A question I’ve been getting lately from clients and friends is, “What is the healthiest way to snack when I’m busy all day?”. This is a good question, especially for people who are really trying to improve but can’t seem to find a way to fit it into their work schedule. Hungry workers = grumpy workplace. Hungry workers binge eat and grab high sugar snacks leading to afternoon crashing = sleepy workplace.
I like to use the analogy of a campfire for your metabolism. We want to build a nice, strong fire that burns calories and continue to throw logs on it so that the fire keeps on going. If you let the fire go for too long, it starts to dwindle. Giving yourself planned snacks in between breakfast, lunch and dinner allows you to keep the fire burning and put you in a position to be successful in your goals to be athletic again.
So I’ve decided to put together a rough outline of how to answer that question so that people reading can improve their daily nutrition immediately.
First, it’s important to discuss what qualifies as a good snack. So, I think we can start by breaking down the components of a good snack:
- Protein packed
For a snack to be worth adding to your day, it has to be able to give you more of the important nutrients you need. We know from previous NTOTW’s that protein is essential in the process of building muscle and recovering from workouts. So, it’s important that whatever snack we have includes it (20 grams or more).
2. Offers fibers
Fiber is an important part of our diet and it’s actually harder to get than you would think. Fiber has impressive benefits including improving your gut health and associated with a reduction in cancer risks (breast and colorectal) and type II diabetes. Shoot for 5 grams of fiber on your snack labels.
3. Low in sugars
A snack that is packed full of sugar is one guaranteed to sabotage your efforts. Sugar can accelerate aging, interfere with your immune system, be problematic for your teeth and gums, and lead to long-term problems with the heart. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want any of those.
So what snacks include all three?
Coincidentally, one of the tougher things to find is a low sugar, protein packed snack that is high in fiber. Ain’t than somethin’. So, below is a list of snacks that I’ve compiled that will allow you to keep munchin’ while you’re number crunchin’:
Smoothies are one of the easiest ways to include all the necessary components of good recovery and allow you to get the most bang for your buck. If you throw in some protein powder (protein, peanut butter (fats), a banana (carb) and water you have yourself a drink that includes all three macronutrients. Be careful going to a smoothie bar thinking you are going to get the same good nutrition as a homemade version. I really want you to try and make everything yourself so that you know exactly what’s inside and you can control what you’re putting in your body. Places that sell smoothies have the goal in mind of getting a customer to return and it’s tough to do that on a large scale if their smoothies aren’t good tasting (meaning mostly high in sugar). A lot of athletes make the mistake of throwing in more and more fruit in an effort to make their smoothies extra healthy. All that does is cause a huge sugar rush and inevitable crash later on.
Here’s a great infographic I found on nomeatathlete.com (credit to them) to show what your smoothie should ideally include:
Greek yogurt with fruit and granola
Yogurt itself can be beneficial due to the probiotics found inside. But the “Greek” type of yogurt can provide you with a higher protein, lower sugar version than your regular yogurt. It also can serve as a source of calcium and potassium. Plain, unsweetened greek yogurt is the best option here. If you are missing a sweet taste when you try it, add some blueberries or cut up banana along with a little bit of honey and granola. This is a great afternoon snack or addition to your breakfast as well. You can also buy greek yogurt cups with fruit mixed in, just be smart and read the label for sugars.
Create your own trail mix
This snack allows you to customize what you like and leave out the things that you don’t. Nuts are a good source of fats and fiber and allow you to grab a few handfuls without any preparation necessary. Simply mix and match some almonds and sunflower seeds to have yourself an easy grab and go. Picking the pre-packaged snack versions can include high amounts of sugars, so beware. Some might want a good contrast of salty and sweet, so feel free to add in small amount of dried fruit. My advice to making this snack great is bringing a container to work filled with a mixture of those and keep it in your desk. Limit yourself to a few handfuls and then stow it away in your desk again.
Jerky (Beef or Turkey)
Most guys that have trouble with snacking in between large meals won’t have much issue if you hand them some beef jerky and tell them to try snacking on that. Beef or turkey jerky is a good option because of the protein it provides. Just don’t eat the whole pack in one day.
I left this last because a lot of people know to grab bars when they want a snack. The only issue with snack bars is that most of them are going to contain a lot of sugar. Sure, you are getting some protein and fiber. But, we are trying to keep are our sugar intake low and adding more on top of our regular meals won’t be helping our cause. If a bar can add 20 grams of protein or more without being ridiculously high in sugar and below 500 calories, feel free to grab it in a pinch. I wouldn’t suggest making this a regular thing, but do have some on hand in case you’re short on time and don’t have any other snacks on you. I prefer the Rx Bars (unbiased, not affiliated with them at all) because I like what they are trying to do by putting everything on the label and make a point to not include a bunch of extra stuff.
So, you have the knowledge and the power to crush the snack game. This is a huge step up because you are now going to be able to avoid crashes in the afternoon and those hunger cravings that drove you to eat that bag of Cheetos last week. If you can surround yourself with great options to snack on, it will lead to better choices long term. Try to store some greek yogurts and fruits in your fridge at work and stash a tub of protein powder as well as bars and trail mix in or under your workspace. If the person next to you at work gives you a stink eye about all of it, just tell them you’re getting athletic again.
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