The 10 Best After-Work Snacks

The perfect after-work snack is light, easy, and takes the edge off your hunger without ruining your appetite for dinner. Here are 10 great ideas.

First, decide if you're really hungry. If you haven't eaten since lunchtime, and you're still a couple of hours away from dinner, then a snack is certainly in order. In fact, if you're trying to lose or maintain weight, an after-work snack can cut your appetite just enough to help you control how much eat for dinner.

One of the reasons snacking has a bad rep is that the types of foods we associate with snacking-like chips, candy bars and other convenience foods that are easy to grab and easy to eat-are foods that are high in sugar or fat and low in essential nutrients. Those types of snacks add excess calories with no nutritional benefit. The best snack is a balanced snack that, like a balanced meal, contains mostly protein and "good carbs," that are high in fiber, such as whole grains, legumes and veggies, and just a little fat.

The age-old secret to healthy snacking is to have wholesome foods on hand so you're not tempted to grab junky fast food. Take one of these healthy choices to work with you and keep them in the fridge until it's time to head out. Or, if you live close to work and can get home quickly, have a healthy snack waiting there for you.

  • Nuts and berries. Trail mixes made with nuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds and dried fruit are not low in calories, but a little bit (just1/4 cup) won't dent your diet and will go a long way toward satisfying hunger, filling in nutritional gaps, and holding you over until dinnertime.
  • Edamame. Green soybeans are high in protein in fiber and fun to eat straight from the pod.  Boil up a batch on the weekend and portion them out into individual bags to keep in the refrigerator and grab during the week.  You can eat edamame cold out of the fridge or heat them slightly in a microwave oven.
  • Whole-grain crisps or crackers with reduced-fat cheese.  A cube or two of cheese is a nibble of calcium you can always use.  Look for seeded crackers made with whole-grain rye, wheat, corn or other whole-grains and seeds like sesame and flax. They contain more fiber than ordinary crackers, so they help you feel fuller a little longer.
  • Celery sticks with bean dip. Crispy, crunchy celery sticks are practically calorie-free, and you'll get lots of fiber and protein from the dip. Tomato salsa made without fat is another food that's virtually free of calories, so don't be afraid to pile it on. For extra spice, dip radish slices.
  • Sliced lean ham or turkey and lettuce wrap.  Wrap very thinly sliced meat in a soft lettuce leaf. For extra flavor with few extra calories, dab with a little mustard or add sliced sun-dried tomatoes.
  • String cheese sticks. Since you have to peel off bits of strong cheese to get the full effect, it takes a little longer to eat and helps you eat more "mindfully," rather than thoughtlessly gobbling down a snack without any thought to what or how much you're eating. Pair your cheese with apple or pear slices, and consider it your first course for dinner.
  • Almond butter on whole grain crackers. Or, all the better to spread a little nut butter on a slice of toasted whole-grain bread. Round out your snack with a small glass of milk or soy milk.
  • Hard-cooked egg and a juice spritzer. Make your own spritzer with lots of seltzer and a splash of cranberry or pomegranate juice, or look for commercial brands with no added sugar.
  • Reduced-fat Greek-style plain yogurt with honey. This is ideal if you're looking to snack on something sweet. Protein, carbs and just a little fat, all in one package!
  • Instant soy latte. Warmed in the microwave or cold from the fridge, you'll get a nutritious lift from a cup of soy milk or chocolate soy milk (for a mocha latte) flavored with just a splash of coffee.

If you have no place to store an after-work snack at your job, get to know your healthiest options in the neighborhood. For instance, find a juice bar that makes fresh fruit smoothies with yogurt or soy milk, and make that your go-to spot straight from work.