Workplace Snack Strategies

Work can be a disaster for your diet, especially if you’re in an office that stocks vending machines with high-calorie chips and candy bars.  Soda wreaks havoc on a diet as it is comprised of empty liquid calories, more than 250 in just one 20-ounce bottle.  If you’re not prepared to succeed, you can easily succumb to a snack-attack and add hundreds of unwanted and non-nutritious calories.  You’re most vulnerable during the mid-afternoon, so have healthy ammunition at hand.

  • Coffee: A cup or two in the morning can get you going, and even improve concentration, but too much coffee will have the opposite effect, making it more difficult to concentrate and possibly causing insomnia.  If you load your coffee up with cream and sugar, you’ll be taking in extra, unwanted calories.  For a pick-me-up before 3 PM, have a café “light:” half strong black coffee (or decaffeinated) and half nonfat milk.  Heat the milk in the microwave first (about 30-40 seconds, depending on your microwave’s strength), and then add the coffee. Sweeten with Splenda or other sweetener of choice.
  • Snacking: Snacking is a smart strategy for people trying to control their weight.  It may seem counter-intuitive, but studies show that eating smaller meals more frequently can actually help you lose weight.  Instead of eating three “square” meals, eating smaller, mini-meals helps you maintain energy throughout the day and stay motivated to choose healthy foods.
  • Cereal: A cup of mini shredded wheat or favorite non-sugary cereal with a cup of nonfat milk, yogurt, or soy yogurt makes a great office snack.  Hot oatmeal in convenient single servings can be microwaved in your office kitchen.
  • Cheese: Low fat varieties: read the label, the first ingredient should be skim milk.  One ounce of Jarlesberg or other low fat cheese wrapped with your fruit is tasty.  Nonfat or 1% cottage cheese is a great snack; mix with salad herbs or black pepper for added flavor.
  • Dips & Dippers: Avocado dip (guacamole), chickpea dip (hummus), or tomato salsa, all made without mayonnaise (use a little olive oil instead) are perfect dips for cut-up raw veggies.
  • Fruit: Whole fruit including berries, melon, apples, oranges, and grapefruit have the most fiber and fewest grams of carbohydrate per serving. Eat along with some nonfat yogurt, low fat cheese, or a handful of nuts. You’re too busy to prepare?  Buy pre-washed and cut melon.
  • Mini Pita Pizza: Top ½ of a whole wheat mini pita with tomato sauce, a little low fat mozzarella cheese, and oregano to taste. Broil in a toaster oven until cheese melts.
  • Nuts: An ideal combination of unsaturated fat, protein, and carbohydrates, nuts are portable and nutritious.  Buy dry roasted (no oil added) unsalted nuts, peanuts in the shell, and eat a “handful,” about 200 calories, depending on the variety.
  • Popcorn:  Air-popped popcorn is your best bet. For more flavor, add a quick spray of olive oil and a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese. “Lite” microwave popcorn has more fat than air-popped, and it’s hydrogenated (the worst kind).
  • Raisins: Mix a small box of raisins with nuts or dry roasted pumpkin seeds for a healthy trail mix.
  • Rice cakes: Spread a tablespoon of natural peanut butter (without hydrogenated fat or sugar added) on your rice cakes and top with a teaspoon of unsweetened preserves.
  • Smoothies: If you have a kitchen at work, smoothies are ideal snacks.  Blend 1 cup of nonfat milk, ½ cup of nonfat sugar-free yogurt, 2 drops of vanilla extract, and 1 cup of ice.  Optional: add a ½ cup of berries.
  • Wrap-ups: Spread a small whole-grain tortilla with a teaspoon of mustard and wrap-up one ounce of any lean meat, including turkey or chicken breast, roast beef, lean ham, or shrimp.
  • Yogurt: Individual cups of nonfat, sugar-free yogurt are a great source of calcium. Stir in ½ cup of unsweetened crunchy cereal.
  • Portable Coolers: Invest in a portable cooler that is big enough to hold a few cups of yogurt and some fresh fruit for you to keep on hand at work. 
  • Water: Drink a glass of water (or from the bottle that you should have at your desk).  Wait 15 minutes, and then have your snack.  I guarantee you’ll feel more satisfied.

Registered and licensed dietitian Susan Burke March, MS, CDE, is the author ofMaking Weight Control Second Nature: Living Thin Naturally– a book intended to liberate serial “dieters” and make living healthfully and weight-wise intuitive and instinctual over the long term. She may be reached online at

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