10 Healthy Munchies for Writers and Other Deskbound Folks

Filed in The Healthy Writer by on February 11, 2014 • views: 1617

Munchies2Everyone at the office has their vices.

In the design company where I used to work, it was donuts, chocolate covered cookies, M&Ms and other various types of candies. At my first writing and advertising job, it was homemade goodies (courtesy of our print manager, who secretly wanted to run a bake shop), pizza, microwave popcorn, and whatever candy bars would fit in the desk drawer.

There’s something about working in an office that compels one, no matter how health conscious, to cave in to the munchies. The compulsion is nearly impossible to resist, so instead of living with guilt, why not stock your desk with healthier options that still satisfy the need to do something—anything—to break up the sensory boredom?

Why Computer Work Leads to the Munchies

Sitting all day is bad for you. I won’t go into all the details here, but suffice to say that studies have found it greatly increases your risk of diseases like cancer and diabetes, even if you dutifully hit the gym five days a week.

But some of us simply can’t avoid it. If you’re a writer or other office worker, the majority of your day is spent at the computer. Unless you own a treadmill desk (more on that in a future post), that means sitting, usually for six hours or more a day.

All that sitting has a nasty side effect—it makes us hungry. Researchers in a 2012 study observed 14 men and women while sitting and standing for several hours, and concluded, “…prolonged sitting may promote excess energy intake, leading to weight gain in both men and women.”

An earlier study also found that intellectual work—such as what most of us hope to accomplish while sitting at the computer—also compels us to take in more calories. Researchers had students do three things at different times.

  1. Sit and relax
  2. Complete a series of memory and attention tests
  3. Read and summarize a text

Though it took only about three more calories to do the more challenging tasks, students ate 200-250 more calories after completing the second two. Blood samples taken before, during, and after the activities also showed big fluctuations in glucose and insulin levels, revealing a brain on the hunt for more energy.

“Caloric overcompensation following intellectual work, combined with the fact that we are less physically active when doing intellectual tasks, could contribute to the obesity epidemic,” researchers wrote.

Oh, and if you happen to be bored by what you’re doing? That could spur you to eat something, too. Dr. Susan Carnell, writing in Psychology Today, says that when we’re bored, the brain messenger dopamine—which is responsible for stimulating and motivating us—is likely in short supply, or at least, not very active. We eat something we enjoy to wake it up again.

So now you have an excuse. You’re just being a hard-working employee, a super intellectual, or trying to wake yourself up while going over those reports for the third time.

But that won’t make you feel better when you next stand on the scale and find the number has gone up again.

10 Healthier Munchies

Of course you can do other things besides eat. You can get up and take a walk. Plug in your headphones and listen to some music (this one works well for me). Enjoy some cold water and lemon or a nice cup of tea. But most likely, sooner or later, you’re going to want to chew on something.

The following options are good for you in one way or another and are likely to keep you satisfied, as they require some serious munching. Let me know if you have other ideas. I could always use them!

  1. Popcorn: Air popped with a little powder seasoning is best. Microwave works too—as long as you get the low-cal versions. It’s a good source of fiber and keeps you munching for awhile.
  2. Nuts: These are a great source of protein and healthy fats, and are very satisfying. The key is to limit yourself to only a handful. In other words, pour some nuts out of the can and put it away. If you eat straight from the container, you risk consuming too many calories.
  3. Fruit: Apples, bananas, oranges, and other types of fruit keep well for a day or two at the office, are full of fiber and healthy antioxidants, and take time to chew.
  4. Hard boiled egg: Another high-protein item, it will keep your hunger pains at bay. Add a little salt and you’re likely to soothe your cravings for awhile.
  5. Dark chocolate: If you’re looking for an indulgence (this works best when you’re bored), a little dark chocolate will do the trick. It has been linked with a lower risk of heart disease (and more), and it’s very satisfying in the mouth. You can easily succumb to eating too much, however. Break off a few squares, savor them slowly, and put the rest back in the desk. Another trick to make it last longer—freeze it first.
  6. Whole-grain cereal: Know how you can keep a toddler busy with Cheerios or Fruit Loops? You can do the same thing for your mouth with healthy, whole-grain, dry cereal. Cheerios is still a good option—it’s low-cal and made with oats. Other good choices include whole wheat squares and low-sugar raisin bran.
  7. Seeds: These can really keep you busy without overloading you with calories. Plus, seeds have healthy goodies like fiber, protein, and fatty acids. Sunflower and pumpkin are two of the best options.
  8. Raw veggies: There are few things that crunch quite as well as a carrot stick. If you add some almond butter, you may enjoy it even more. Celery, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and red and green peppers also make great options for keeping your mouth busy without overextending your waistline.
  9. Oatcakes: Have you tried these? Like rice cakes only made with oats, they’re light and crunchy and work great with a little bit of natural almond butter. Plus you get fiber, protein, and whole-grain goodness. Try Walkers Fine Oat Cakes.
  10. Pickles: These have hardly any calories, but a lot of crunch. Choose your favorite flavor—there are a lot of options out there!

What do you turn to when the desk munchies strike?

© Aboltus | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

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