Resolve eating unhealthy snacks at work

How to make your work snacks healthy and delicious.

Coca-Cola vending machine in a hallway.

It is mid-afternoon and the vending machine down the hall is calling out to you. Do you take the calling and grab a candy bar and soda to satisfy the afternoon snack attack? This might leave you with feelings of guilt or feeling sluggish an hour or two later. Many people, especially those who work desk jobs, struggle with this battle on a daily basis. What is the key to beating the vending machine blues?

Michigan State University Extension says that planning is the number one weapon against the “vending machine assault.” If you know you are always hungry at 2 p.m., then it makes sense to have snacks handy when hunger strikes. We often run into problems when we wait to decide what to eat until we are very hungry and we then reach for the closest, quickest option. Having something quick and healthy that is readily available before we get to that point helps us to choose better options. To prevent eating unhealthy foods, MSU Extension recommends the following tips:

  • Try to pack snacks for a whole week or several days at a time and select a variety of options to choose from, so that there is always something appealing regardless of how you are feeling. Some days you may want a salty, crunchy snack like nuts or trail mix, whereas other days something sweet like fruit may be more of what you have a craving for.
  • Most offices have a refrigerator to store lunches or snacks, so bringing along a small stock of yogurt or cheese, which gives you a protein packed snack that is readily available, will give you a healthy option to curb your afternoon hunger.
  • Similar to yogurt or cheese, stocking up on carrots or jicama and hummus can help to provide you with the kick you need to finish off your day.

By packing foods at home you can control the portion size of your snack. Sometimes our best laid-out plans still go awry and we end up at the vending machine anyway. If this is the case, try to choose snacks that are lower in calories such as baked plain chips instead of regular flavored ones and tea or sparkling water instead of soda.

Do you have control over what is in the vending machine or can you talk to the company and make suggestions on healthier choices? If so you can ask them to follow snack options from the National Alliance for Nutrition and Physical Activity and American Heart Association Guidelines.

Remember that everything is fine in moderation, so if you generally make healthy choices, it is okay to occasionally splurge on that candy bar or bag of chips when the vending machine comes calling. Being prepared ahead of time will help make the vending machine habit a once in while occurrence rather than a once a day choice.

 Happy snacking!

Michigan State University Extension offers nutrition education classes and policy, systems and environmental initiatives to support healthy choices in the workplace. Contact your local MSU Extension office to find support near you.

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