She was in the office for less than two minutes before darting to a shiny turquoise package on the desk. The bag houses love, magic, and chocolate-covered pretzels called Chocolatears — a gift from Derek’s recent trip to Disney World. Keri Gans, our nutrition guru for the next hour, examines the nutrition label carefully. The Mickey Mouse-shaped treats stuff 17 grams of sugar into a 11-piece serving (one of six paltry portions for a fairly small bag). (Don’t worry: Though we wish it was the case, we don’t always have Disney-themed chocolaty snacks in our office.)
To recognize National Nutrition Month, our friends from KIND — a brand devoted to healthy snacks (like snack bars and granola) — offered to send over a registered dietitian to raid our kitchen and provide a little insight on our eating choices. Their goal with this new initiative is to help make offices, even healthy ones, just a little bit healthier. Gans, an R.D., author, and media personality, visited Greatist HQ one afternoon earlier this week to inspect our kitchen and provide a little insight on our eating choices. We were in for an energy-filled snack-tervention.
Gans begins by mapping out the perfect snack: 200 calories or less, at least 5 grams each of protein and fiber. While some office workers may forgo snack time in order to knock out a deadline, in-between-meal nibbles are often an opportunity to add nutrients that you might not have a chance to the remainder of the day, she says.
Scanning our tables, Gans weaves to each member of the team to dissect wrappers and lunch remnants, then fires off questions about each individual’s eating habits. She lurches for my empty bottle of Kombucha. After eyeing the label, she says the 60 calories per bottle (that’s two servings) and 4 grams of sugar aren’t too shabby. She returns the bottle to my hands then traipses over to the next victim (alright, it wasn’t that bad). Before Gans can play CSI on Laura’s balsamic glazed plate, Laura confesses “I just ate something!” She rattles off the makings of her lunch — rice cake, hummus, sliced turkey, and baby carrots. The mini-meal, according to Gans, would make a perfect snack because you’ve got a little healthy fat from the hummus, a solid amount of protein from the turkey (she suggests three to four slices), and whole grains from the brown rice cake. Phew, Laura makes it out alive.
Time to enter the Thunderdome. Gans scoots her way into the kitchen, suede booties clacking straight to the exposed shelves. First non-human target: Peanut butter. She overhead presses two jars. “Which one do you think is better?” her eyes track from nine to three, staring at her new students Becky and Sophie for an answer. “The jar with the palm oil and molasses, or the one that has just peanuts and salt?” It’s a no brainer, and we let out a collective “duh!” though we admit to just recently making the switch the all-natural version. Gans suggests pairing one tablespoon of peanut butter with a rice cake or apple for a perfect snack. The key here? Stick to one tablespoon.
Gans whips open the freezer door to expose our latest shipment of frozen novelty samples — pints and pints of avocado and coconut flavored ice cream look like jenga pieces shoved precariously above boxes of popsicles with less-than respectable nutrition facts. And then there’s the tiramisu-flavored ice cream from our friends at Milkmade. Thankfully, we also just received a few boxes of of Enlightened bars, which pass Gans’ parameters as an OK once-in-a-while snack (with 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and only 3 grams of sugar).
Freezer, done. On to the refrigerator — home to the majority of our lunch foods. “Hummus… fabulous. Milk… lovely to see,” she says. Gans suggests portioning out veggies and hummus onto a plate rather than dip straight into the container nonstop. She pulls open the meat drawer. “Smoked salmon — that is great!” She goes on to say that salmon, hummus, and a rice cake would make a great snack. Gans whips out each sack of labeled meat and cheese and says it’s smart to take it easy on the cheese (stick to one slice). Then she commends our choice of low-sodium turkey.
A little more digging, and we’ve almost made it. Aside from having far too many bags of mini carrots open at once (instead of opening them one at a time), we seem to have aced the fridge-portion of the Raid. Then Gans spots a Chinese-food container jam-packed with jam-filled mini-cheesecakes. Uh oh. There’s a really uncomfortable silence as Gans holds the white plastic container out, inspecting its contents, then peers up at the three of us towering over her. She raises an eyebrow, cocks her head to the left and says, “You know what… they’re mini.” Phewww. “There’s room for occasional desserts in life,” she says.
So what did we learn from the raid? Even an office as healthy as ours has its pitfalls. While KIND bars are one of our favorite healthy snacks, having them displayed in glass jars may falsely cue up a craving before hunger really strikes. We’re lucky to have so many healthy offerings, but that doesn’t mean we always portion them well or pair them with the right foods to stay full and satisfied throughout the day. The takeaway: After a well-balanced snack (that means tossing in some protein and fiber) ask yourself, “Do you really feel like you’ve eaten something?” It’s likely after chomping 11 chocolate-covered Mickey Mouse-shaped pretzels, the answer is “No.” An apple with some peanut butter, however? That should tide you over to that next meal.
What are your favorite snacks to stay satisfied? Let us know in the comment section below or tweet the author @nicmcdermott.
Photos by Jordan Shakeshaft