Here's How To Make Those Free Snacks You Get At Work Just A Little Healthier

by Julia Guerra

If you work in an office setting, then you’re probably well aware of the fact that being confined to those four walls has its fair share of pros and cons: On the upside, there are always free snacks; on the downside, the aforementioned free snacks aren't exactly what you would call "nutritious." Unfortunately, you can’t always rely on your office to provide healthy work snacks, because the truth is, whoever’s supplying the goods is probably thinking more in terms of taste and convenience than they are about nutritional value. But, I mean, can you blame them?

See, the problem isn’t that companies are supplying food for their employees, or that PR reps are sending provisions to show their appreciation — this is all wonderful, and I’m sure no one’s complaining. And while I can totally relate to the fact that these snacks are likely your saving grace come 3 p.m. when you need to curb a sugar craving, in the long run, most of these free treats are actually costing you more than you realize, at least as far as your nutrition goes.

In fact, according to new research from the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the snacks in your office's communal kitchen aren’t exactly up to par per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In other words, The Boston Globe reports, the treats provided for you at work are just that: treats loaded with sodium and refined grains. That doesn't exactly sound like brain food, does it?

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful or preachy, BTW. Free food is never a bad thing. It’s just that, I know myself, and if there’s a tray of artisan donuts on the conference room table, the temptation is too real for me to ditch the juicy apple and crunchy peanut butter sitting pretty at my desk, and bite into that frosted, doughy goodness, instead. If this scenario sounds all too familiar, then hear me out for a second: You don’t have to avoid all those snacks entirely, nor do you even have to deny yourself the indulgence. It's all about practicing a little moderation and channeling a lot of creativity so you can enjoy all the free eats at work, but still be (kinda) healthy in the process.

In case you need some inspiration, here are a few easy tricks to help you turn those delicious office snacks into nutritious office snacks.

BYO Hummus (Or Guac) For Dipping Free Chips

I don't know about you, but I definitely fall into the "you can't have just one" trap when it comes to potato chips, pita crisps, crackers — basically anything that's crunchy, full of carbs, and dippable. So if you, like me, consider these sort of snacks your personal kryptonite, the best way you can have your chips and stay healthy, too, is to BYO dip in a travel-safe container, stash it in the office fridge, and grab it when the afternoon munchies take over.

Of course, if you have a healthier recipe you can whip up in lieu of store-bought onion dip, be my guest, but when it comes to healthy dipping alternatives, my go-to is always hummus or guac. I make my own hummus by tossing chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, paprika, salt, and pepper into a food processor, but brands like Hope Foods and Sabra have ah-mazing ingredient lists comprised of whole foods you can actually pronounce. In terms of guac, I personally love Wholly Guacamole's to-go pouches, but there are a ton of guacamole recipes online to experiment with, too.

Provide Your Own Parfait Toppings

After years of following foodie accounts on Instagram, I'm pretty much convinced that anything can be made healthy if you toss it in a bowl and add the right toppings. Take yogurt, for example: A lot of store-bought yogurts are packed with added sugars. Still, if you forgot to pack an afternoon snack, or don't always have time to make breakfast in the morning, it's a much healthier choice than anything you'd get out of a vending machine.

If your office has a never-ending supply of free yogurt, then you should absolutely take advantage of the stash, but come prepared with your own additives. Toppings like fresh fruit, shredded coconut, nuts and seeds, and even protein powder (my personal faves are Moon Juice's Adaptogenic Protein Powder or Amazing Grass' Plant-Based Superfood Powder) are all great options for both enhancing the snack's nutritional value, and making it a little more satisfying, to boot.

Break Up A Granola Bar And Make Your Own Trail Mix

For me, preparing snacks is just as important as preparing meals. This is more or less because I live that #alwayshungry life (such a struggle), but it's also because, if I'm going to eat something, I want it to be delicious and good for me — or at least like, not terrible for me. One of the best ways I know for how to get in a ton of healthy fats and essential vitamins and minerals, with the added bonus of a little sweetness in each bite: trail mix.

Growing up, you couldn't pay me to dig into a bowl of trail mix at a party if it was propped next to a bowl of Doritos, but these days, I'm all about the combination of sweet and savory. If your office is stocked with all kinds of granola bars, stash a few at your desk, break 'em apart, and add the crumbles to a baggie full of your favorite nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and cacao nibs. The added crunch will add texture to each bite, and the combination of healthy fats and carbs should hold you over until your next meal.

Always Combine Chocolate With Fruit

Chances are, your office isn't going to have a fondu station set up to sweeten the work day, but I'm willing to bet chocolate bars can be found somewhere in your communal kitchen. Personally, I cannot resist a square (or five) of chocolatey goodness when it's handed to me, and you shouldn't have to feel like you need to avoid it, either.

Your best move here is to indulge in moderation, and even things out with some fresh fruit like strawberries or grapes. The combination of rich chocolate with sweet fruit is undeniably delicious, and hey, it's all about balance, right?

Wrap String Cheese In Deli Turkey Slices For Extra Protein

If, one day, you're rummaging through your office fridge and you just so happen to stumble upon some string cheese, consider yourself lucky AF because that's fancy. It's also an awesome snacking option, because it's basically one of the most convenient ways to sneak some protein into your diet for the day.

On the one hand, I think it's safe to say, if you paired string cheese with a block of dark chocolate, everything would still be copacetic, because you'd have your protein accounted for and a bit of sweetness for an energy boost — but you can do better than that, girl. If you want to stay on the healthy track, cut up that string cheese long ways, and wrap each piece in slices of deli turkey for even more protein. If you're still hungry after the fact, then go back for the additional sweetness. Hey, at least you tried.

Dip Pretzels In Peanut Butter

I'm just going to put this out into the universe: There is no shame in stashing a jar of peanut, almond, cashew, sunflower seed, or whatever-kind-of-butter at your desk — none whatsoever, friend. In fact, Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of Ancient Nutrition and, tells Elite Daily that one of the best ways to make your office snacks more nutritious is to "stock up on healthy protein sources and nutrient-dense toppings," and, if I'm not mistaken, nut and seed butters certainly fit the bill here.

So, instead of grabbing two bags of free mini pretzels to hold you over, pick one package up and dip each bite into your jar of delicious nut butter. If you're too shy to hoard an entire jar at your desk, no worries — brands like Barney's Almond Butter, Justin's, Crazy Richard's, and Wild Friends sell to-go packets for one-time use. Brilliant, right?