Eating healthy at work can be very challenging. According to data from the Health Promotion Board (HPB), the health of Singaporean workers tends to lag the general population. They have higher prevalence of pre-obesity, high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure.
This could be attributed to a few factors: first, largely sedentary lifestyles – understandably inevitable when you work a full-time job in the office. Secondly, the lunches in the CBD generally means a rotation of hawker and takeout food, which may not be healthy. In addition, office pantries are often filled with sugary, trans fat loaded treats to snack on.
This doesn't mean snacking is forbidden. In fact, it's quite the opposite as snacking can help bridge the gap between meals, curbing your appetite so that you will not overeat at your next meal. However, it is what you eat to stave off the hunger that makes the difference.
Boredom, stress and peer pressure can often lead to unhealthy snacking in the office, so what you stock in your pantry makes a big difference. Sweets, chocolates, biscuits and chips, while helpful in satisfying a sudden craving, tend to provide irregular spikes in sugar levels in your blood stream, providing you with a burst of energy – a sugar high. As with all highs, this spike in sugar levels will inevitably cause you to crash, and you may be even more unproductive than before.
Here are five healthy snacking habits, that not only taste good but are also effective in curbing your snacking cravings in a healthy way.
1. Swap out processed foods
Snacking on sweets, chocolates, biscuits and potato chips tend to keep you satisfied only for a short while. These snacks are also highly processed, which strips it of most of its nutrition and fibres. Highly processed foods also generally mean that they have high sodium and fat content.
Try to opt for snacks that are not excessively high in sugar or carbohydrates. Natural foods like nuts and fruits are healthy snacks that can keep your blood sugar levels relatively constant. They are also loaded with vitamins and minerals, which are good for health. However, you should eat fruits in moderation as they can also be rather high in natural sugars.
2. Energy bars
As its name suggests, the energy bar is one of the healthier options around, giving you a much-needed energy boost during your post-lunch slump. Quest bars, Lara bars and granola bars are a few popular, natural and nutritious options that can keep you full and recharge your energy levels rather effectively.
Nonetheless, try to read the labels of these bars before you dig in. Some nutritionist label these snacks as "glorified candy bars with few healthy ingredients", as there are many energy bars available that are high in added sugar and total fat content. Check the nutritional facts and ingredients list on the bars so you know whether they are healthy or just another sugary treat. Alternatively, you can also try your hand at making your own granola bars.
Making your own granola bars can be easier than it sounds, cost-effective and a healthier option. You'll be able to control the type and portion of ingredients that goes into it. You can replace sugar for agave, canola oil for coconut oil, and make healthier ingredient swaps too.
Trail mixes are known to be a tasty, healthy option when you are feeling peckish, but store-bought trail mixes can be high in preservatives and added sugar. On top of that, they can be rather expensive too. Again, preparing trail mixes by yourself allows you to customise your ingredients and control the type and portion of ingredients that you add into your mixes. Nuts, such as almonds and macadamias, are popular additions to trail mixes. They contain healthy fat and protein, which can keep you full and satisfied until your next meal. Almonds in particular, have the highest rate of proteins and fibre compared to other nuts, and are low in net carbohydrates.
4. Surround yourself with healthy snacks
The thing about snacking is that most of the time when you are hungry, you grab the first thing within reach or sight. In many workplaces, this tends to be tidbits like candy bars, chocolates, biscuits and chips, which aren't the best choices.
Since you tend to eat food that is easy to see or reach, it means that a small difference in accessibility can have a major impact on snacking. Google New York did a little behavioural economics experiment on one of its pantry rooms, by moving its popular M&M's from large, clear dispensers into opaque, plastic jars. Within seven weeks of this change, the employees in that office ate 3.1 million fewer calories in M&M's than before.
Evidently, the easiest way to snack healthy at work is to have healthy options on hand, and to keep the unhealthy ones out of sight. That way, even if we reach for a snack out of convenience, we would be eating something healthy.
5. All things in moderation
The healthiest snacks contain a combination of proteins, fats and carbs. For example, pair some plain crackers with low-fat cheese, apples with peanut butter, or Greek yoghurt with fruit. Smart combinations of snacks can help you balance your blood sugar levels so you can have consistent energy throughout the day.
Since you spend about a third of your lives working, how you eat at the workplace will definitely have a bearing your health. Making little tweaks to your snacking habits at the office can go a long way in encouraging you to live a healthier lifestyle.
AIA Vitality is a holistic wellness programme specially designed to keep you motivated as you make small, yet significant steps towards living healthier. Under the programme, you can enjoy a range of rewards just by eating healthy, staying active, or going for regular health check-ups. Find out more about how AIA Vitality can improve your life today.
 Tripartite Oversight Committee on Workplace Health- The Health Promotion Board
 Revamp your snacking habits – Harvard Health Publishing, July 2016
 7 snack foods, ranked by how unhealthy they are – Business Insider, 31 July 2017
 3 Ways Google Tricks Its Employees Into Eating Healthy – Business Insider, 10 Nov 2014