The scenario is all too common: You’ve been working hard all day at the office, tackling deadlines and finishing tasks, when you start to get that groggy feeling. You’ve hit the afternoon slump. And you’re seeking a reward. Naturally, you head straight for the vending machines for your 3:00 p.m. candy fix.
Maybe you are tired, time is passing slowly, and munching on nuts or chips seems to pass the time a little easier.
A growing number of companies are sympathetic to snackers, providing an array of accessible treats to help their employees power through the workday on a full stomach.
Online shoe company Zappos has its own bistro, the Z-bistro, where offerings like grilled cheese and trail mix can be had at any hour of the day.
Tagged, a social media and discovery service, offers its team monster pastrami sandwiches and cronuts, and even asks employees to fill out its “foodbox” with ideas on which snacks to stock in their fridges.
They may be on to something. It helps to keep employees well fed. In a recent survey conducted by Seamless, 57 percent of workers surveyed said that food-based perks made them feel more valued and appreciated by their employers.
Employees primarily turn to snacking when dealing with stress, boredom, fatigue or procrastination, says Lisa DeFazio, a nutritionist based in Hollywood, CA.
“Maybe there is an email you are dreading returning, so you grab a candy bar or popcorn to just postpone dealing with stressful work. Maybe you are tired, time is passing slowly, and munching on nuts or chips seems to pass the time a little easier,” she adds.
Snack Attack: Good or Bad?
Snacking may help with stress, but will it help with a worker’s overall health?
“The more sugar we eat the more we crave. You eat a cookie, blood sugar spikes, then 30 minutes later, blood sugar crashes, and you need a nap or more sugar.”
That depends. If a company has a cereal bar, a self-serve ice cream station or endless varieties of candy, it’s going to end up doing more harm than good, says DeFazio.
“First of all, the more sugar we eat the more we crave,” she says. “You eat a cookie, blood sugar spikes, then 30 minutes later, blood sugar crashes, and you need a nap or more sugar,” she says.
Eating chocolate at work can be both tasty and reinvigorating—and that’s because it releases endorphins.
But if you’re sitting down for hours on end, eating junk food will only make things harder on the body. Instead, DeFazio says you’re better off snacking while working from a standing desk.
“If you eat something sweet, balance it out with protein and healthy fats to slow down the sugar absorption into the bloodstream—like an apple with peanut or almond butter,” she says.
If you’re hungry for something sweet, it could be an indication that you’re actually thirsty. Drinking water or a cold beverage will help thwart a sugar craving, says DeFazio.
For those needing a boost in productivity, DeFazio suggests a snack regime that balances healthy fat with protein, fiber and carbohydrates.
“This will give your brain the glucose to focus,” she adds. “The protein and fat slow down and stabilize the absorption of glucose so it’s slower and will last for a few hours.”
Space out your snacking by eating once every three to four hours, says DeFazio. If you’re a stress eater who’s looking for healthier fare, DeFazio suggests the following items for snacking.
- String cheese
- Greek yogurt
- Fresh fruit
- Hummus cups
- Celery sticks
- Almond butter
- Trail mix
- Turkey jerky
- A protein bar that has seven grams of sugar (or less)
- Individual-serving microwave popcorn
- Dry unsweetened cereal