I normally bring my lunch and snacks to work, so believe me when I tell you, I know that it can take serious time to plan all that food. It’s really worth it though – not only does it save money, but it also helps me choose healthier and more filling options.
Of course, you have to trust the community fridge at work/school. By “trust” I mean that no one will steal your food. I still don’t get how or why people do that, but I’ve been a victim myself so I know it happens. If this doesn’t apply to you though, or you’ve got a way to successfully deter poachers, consider bringing in a jar of almond butter or tub of hummus to have ready for dipping fruit or veggies or to spread on crackers or rice cakes (which you can keep in your desk).
Speaking of which, I also usually have a few options in my desk drawer for around 4:30 when I’m dying for something before dinner. I know it’s summer, and has been ridiculously hot lately, but instant oatmeal is still a good option. To make rolled oats into instant oats, just pulse them in a food processor for a minute or two. They shouldn’t be over processed, just broken down a bit – similar to how they come in the commercially sold packets. Then just add 1/3 cup (or anywhere from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup, depending on how much you want to eat) of the oats to a plastic bag and you’re good to go.
I also keep some cinnamon and chia seeds in my desk to add to the oats after I put in the hot water. Mix it all up and voila. You can add anything you want to it, I just like the convenience of these.
Another good option is dried fruit and nuts. I’ll make my own trail mix from whatever ingredients I can find in the bulk aisle. A lot of the dried fruit I like comes in very big pieces, so I just dice it up and add it to the mix. I’ve seen a lot of articles on what the “best” or “healthiest” nut is, but the truth is that they are all fairly comparable in fat and calories, and it’s best to enjoy them modestly.
If I don’t have my green smoothie in the morning, I’ll bring it in for an afternoon snack. A bright green smoothie is one food that’s never disappeared from the fridge, go figure. Even easier are the Vega shakes that can be conveniently stored in your desk, next to the almonds, dried fruit and oatmeal.
With all that in mind, sometimes I just don’t want what I’ve packed. I’m lucky the cafeteria where I work has lots of healthy snack options. They stock regular dried and freeze-dried fruit, nuts, soy crisps, coconut water, granola…they do close on the early side though, so it still requires some planning so I get up there before it’s too late.
I know this isn’t the case for everyone though, so if you do get stuck with a vending machine as your only option, what would be your healthiest choice? It sounds crazy, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed that the snack bags are getting larger and larger. One bag is often 2 or more servings and hundreds of calories – not smart snacking options. If something says ‘hungry size’, chances are there’s more than one serving in the bag. Tricky. And if it’s a choice between a 400 calorie hungry size bag of pretzels and a modest single serving of Lays potato chips, go for the chips! They are certain to be around (or under) 200 calories and only have a handful of ingredients.