The Importance of Snacking at WorkWritten by Gavin Humphreys
Elevenses, second breakfast, high-tea… A small supper before bed... Then there’s the midnight variety!
At parties you might have nibbles, finger foods, amuse-bouches, canapés, or hors d'oeuvres.
In different cultures there are tapas, pintxos, antipasti, chaat, meze…
Snacks are an important part of our diet - ignore them at your peril (or at least at your detriment).
Snacking, or eating regular small meals, has many benefits - but only if done well.
We will look into how to choose healthy over handy - with a handful of ideas for snacks during work (also perfect for travel, exercise, and general ease).
First of all, let me set out why healthy snacks are good for you.
The importance of snacks
Most of us think of snacks as either a necessary evil when the hunger pangs strike, or perhaps as little treats we allow ourselves, but actually there are physical and mental perks to snacking.
Eating a number of small meals, spaced out through the day, rather than two or three big ones, helps us avoid overeating.
A snack before mealtime calms the hunger monster and makes us less likely to scoff down more food than we need.
If you go for longer than six hours without eating, the body reacts as if it’s starving and keeps the food for later - i.e. stores it as fat. For this reason, it’s also important to have breakfast, even if something small.
Balanced blood sugar
When you haven’t eaten, and your blood sugar is low, you can end up with symptoms such as: mild depression, stress, shakiness, headaches, memory problems, blurred vision, violent outbursts, low sex drive, tinnitus, joint pain, and even fainting.
Neither is it good if the level of sugar in your body goes up and down. For example, it might dip when you’re hungry, then get a sudden peak when you gobble that candy bar. Unhealthy snacks then get burnt off quickly. Your blood sugar level will be going up and down like a fairground ride.
When there are constant dips and peaks it can result in serious problems, such as: Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity.
Snacking on healthy food when you feel peckish can help keep your blood sugar at a happy level throughout the day.
Mood, focus, and performance
When your body has used up all the food you’ve put in, it’s like a car without gas. It slows down, and leaves you cranky, tired, and unable to concentrate. The answer? Yes, you know.
Snacking helps the brain stay alert all day by maintaining those blood sugar levels. Great for work, study, or play. You also avoid that post-meal sleepiness.
If you snack on something high in protein, it gives an extra mental boost.
It also helps you focus by keeping away the thoughts of food you get when hungry.
The action of getting up, or reaching for a nibble, also keeps the mind ticking over in much the same way as doodling.
Do you work out, or play a sport? Pre-workout snacks are great for optimizing performance and increasing endurance. Post-workout snacks replace minerals quickly and can help build muscle.
And other reasons!
If your emotions are getting the better of you - maybe you are pissed, a little down, bored - take a snack. It improves mood and gives us a chance to re-focus.
Snacking can be a moment to break routine and be by yourself. This is a brilliant way to de-stress and prevent burnout. Try to focus on the food and enjoy it.
Equally, it could be a chance to socialize. Whether in the office kitchen, sharing a nibble with your neighbor at the next desk, or with the lady in the coffee shop.
Snacks are also great for networking events, breaking the ice with the new guy, or how about Friday canapes anyone?
Choosing healthy over handy
To put it in a nutshell - your candy bar and fizzy-pop will have you flying high, then crashing into the mountainside.
Healthy snacks are the stuff that will have you flying smoothly. Whole foods and natural snacks will give you the right dosage of fuel to keep a steady stream of energy going to your engine.
How do you make that healthy choice easier?
- Planning. With a little forethought, healthy snacks are not much more work than handy chips or chocolate bars.
- Research. if you don’t know if something is healthy or not, google it. You can also study those ingredients labels.
- How about an office club? Take turns - each day or each week someone brings something to share.
- Keep a note of what you eat. This way, you will become more aware and can consciously improve.
- Practice mindful eating. Be in the moment and focus when you eat, rather than chatting or working at the computer.
Snacks for work
Whenever possible, avoid pre-packaged snacks, such as chips or a candy bar. Plan ahead a little and prepare your own.
For office snacks, or for when you are on the move - you want easy-to-pack, no-spill, and no-smelly if possible!
This is just inspiration - find what works for you and experiment.
Some of nature’s snacks are the best and easiest out there, just think:
- Snap peas
You can buy snacks off the shelf, but keep your eye on the ingredients list to make sure they aren’t packed with sugar / bad stuff. Go for any baked snacks, rather than fried (for example, instead of potato chips, buy rice cakes or wheat crackers).
How about experimenting making your own snacks?:
- homemade wasabi peas
- protein bars or energy bites
- boiled eggs with spicy mayo dip or homemade hummus (yum! careful it’s not too smelly...)
- roasted chickpeas
- baked tortilla chips and guacamole / hot salsa
- Smoothies / energy shakes
Take a bite
So don’t feel guilty as you snack - make it part of your healthy lifestyle. What is your favorite snack? Drop us a comment below, and tell us how you like to nibble!