It's also important to seek balance in your snacks -- and to remember that snack calories do count.
Katherine Tallmadge, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, tells her clients to snack up to three times a day but to limit calories to 100-200 calories for each snack.
"I like to recommend snacks that provide a little carbohydrate, protein, and a small amount of fat, if any," she says.
That's not so easy to do if you're at the mercy of your workplace vending machines or snack shops. Most offer mostly high-sugar, high-fat snacks with little nutritional value. And few meet Tallmadge's snack guideline of 200 calories or less. For example, typical offerings include potato chips, with 303 calories and 19.6 fat grams in a 2-ounce bag; and chocolate chip cookies, with 277 calories and 16 fat grams in a 2-ounce package.
Your best snacking strategy is to plan ahead. Keep some healthy options in your desk or office for those times when you don't have time to get lunch, or when you need a little nutritional boost during the day. You can also bring fresh snack food with you every day from home, providing your workplace has a refrigerator.
Here are some examples of snacks that are good to keep handy in your desk:
- Trail mix and/or dried fruits and nuts
- Breakfast cereal (choose a higher-fiber, lower-sugar type)
- Cans of higher-fiber, lower-fat, and lower-sodium soup (don't forget the can opener)
- Instant oatmeal packets (look for less-sugar options)
- Tuna salad kit (includes a small can of water-packed tuna, a relish packet, and crackers)
- Higher-fiber, lower-fat crackers (like reduced-fat Triscuits)
- Natural-style peanut butter with crackers, bagels, and/or fruit
- Packets of low-calorie hot chocolate
Here are some simple perishable snacks you can bring for the day:
- Low-fat yogurt with fruit
- Low-fat cottage cheese with fruit
- Reduced-fat cheese with lower-fat, higher-fiber crackers
- A small portion of leftovers from last night's meal that you warm up in the lunchroom microwave.
It's also important to make your desktop drinks work for you, not against you. That means either choosing beverages with zero calories that quench your thirst or drinks that have some nutritional value but not too much sugar.