I don’t think there are many worse feelings in the world than the nagging hunger that comes so often in the afternoon. I remember distinctly my first week as a college freshman when around 3:00 every day it would come and I would waste the next 20 minutes removing everything from my backpack in search of any form of nourishment. I can’t tell you the excitement that a piece of hard candy or maybe a few chopped carrots left over from lunch would bring. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I just wasn’t the “I can wait until I get home to eat something” kind of a person. Instead, I now suffer from what I like to refer to as CSP, Compulsive Snack Packing! Since then, my faithful Nike shoe bag, purse, backpack and pockets have all served as great vehicles for my snack-packing habit. My friends and family have taken to calling me Miss Poppins and often take advantage of my stash and generosity.
For those of you who have someone like me in your lives, you are among the lucky. For the rest of you, the task of being prepared is falling on your shoulders. Since most people are at work, school, or running errands in the afternoon, snacks that are portable, filling and quick are usually necessary. The following are my top seven on-the-go snacks to keep in your desk or backpack to keep you going when the time between lunch and dinner seems a little too long:
#1 Instant oatmeal
Oatmeal is often touted as being a heart-healthy breakfast option but there is no reason that it can’t also be a great snack. The individual packets are already portioned and often the package it comes in can act as a built-in measuring cup for water. Be sure to look for those that are lower in sugar.
#2 String cheese with whole-grain crackers
Cheese and crackers is a staple snack for many people and for good reason . . . it’s such a great combo! Triscuits are a great choice for a nutrient-dense cracker.
#3 Pre-popped or microwave popcorn
Popcorn is most definitely my favorite food in the entire world, but that is not the only reason I added it to this list. It is also a whole grain and provides fiber to make you feel full longer. Look for those varieties that are lightly salted and buttered. If you want a sweeter snack, try Angie’s Boomchickapop Lightly Sweet Popcorn . . . you seriously won’t regret it!
#4 Almonds and raisins
This may seem odd but I like to think of it as my own simplified trail mix. I usually buy raisins and lightly salted almonds separately then mix them together and pack them in an air-tight container. I feel like this gives the perfect mix of sweetness with a touch of salt from the almonds. Really you can do any dried fruit/nut mix. Be creative!
#5 Granola bars
The great thing about granola bars is that there are so many different varieties that you could seriously never get bored. Some are obviously more nutrient-dense than others but they are usually far better than grabbing a candy bar out of the vending machine in a quick rush. Some of my more recent favorites are Cascadian Farm’s Dark Chocolate Almond Chewy Bars and Kashi’s Peanut Peanut Butter Chewy Granola Bars (fyi, this is not a typo . . . that really is their name).
#6 Fresh apple or banana with nut butter
I am so grateful to nature for making a lot of fruits inherently portable. They can seriously be taken anywhere with no prep work included. By adding a little nut butter, you not only add to the deliciousness (I realize this is my opinion), but it also provides a dose of protein. I have recently discovered Justin’s single-serve Honey Almond Butter and love them, especially when I am trying to pack snacks in a hurry.
I know a refrigerator is needed when packing this snack but there usually is one available in most work and school settings. Yogurt has many health benefits including being a source of calcium, vitamin D and probiotics. Get the most benefit by choosing those yogurts with low amounts of added sugar.
Written by Harmons Dietetic Intern Billie Jean Reed