Smart snacks to pack
When deadlines are looming and your lunch meeting is pushed back again, having a stock of healthy, non-perishable snacks stashed in your desk drawer can be a lifesaver.
But which snacks pack a nutritional punch that is going to keep you alert and energized, and which ones should only make the occasional appearance? Beth Mansfield, a registered dietitian from Peak Performance in Ottawa, has the answers.
Shouldn't I avoid eating between meals?
No. Scientists have long been touting the health benefits of smaller meals and snacks throughout the day, including better cholesterol levels, improvements in blood glucose and insulin resistance and better immune function. More importantly, snacking can help you to focus and concentrate better at work and boost your mood. “Hungry people are no fun to be around,” says Mansfield. “Crankiness, irritability and lack of energy are all part and parcel of a poor energy balance.”
Here are five healthy snacks to curb your cravings at the office.
1. Nuts and seeds
Snack smart and eat like the birds. “Nuts and seeds contain heart-healthy fats, magnesium, fibre and potassium," says Mansfield. "They also have antioxidants, including vitamin E. All great for a healthy body.” But don't get carried away! A healthy snack serving is only two to three tablespoons. And your best choices are dry roasted, unsalted varieties, because extra oil is often added during the roasting process and seasoning is often high in sodium.
2. Peanut butter
Who would have thought that your favourite childhood staple would make the cut of healthy snacks to keep on hand? “Nut butters, including peanut butter, almond nut butter, cashew butter and more are all rich sources of monounsaturated fats -- a heart-healthy fat that maintains the HDL-C (or healthy cholesterol) level.” These yummy spreads are also low in saturated fat, cholesterol-free and are sources of vitamin E, thiamine, niacin, folate and magnesium. And then there's the protein. “Two tablespoons of any nut butter has approximately six to eight grams of protein.” That's the same as 30 grams of meat, poultry or fish.
3. Crackers with ancient grains
And here is the perfect vessel for your peanut butter. Look for crackers that contain ancient grains such as quinoa, amaranth and kasha. “These grains are higher in protein content than typical grains,” explains Mansfield. When you're reading labels, make sure these items are near the top of the ingredient list.
4. 100 per cent vegetable juice
In a perfect world, your fridge would always have a supply of fresh chopped veggies to take wherever you go. In the real world, you can stock some convenience-sized cans of 100 per cent vegetable juice. Each one is low in calories, full of the lycopene, contains vitamin A and C, and gives you one to two daily servings of vegetables. “It's the next best thing when fresh veggies are out of the question,” assures Mansfield.
5. Trail mix with whole grain cereal and dried fruit
A little trail mix goes a long way. “It's very high in fat and calories, and so tasty that it's easy to overeat.” So Mansfield suggests creating your own snack bags combining a serving of whole grain cereal that has little added sugar and no added fat, two tablespoons trail mix and two tablespoons dried fruit. “It's a virtual cocktail of phytochemicals,” which can help protect the body against cancer.