For runners, those stretches from breakfast to lunch to dinner can seem infinitely long. As I’ve written in the past, I’m now on the healthy end of some bad habits I developed at my desk job. When I’d get hungry, I’d inevitably reach deep into my desk drawers for quarters to toss into the vending machine, indulging my cravings for candy and other crap I rationalized was “fine” because I’d run it off later.
Usually that sugar and salt just made me feel tired and bloated, yet the cycle would continue day after day. And I know I’m not alone because I’d see enough coworkers on my treks to and from the “wall of shame,” as I’d call it.
Having readily available healthy snacks is key for preventing drops in blood sugar (thus maintaining energy levels) and keeping athletes of all kinds ready for activity. Think of snacks as mini-meals — critical fuel — versus treats, and it may help turn around the types of foods you choose.
Here are some to try:
- Greek yogurt and berries. Or try making a protein rich chocolate “pudding” — 1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt with 1 tablespoon cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon (or more) maple syrup/honey whisked in.
- 1 cup cereal with 1/2 cup skim or almond milk. This is a pre-run favorite of mine because it’s easy to digest and combines carbs with protein.
- Fruit plus a protein. Think an apple and a stick of string cheese, a medium banana and 1 tablespoon nut butter. Combining the simple sugars in the fruit with the staying power of protein helps regular your own blood sugar.
- Beef or turkey jerky. Though I’m vegetarian, many of my friends love snacking on jerky for a protein boost. Be sure to look for low sodium varieties with minimal processing.
- Nuts and seeds. A handful of almonds (high in vitamin E) or pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds can be a great snack option, just make sure they’re not topped with lots of salt. Mix with dried fruit or a few chocolate chips for a homemade trail mix.
- Chocolate milk. Look for low-fat options of dairy and non-dairy milks (and preferably low in sugar, too). It’s one case where sipping your calories is just fine.
- Microwave muffins. For a big snack attack, make a single-serving microwave muffin and top with some nut butter. Especially in the cool months, I like having a warm snack that’s easy to prepare.
- Hummus and veggies. Slice peppers, carrots, celery, and more. I like making my own hummus at home, which is less expensive, lower in sodium, and catered to my preferences.
- Loaded crackers . Get a nice, hearty whole grain cracker (Wasa comes to mind) and top it with baby spinach, cottage cheese, and sliced strawberries. Or sunflower butter and sliced bananas.
- Hard-boiled egg (or two). I used to keep a bag of pre-peeled hard-boiled eggs in the refrigerator at work for a pick-me-up. Eggs are healthy for many reasons, but they’re even better when cooked without oils or butter!
For ease and portability, try prepping snacks on Sunday night and packaging in zip bags or individual containers for grab-n-go. Stock your desk with emergency snacks and consider banishing loose change so that Snickers bar won’t be so accessible. And beware packaged energy bars and other seemingly “healthy” snacks — always read the labels to make sure they don’t pack too many calories, too much sugar, or other things you’d rather not be eating.
Written by Ashley Marcin.