch the sugary snacks in the office. Of course, if you don’t have a substitute to take their place, the last couple of weeks have left you with a rumbling stomach or tucking into your sandwiches at about half 10.
Hunger can be a real distraction and stop you performing at your best at work, so here are our suggestions for alternatives for healthy office grazing.
According the packets, nuts are full of fat and high in calories and don’t seem like a great alternative for a healthy snack. But nuts are full of the good fats which are useful for your memory and brain function (think olive oil and fish, rather than butter and lard!) and, because of their high fibre content, most of the calories you’ll see on the label won’t get digested.
Of course, the high salt content of your dry roasted peanuts won’t help your blood pressure if you work in a stressful job, but you can try roasting your own at home in the oven for a better alternative, and you can even try adding your own flavourings. Nuts are also full of vitamins and minerals too, which you won’t find in your average bag of crisps.
2. Fresh and dried fruit
The quick sugar hit, just as the work-day is flagging in the late afternoon, is the main reason we all like to turn to the occasional piece of chocolate around 3pm. Fruit, especially dried fruit, is a great alternative to get the same quick burst of energy. While apples, bananas, oranges and other lunch box staples are great for energy, you can’t just take a bite as and when you need it while you’re typing, plus you have to dispose of the waste afterwards. Grapes and berries are ideal for the office – there are no cores, peels or stones to deal with and you can eat them just like you would a bag of sweets throughout the afternoon with no interruption to your workday.
Dried fruit of all shapes and sizes is another great alternative – it’s less expensive, but will offer the same sugar rush. It’s not just raisins either. You can get a huge variety as well: a different fruit everyday or make yourself a bespoke mix of your favourites.
If you haven’t got a sweet tooth, then instead of sweet fruit, try a savoury one: olives. Although you might not taste it, olives still contain natural sugars that will give you the same energy boost but will be more appealing to a savoury person. The natural oils in olives will also help to sate your hunger for a little while longer and keep you going through the afternoon much better than something sugary. Olives are also full of the same vitamins and minerals that you’d expect from fruit – and we all know how good for you olive oil is.
Buying nicely flavoured olives from a deli every day might soon leave you pretty penniless. But if you want to have them regularly, get a big jar of plain olives from the supermarket and marinate them yourself. Flavouring them yourself with olive oil and whatever herbs and spices you’ve got in your cupboards the night before will save you lots of money in the long run, and you’ve got unlimited variety.
Of course, not everyone likes olives, so you’re less likely to have them nicked out of the shared office fridge!
If you’re used to the sweet or greasy packs of microwave popcorn then you might be a bit confused about this last one. However, popcorn is mostly air and fibre so when you remove the butter and sugar it becomes much healthier and you can do it yourself. Packets of unprocessed popping corn are very good value, and you can prepare it in a couple of minutes in the microwave in a covered bowl or plastic tub.
The trickiest part is portion control! As the popcorn expands so much when it cooks, it’s easy to end up making far too much. But sharing fresh popcorn with your colleagues at 3 o’clock on Friday afternoon may well make you very popular.