The Pantry In Your Desk Drawer: Snacking and Dining at the Office

snacking and dining at the office

2018 Update: We still stand by this old discussion on snacking and dining at the office — but you may also want to check out our most recent roundup of 40+ snack ideas for on dining and snacking at the office - image of a desk drawer tea stash

Last week we talked about what clothes you keep at the office… this week, let’s talk about the food you keep in stock at the office!  (Pictured: Desk drawer tea-stash, originally uploaded to Flickr by Kratzy.)

Here’s the thing about hectic, busy jobs, at least in my experience. Half the time, you’re so busy you don’t have time to go grab lunch. And when you’re not busy, well, why prolong your time at the office by lingering over some long lunch unless it’s with a friend (which requires scheduling, which may or may not be something your hectic work schedule allows you to do). So how’s a busy woman to eat during the workday?

My trick has always been to keep food at the office. When I was at my firm, I kept a whole banker’s box full of snacks — it fit right in with all the other boxes of documents in my office! My list of must-haves has always included the following, which I would space out throughout the day in a series of snacks:

The Best Food for Snacking and Dining at the Office

Note that this list was written on the assumption that you do have ready access to hot water, but not necessarily a readily-accessible microwave or a refrigerator.

1. Peanut butter. If this isn’t a problem food for you (allergies, calories, etc), it’s a great thing to keep around the office. Spread some on crackers like saltines, and you’ve got protein, fat, healthy oil, and you should stay satiated for at least a few hours. If portion control is a problem for you, you can keep things like PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter in your office and only make as much as you want.

2. Bars. I highly recommend finding a a low-calorie, high-protein, high-fiber bar that you enjoy eating. Meal replacement bars (200 calories plus) never really seem to fill me up, and the low-protein bars — such as granola bars — are kind of like eating a cookie for lunch. My preferred picks: Gnu Foods bars (extremely high fiber and high protein for only about 130 caloreies), PowerBar Pria Bars (mint is particularly good), or, if you’re really craving something dessert-like, the Glenny’s 100-Calorie Brownie. Two other great choices that are super high fiber: Fiber One Bars and Fiberful bars (sold at Trader Joe’s).

3. Oatmeal. This doesn’t have the protein or fiber of a lot of the things recommended above, but it has a warm, cozy, filling feeling — and it’s the closest a busy woman can get to comfort foods a lot of the time. It also smells wonderful. (Be sure to get a box of oatmeal that definitely only requires hot water.)

4. Nuts. Portion control can be a problem here, also, but if you can keep nuts around they really are a power food. Go for nuts that are as close to natural form as possible — avoid things that are roasted, salted, processed. Raw almonds have always been my favorite — they taste good but not SO good that I want to eat the entire bag.  If portion control is really a problem, you may want to try pistachios or peanuts — in their shells. Everybody’s Nuts! makes some great portion-controlled bags of pistachios.

5. Instant noodles. There are a ton of options for meals that can be heated by the microwave — from EasyMac to LeanCuisine — but it’s harder to find ones that only require hot water to “cook.” In general, these things won’t fill you up, but they are a nice alternative to the bars and other things mentioned above. Trader Joe’s has some great dry soup mixes that only require water; I’ve also had good luck with Thai Kitchen and Annie Chun’s products.

6. Raisins. Dried fruits can be a bit too much like candy, which is why I like the old standards — raisins and dried plums. They may not be “sexy” fruits, but you can keep them in your bottom drawer and a handful from time to time will help you feel like you got your fruit in for the day.

7. Emergen-C. When your energy is dragging — or you feel a cold coming on — or you need some extra pep before heading out for dinner or drinks with friends, I swear by Emergen-C. These lemonade-like packets contain only about 5-25 calories, but pack a wallop of vitamin C — more than 1000% of your daily requirements. Just add water, and you’re good to go.

8. Canned tuna or salmon. I highly recommend going to the office kitchen to drain the cans first and dispose of them (or else your office will smell of tuna for a week!) but with a packet of mustard or mayo mixed in, these healthy fishes are great eaten with crackers or by themselves. Of course, be sensible about potential mercury poisoning and don’t eat them too often. (If you’re unfamiliar with canned salmon, be sure to get cans that contain skinless and boneless salmon.)

9. Cereal. This is another great thing to keep at the office — either to keep a high-fiber cereal to mix into yogurt and oatmeal, like Fiber One — or to keep a favorite cereal from college or childhood, like Cap’n Crunch. Steal some milk from the fridge intended for coffee, and you’ve got a meal.

10. Pudding. It’s a little-known trick, but if you bring in a box of Jell-O Instant Pudding, you can mix 1 heaping Tbsp with 1/2 cup skim milk, let it sit in the fridge for about 60 minutes, and enjoy a single portion of office-made fresh pudding. Is it a meal? Not really, but it is a dairy serving — and it’s yummy.

Bonus Round: Refrigerated/Fresh Foods to Keep on Hand for Snacking and Dining at the Office:

1. Organic apples. This is one of those fruits where it’s allegedly worth it to pay for the organic version, but even if you just get the regular version, they’re great to keep at your office.  I’ve always liked to bring one with me each day and eat it for a late-morning snack before lunch.  (Be sure to wash the apple well if you’re not buying organic.)

2. Lemon juice. I love a little lemon juice in my life — I use it to squeeze on salads (I swear, it makes every.single.dressing taste better and go farther with less dressing), as well as to add to water, hot water (particularly when I’m sick, I love hot water with lemon and honey), and to add to fish (canned or otherwise).

3. Cheese. My all-time favorite is the light string cheese you can get at Trader Joe’s — it’s cheap, low calorie, and tastes the best to me compared with other string cheese.  Still, almost any cheese is handy for a snack, though: those mini Babybels, a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese (which technically doesn’t need to be refrigerated, but personally I find it a bit gross if it’s not chilled)

4. Yogurt. I always like to mix in Fiber One so I’m more satiated.

5. Vitatops. These fiber-filled treats are great if you have access to a freezer at the office.  (They have no preservatives, which is why they require freezing.)  They come to room temperature in about an hour, or else you can get a cup of hot water or tea and warm them up a lot quicker.

Alright ladies, let’s hear it — what kind of foods do you keep in your desk drawers to nibble on throughout the day?


  1. In my drawers/on my desk hidden in opaque containers I have: a bunch of different kinds of tea (caffeinated, decaf, etc.), packets of sugar and sweetener I’ve swiped from the cafeteria, currently two bags of different trail mix (one I like, one not so much but am forcing myself to finish).

    I’ve gotten in the habit of keeping granola around so I can bring yogourt in each day and mix it in. I love love love Anderson cheese sticks (Canadian product) that are just 80 calories each and delicious.

    I also love to bring in dried mango but it’s not a thing that really stays in my desk as I can eat a bag in a day no problem, so it’s more of a treat than every day thing.

  2. I keep a variety pack of tea, single-serving dark chocolates and cashews around. The chocolates have saved me many a trip to Starbucks for overpriced, high-calorie caffeine and sugar fixes.

  3. I look for things that can either fill me up or satisfy a craving. Right now I have
    * individual cups of blueberry-applesauce (if I want a sweet and fairly healthy snack)

    * a pack of candy (I love something sweet after lunch, but just having a tiny bit, say, 5 M&M type candies, will do the trick with negligible calories)

    * Granola bars- for if I’m actually hungry and can’t get to a meal right away- I’ve found that the FiberOne peanut butter ones are surprisingly filling

    * Tea (even though my office stocks it, I like to have it just in case!)

    * Plain salted nuts (cashews right now, for times where I’m really hungry and want protein/fat, but not hungry enough to break into a granola bar)

    * A can of caffinated soda (even though my office stocks them, I like to have one just in case I really need that boost and am not feeling coffee/tea-like)

    * A single can of soup as a back-up lunch (In case I either forget my packed lunch or have plans that fall through, I like to have it on hand so that I won’t feel the urge to run to get fast food. I’m not a big canned soup fan, but it’s better than most fast food (unless I’m really feeling that strong, give me fast food craving), and saves time and money, too.)

    I should add that my office stocks several different crackers, peanut and almond butters, nutella, and some nuts (I know, nice, right?), so I could probably do without any of that, but I like to have it at my desk sometimes, too. Maybe I’ll add oatmeal and tuna fish soon, based on Kat’s suggestions.

    • AnonInfinity :

      Your office stocks Nutella? I want to come work at this magical place.

      • My dream workplace!
        when I was a freshman at university I wanted to work for Kraft food to have free access to Oreo ..

      • Every office in Australia has vegemite!!

  4. Enough with the pseudoscience :

    Kat, please stop continuing to propagate the false idea that Vitamin C does anything for colds. It doesn’t. Maybe you feel better when you take it–that’s called the placebo effect. It pains me greatly every time you mention Emergen-C and its supposed cold-fighting powers. Please stop.

    • Ramblewood :


    • Technically, the jury is still out on the cold/Vit C connection. No conclusive data to show a connection, except in extreme climate conditions. It’s not like extra vitamin C is going to hurt. Its a water-soluble vitamin, so its pretty hard to overdose.

    • When being snarky, please be sure to check your facts. When the Mayo Clinic says “research is ongoing” it’s not a settled.

      P.S. Please stop.

      • If this was facebook, I would “like” your post Anon.

      • Research, Not Law :

        Actually, I’m not sure your post was any more enlightening.

        Taking vitamin C when “you feel a cold coming on,” as Kat suggested above (and is very commonly suggested elsewhere) has resoundedly been found ineffective at preventing colds or reducing symptoms or duration.

        The mixed results are in the area of taking vit C before experiencing symptoms – in other words, routine high vit C intake. Some studies find no effect. Others do find effect, primarily in specific populations who are more susceptible to colds.

    • Thanks for ruining my placebo effect.

      • Anonymous :

        Take heart! A recent study showed that people get beneficial results from placebos even when they KNOW they’re placebos (and have received the explanation of what a placebo is and that it does nothing). I am happy with my placebos, thank you. Please pass the Emergen-C!

    • I am a huge believer in Vitamin C. I take 2,000mg every day from fall through spring and never get sick. Before I started my Vitamin C regimen, I got sick with really bad colds 3-4 times a winter. Maybe I am crazy and it’s all in my mind, but I’m sticking to it because it’s really nice to stay healthy all winter long.

      • I keep powdered Vit C in my desk drawer and take 1000mg everyday, dissolved in water. Even if it’s placebo – it costs little and has no side effects, so there.

    • Barrister in the Bayou :

      Well at least we can keep away scurvy ;-)

    • Anonymous :

      I get what the commenter is saying. It’s not empirical, so it bugs the commenter to have it implied to be so obviously and blithely true, when it’s more of a hopeful we-don’t-know.

      It doesn’t hurt, so we can all choose to go for it (I love the Halls Vitamin C tangy-citrus candies) but a blogger with a voice and forum might be, according to the peeved poster, more conservative in broadcasting ideas.

      She does sound unwarrentedly over-peeved, but maybe she’s a scienitist or anti-C lobbyist. :) I get it.

      To C or not to C, to each her own.

    • karenpadi :

      Even placebos work!

      I don’t think Kat should be held to a higher standard or that she’s somehow responsible for posting medically-sound advice. Most bloggers aren’t and most people know that one shouldn’t believe everything written on the Internet.

      Besides, why do you care so much if others believe in the healing powers of Emergen-C? Vitamin C isn’t harmful and, if you aren’t ingesting it, it doesn’t affect you in any way. So get off your high-horse.

    • not the OP :

      …but I am a PhD scientist. Who happens to work in drug development. I agree with the original sentiment – actually the Mayo Clinic link supports the OP – but I also don’t have a problem with anyone taking as much Emergen-C as they want, whether for the placebo effect or just because it’s tasty. However, I’m not in favor of propagating misinformation and I’m not sure why there’s so much support for that here.

      There’s a lot of medical half-truths floating around that are significantly more dangerous than this – I hope that this presumably bright/well-educated community would be open to listening to those even if they prefer to make decisions counter to currently available data. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d guess most of you would probably not follow a doctor’s advice to take something else that had demonstrated no significant benefit when tested on a large population, just because there are no side effects and it’s cheap.

    • Yay for science. Let’s not shout down people who are sharing researched facts, OK?

    • Well I mean let’s be honest. It cures hangovers… You know “colds”

    • It’s probably the electrolytes in Emergen-C (i.e. the massive amount of B-vitamins) that makes you feel better, not the vitamin C. Emergen-C has over 400% of your daily requirement of vitamins B-6 and B-12. I could certainly be wrong, but I believe there’s research indicating that B vitamins DO make you feel better when you take them.

      I recommend Emergen-C as a substitute for Gatorade/Powerade. If you liked pixie stix when you were a kid (or like them now!), try taking it sans water. I can’t speak to the sugar-free flavors, but the normal varieties taste pretty good. :-)

      • I just reached for the neglected box of Emergen-C in my desk and took a taste of the powder. It’s better than pixie stix!!

  5. I enjoy the Trader Joe’s boxed soups, raw cashews/almonds, better than peanut butter, high protien oatmeal, greek yogurt, and soup at hand.

    Also tried freeze dried fruit instead of dried! Way less sugary.

  6. I have pretty predictable eating requirements, so I pack morning and afternoon snacks in with my lunch (prepped Sunday nights so that I can just toss a lunch together in less than a minute each morning):

    1. Carbo-something – muffin, croissant, ziploc bag of cereal, maybe a bagel (8am snack)

    2. Small container or ziploc of baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, or other small vegetable; sometimes (if I have it on hand) I’ll include a blob of hummus or other dip in the container (10am snack)

    3. Fruit – something sturdy (like an apple or a pear), or a container of berries or sliced peaches (3:30pm snack)

    As long as I remember these, I can keep my desk-diving to a minimum, but sometimes I still need a little treat. For those times, I always keep the following snack food groups in my desk:

    1. Chocolate/crunchy – usually a package of TimTams, and I limit myself to one cookie a day.

    2. Salty/crunchy – a resealable bag of chips/crackers

    3. Chewy – usually a bag of toffee or mini mars bars

    4. More filling – granola bars or roasted spiced nuts (save money by roasting/seasoning your own)

    5. Tea – loose leaf, 1-2 types each of green and herbal (the milk supply is unreliable, so black teas are out for me)

    6. Hot chocolate (I buy the large size for home and refill a small container for my desk) – perfect for the occasional pick-me-up

  7. On tuna – the foil packets don’t need to be drained and take up less space in your desk. And if you can find BetterOats oatmeal, the packaging is its own measuring cup for (cold) water.

    I’m a huge fan of TrueLemon (Lime, Orange, and Grapefruit), which is a powdered citrus product. They come in individual serving packets and you can either reconstitute in water or sprinkle directly onto food, without the hassles of a dripping bottle of lemon juice.

    Also, this time of year is fantastic for picking up candy in smaller packaging – a ‘fun size’ candy bar is a quick pick-me-up with easy portion control.

  8. In my desk:
    – Tea (herbal, green)
    – Sunwarrior protein powder
    – Greens powder
    – Oatmeal
    – Condiments that don’t require refrigeration
    – Almonds
    – Nut butter

    In the office fridge:
    – Plain greek yogurt
    – Condiments that do require refrigeration
    – Fresh veggies (pre-cut)
    – Cottage cheese

    I bring food to work with me daily (meals plus snacks, as I eat every 3 hours). Always includes fresh fruit so I don’t keep any of that at the office. I should note that I commute by car so carrying things is not an issue.

    • I had a lot of errors trying to post this – apologies in advance if it ends up showing up multiple times!

  9. ohmydarlin :

    I’m a huge snacker – I get raging hungry at the dot of 10:30 (even after a good breakfast) and then again at about 4. I keep tea, Folger’s singles (coffee in a teabag), granola bars, packs of nuts, and I pre-baggie snacks like pirate’s booty, so I don’t scarf down the whole bag :). Luckily we have a small fridge in the office, so I keep Greek yogurt and string cheese in there.
    Hopefully eating like this will keep my metabolism up… I sit ALL DAY LONG and I don’t want the adverse effects!
    I like the idea of fun-size candy bars, too :)

  10. Em (not the one above) :

    I don’t know if there’s a way to say this without sounding snarky, which is really, truly not my attention. But I think if “portion control” is really that much of a problem with things like nuts that aren’t completely plain, it’s probably a symptom that either (a) you’re not getting enough food and your body is desperately trying to get you to ingest more, or (b) you have psychological issues about food (which many people, especially women, in our culture do!) that it might be a good idea to resolve. You can only try and artificially limit yourself to tiny servings of pistachios before long before something is going to break – much better to get the root of the issue.

    • Or when you’re distracted you don’t always notice what you’re doing. I find that I eat too many nuts when I am reading email, or mentally focused on work.

      I am not a fan of portion controlled packets, mostly because of the incredible amount of waste in packaging. But I do portion control by pouring out an appropriate amount into a bowl , and putting away the package before I start snacking. That keeps me from distractedly eating too much. And please don’t tell me to sit down and focus on my meal. When I’m snacking at my desk, it means I don’t have time to take a real break.

    • I dunno – nuts that aren’t pre-portioned can be really easy to just keep eating. Especially if the hunger switch doesn’t turn off until 20 minutes after you eat. Overeating isn’t always about underlying issues.

    • Agree with Anon & Non above. I keep a tub-style container of nuts at my desk, but if I just open it up and keep dipping into it, I’ll eat an entire meal’s worth without much thought. Not only is this not what I want in calories, but it will throw off my schedule the rest of the day (If I eat 350 calories worth of nuts at 10, I won’t be hungry at lunch time, but I’ll be starving by mid-afternoon, etc.) If I just take a small handful, place it on my desk and put the rest away, I’m usually fine. I can always get more later if I find I still want them.

      I really don’t think that this whole idea that “any time you put thought into making sure that your food choices are healthy and reasonable, it must be because of food-related psychological issues” is at all healthy. It also screams of projection, in my opinion.

      • Em (not the one above) :

        You know, yeah, people who have dealt with certain things in the past are more likely to have opinions and thoughts about it. And it’s not just about “any time you put any thought into making sure your food choices are healthy and reasonable.” That’s a pretty terrible and trivializing way to put it.

        • Your complaint was about a pretty trivial thing.

          I am sorry if you’ve had problems with food in the past. But you realize that that doesn’t exactly go against my conclusion that complaints about silly things like portion control suggestions represented projection on the part of the complainer. I do hope that things have worked out for you, though.

    • Disagree.

    • Anonymous :

      Wrong – I just looove nuts.

      • The 12 year old in me is trying so hard to remain professional and not turn this comment into a joke… :)

    • Yes. You’re right. My body is trying to tell me something – it wants to weigh 300 pounds.

      I can keep tea and dry oatmeal at my desk and that’s about it. But more power to those of you who have posted that you can keep a bag of oreos in your drawer and limit yourself to 3/4 of a cookie a day.

      All I can say is, you should be glad I don’t know where that drawer of yours is.

  11. I’m big on dried fruit. I keep a variety on hand at all times.

    I love wasabi peas – good when you need a kick, but I can’t eat more than a few at a time. I recently tried the wasabi seaweed snacks at Trader Joes – they are great. Those might be a new office snack staple too.

    I also really like those little sesame honey candies. You know the kind they sell in the bulk bins? They are a good little sweet treat – sticky and crunchy, without feeling too sugary and junky.

    A couple chocolate covered espresso beans are a good late afternoon pick me up too.

    • You might like Trader Joe’s Wasabi Wow trail mix. It has peanuts, almonds, dried cranberries, golden raisins, and wasabi peas. The hotness of the peas goes well with the sweetness of the fruit.

      I also like the Emerald brand cocoa-roasted almonds. They have no extra sugar (or calories, I think), just almonds dusted with cocoa. It’s a nice chocolate substitute.

      • We often have the cocoa nuts at my office, and they are really good, particularly if you’re a dark chocolate (as in, not really sweet) fan.

        Back on wasabi, Blue Diamond also has these incredibly addictive wasabi & soy almonds that are delicious!

      • PittsburghAnon :

        The Emerald cocoa almonds are AMAZING. Emerald has a lot of great almond flavors (sweet+salty, salt+pepper, smoked, cinnamon) but the cocoa are the best. Cinnamon is a close second.

        • I love the cinnamon ones — and if you mix them with dried cranberries and raisins, I swear it tastes like an oatmeal cookie!

  12. I keep the usual stuff…tea, oatmeal (and grits because I’m Southern), olive oil, coconut milk, etc. However I have discovered a few things that are extraordinarily useful for keeping me satiated without making me bloated:

    – Kale chips! Make a big batch on Sunday and bring them in to snack on during the week whenever you need some salt/crunch
    – Blueberry green tea with coconut milk is just as good as dessert
    – with my whole raw almonds, I keep a little metal ramekin (like the ones they put ketchup in at sandwich shops) to control portion size
    – And if you have a fridge, keep a few cucumber eye patches in there. I know it’s not food but they *are* stored in the fridge and are super handy after an all-nighter. At about 5am I will slam a cup of coffee, take a 30 minute nap, and then put the patches on. By 6am, I am ready to roll.

    • just Karen :

      I’ve never made kale chips, but am intrigued – I just found a recipe that sounds like basically you bake kale leaves sprinkled with olive oil and seasoned salt (thank you Google) and might have to try it. How strong is the vegetable flavor?

      • karenpadi :

        They are more veggies-like that sweet potatoes and less veggie-like than seaweed. They can get really oily if there’s too much olive oil. I have some leftover kale so I’m going to make some up this week. I’m thinking of using a spray bottle to “spritz” the kale with olive oil. Has anyone tried this?

        • Amelia Bedelia :

          I have found that if I toss my Kale in a plastic bag with the olive oil, it is evenly distributed, but not too greasy. I know it wastes a bag, but it is the only thing that works for me.

    • Mrs. C, may I just say that I love you for keeping grits at your desk?

      Signed, A San Francisco grit lover

      • Thanks, mamabear!

        Also, @karenpadi: just be very judicious with the oil usage. Lately I’ve been using toasted sesame oil and an Asian flavored salt. My “recipe” is as follows:
        – Preheat oven to 375 to 400 (I also tend to roast a batch of veggies at this time so I usually put it around 390).
        – Rip (by hand) the kale leaves off the main stalks and into smaller pieces and put the pieces in a big (2 quart) mixing bowl.
        – Add about a Tablespoon of oil and toss by hand. This doesn’t seem like a lot but once you start tossing the kale you’ll see that it’s enough to coat the pieces.
        – Add about .5-1 Teaspoon of salt.
        – Arrange on baking sheet and cook for 5-10 minutes (or until they become crispy).

  13. Ugh, posting is not working. Sorry if this gets posted twice.

    In my desk drawer, in addition to what others have said:
    -100 calorie single serve microwave popcorn
    -100 calorie snacks (i.e. cheez its, cookies, rice cakes – I stock up at Costco; sure, I could decant my own and waste less packaging, as the Anon 2:03 says, but it saves me time when I keep the packages directly at work instead of remembering to bring from home)
    -Nutella and peanut butter
    -fun size candy bars for a quick chocolate treat
    -coffee grinds (for my single serve French press)
    -granola to add crunch to my yogurt

  14. SF Bay Associate :

    In my desk “pantry”
    – creamy Skippy peanut butter and a few clean plastic spoons, because sometimes you really do get that stuck and cannot move an inch to eat.
    -a box of Luna bars (lemon, white macadamia, chocolate coconut, or smores)
    -a box of Kashi granola bars which I typically give to starving colleagues because I like the Luna bars better. I’m on board with NGDGTCO’s “don’t feed the office” rule, but having a few granola bars to hand out at 8pm does tend to make people very appreciative.
    -a box of Nature Valley granola square thins with chocolate on them. One square is 90 calories and satisfies my afternoon sweet/crunchy craving.
    -two cans of tuna
    -two varieties of high quality tea, as opposed to the ancient Twinings dust bags in the kitchen
    -a can of soup
    -a box of low-sugar oatmeal
    -a ceramic knife with cover (for cutting up fruit or whatever)
    -a bag of Ghiradelli dark chocolate squares. Not the highest quality chocolate by a long shot, but the individually wrapped pieces are helpful. Also keeps me out of the communal candy bowl with the various kinds of crap chocolate and candy.
    -a box of 100-calorie packs of microwave popcorn

    And in the fridge, two greek 0% yogurts and a bottle of kefir. When I am on top of things, I also bring fresh fruit, which I managed to do today.

    I’ve learned to stop buying trail mix and dried fruit because I will go through the entire bag in a week. It’s really hard to find unsulphured, unsweetened dried fruit, so that makes it easier for me to resist when I’m shopping at TJ’s.

  15. At my prior office, there was a big fridge, so I always kept a bag of individually wrapped string cheese, a bunch of single serve hummus packets (both from Costco), and every week I would bring in a bag of sugar-snap peas or baby carrots or mixed veg (from Trader Joes) to eat with the hummus. If you’re into carbs, the “instant” cups of mashed potatoes are fairly tasty and filling and come in a bunch of varieties and only require hot water. If you’re okay with soy, both Costco and Trader Joes (and probably other places) sell frozen single servings of edamame that you can nuke (if you have a microwave) and that can be a tasty snack.

    Lightfull satiety smoothies (google, or check at Amazon) are REALLY good, and shockingly filling for ~ 90 calories, and while they’re better if chilled, they don’t need to be refrigerated. My favorite was the Cafe Latte flavor — on really busy mornings during trial it subbed for breakfast and coffee for me. The chocolate and mango were my two other faves, but none of the flavors were bad.

  16. Anonymous :

    i don’t plan very well.. but i try to take the following:

    -chopped nuts + chopped dates
    -peppermint tea
    -a couple of pieces of fruit, washed and ready to go
    -cucumber/carrots + hummus

    TJ’s makes this easier..

    • Peppermint tea is THE BEST! Especially when you don’t want to consume any/any more caffeine. Its perk-up powers are unreal.

  17. Roasted seaweed is a great salty snack. I think TJ now carries small snack packs; I buy mine at an Asian grocery store.
    I also keep miso soup packets in my desk, Ryvita crackers, and dark chocolate. I add the chocolate to instant oatmeal for (moderate) sweetness and (big) flavor.

  18. I can’t keep food at work. I used to bring in snacks like nuts or goji berries or squares of dark chocolate, but I find that I get so bored and restless some days that I eat way more of those items than I intend. This is especially true with anything more substantial like a granola bar or hummus and those little baby carrots. So now, I just keep lots of different types of tea to save time when I need a pick me up (can’t bring myself to do instant coffee), and avoid snacks 99% of the time. If I bring in something, it’s from home and I factor in the fact that I am eating it that day (e.g., if I have a long day, I usually throw in an apple or some other fruit before I leave the house). If I am trying to save time, I just pick up lunch on my way in to work (there is a great little soup/salad/sandwich spot right next to my subway stop), which is a big time saver. If something comes up last minute, I either skip lunch or order delivery. I don’t think having emergency tuna or yogurt would do much for my personal stress level in that type of situation (others’ experience may vary, of course ).

    • I only have teas in my drawer.
      We have a cantine at work so I eat a filling lunch and take a yogurt or two for my afternoon snack.
      also around 4 pm, there is a fruit basket in each floor so I make sure to get at least one fruit.
      But I really need to stock up on snacks because most of the time I am simply starving. Like now as I type this, I’ve had a good lunch but am still hungry… a little cheese wouldn’t hurt…

  19. I love the individual packets of nuts and trail mix from Trader Joe’s. They’re about 200 calories a packet so enough to tide me over until a real meal or satisfy a sweet or salty craving. I usually keep packets of these in my court bag too in case I get stuck in court.

    • healthcare anon :

      I’m so jealous of all your trader joes. Where I live, there isn’t one. :(

      • Where I live there are no baby carrots

        • Houda, I love how you put this–it makes life without baby carrots sound so bleak.

          Fun fact: baby carrots are just chopped-up regular carrots that have been ground down. Imagine throwing a bunch of regular carrots into a rock tumbler–eventually, you’d get baby carrots!

  20. I bought a container of TJ’s tomato soup today (the shelf-stable looking kind that’s 32oz that I’ll need to stick in the fridge after I open it) with the hope that I’ll pour a serving into a coffee mug to heat and eat this week. I’m looking forward to that! Most of what I have listed below lends itself better to warmer weather, so I’m testing out some chilly weather snacks.

    On hand I have: luna bars, oatmeal packets, raw almonds (tossed in oatmeal made with water and then adding a vanilla creamer from the kitchen is quite yummy and just sweet enough), crystal light packets (has anyone tried the Ocean Spray ones?), some good teas since they don’t stock higher-end stuff in the kitchen, dark chocolate caramels from TJs, and I usually have some Healthy Choice fresh mixers but I’m waiting for a sale…

    I try, but lately it will happen sporadically, that I bring in small containers of yogurt, fruit, and hummus and veggies to snack on. Oh! And I also like adding in TJ’s banana chips into plain yogurt for a nice light crunch.

    • I know just the soup you mean! TJ also sells little “basil” cubes in the frozen foods section. I haven’t tried this in a microwave, but I get those and throw it into my cup of soup to turn it into “tomato basil” when I heat up on the stove – it’s yummy.

      • Another trick – defrost a couple in the microwave and spread a bit over homemade pizza or a sandwich – tastes like pesto but it’s much healthier!

    • I miss the single-serve microwaveable Progresso soups, which suddenly vanished from shelves. I have been wondering if there’s a patent dispute about the container, because the Progresso soups tasted a lot better than Campbell’s / Select Harvest.


  21. In the office freezer :

    In addition to all of the above, I keep a few boxes of Morningstar Farms Veggie Garden Patties in the office freezer (and some horseradish and/or mustard in the fridge).

  22. Salit-a-gator :

    All of the above, and my new found obsession: beef jerky. It’s low in fat and calories, has about as much protein as a protein bar (14g), and unlike most salty snacks its actually healthy. Portion control is not a problem as I found great indivisually packaged portions at Costco.

    • MissJackson :

      Yes! Trader Joes sells great Buffalo and Turkey Jerkey, too. One of my all-time favorite snacks.

  23. In my cabinet I’ve got unsweetened coconut flakes and slivered almonds (hi cal, but a huge energy boost!), freeze dried apple “chips,” single serving almond butter packets (portion control), green tea and a few protein bars. Also some protein shake packets that taste passable when mixed with water or skim milk.

  24. and so anon :

    A nutritionist recommended Gnu bars. They’re great. My favorite is the Banana Walnut flavor. Unfortunately, I can’t eat just one.

    The Gnu bar site compared its product favorably with Clif bars. Clif bars may have less fiber, but I like them a lot, too. Crunchy Peanut Butter is my favorite.

    I never kept them in the office, but I like King Oscar Brisling Sardines in olive oil with Carr’s Table Water Crackers.

  25. Maine Associate :

    In my desk drawer you will find the following:
    1) cup of Orbit Bubblemint – great for a sweet craving
    2) Lipton Cup-a-Soup Chicken Noodle
    3) Five Hour Energy Shots
    4) Parmesan Cheese
    5) weekly granola/snack bar that was on sale
    6) Grapenuts for my yogurt
    7) Crystal Light fruit punch mix – tastes just like the fruit punch I loved as a kid without all the sugar

    I keep a fruit bowl on my desk. On Monday I fill it with 5 pieces of fruit. If I want to eat junk food, I first have to eat a piece of fruit. I find that by the time I have finished the fruit the craving has subsided or I am so busy I don’t have time to get junk food.

    • I love the fruit bowl trick. But I usually eat my fruit as my 10:30 AM snack (even after eating breakfast). Maybe two pieces of fruit, one for the AM and one for the PM?

  26. Usually Lurks :

    I keep a box of Pure Protein bars at my desk. They’re 18-20 grams of protein depending on flavor, ~200 calories and~2 grams of sugar. Best of all, they taste like candy bars.
    I always thought the energy boost from Emergen-C came from the B vitamins. In any event, my skin looks better for having incorporated it into my daily routine.

    • Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler :

      Love Pure Protein bars, but I stay away from any with the “white chocolate” covering; I have yet to find one that actually tastes good.

  27. San Jose in house :

    For all of you out there that are worried about portion control issues with your snacks, you can buy your nuts, trail mix, whatever in bulk and create your own individual portions with those little zip loc bags or glad containers. You get the benefit of buying in bulk and the safety of not going through a whole box of snacks in one sitting. I pre bag all of my snacks on a Sunday night when Dexter is on!

    • MissJackson :

      I do this, too. I buy a huge container of mixed nuts at Costco and portion out one-ounce servings into little baggies (that I reuse to reduce waste). It’s a huge cost savings. Plus, I only have to buy once every couple of months!

  28. MissJackson :

    I have so much food in my office. If I do not plan ahead, I make bad decisions, so this works for me. I do have to keep everything in a box and out of sight — otherwise, I get tempted to eat even when I’m not really hungry.

    My stash includes:

    Canned soup that requires no can opener
    Single serve microwave popcorn
    Nuts portioned into one-ounce servings
    Clif Kid Organic ZBars (yes, they are for kids, but they are really good, and they are about the right portion size — I eat bars for snacks, not meals, and these are my absolute favorite)
    tuna in a pouch (tastier and less messy than a can)
    instant oatmeal (not as good as the real deal, but better than nothing)
    fresh apples
    several different varieties of tea
    croutons to add to salads (prefer this to adding them at home — I hate soggy croutons)
    Trader Joes turkey, beef, or buffalo jerkey

    In the office fridge:
    laughing cow cheese
    greek yogurt
    egg whites (you can microwave them in a coffee mug)
    carrot and celery sticks
    hard-boiled eggs

    Reading this list, it sounds like a lot, but it takes up hardly any room, and keeps me from making vending machine trips, or buying overpriced snacks at the convenience store!

    • healthcare anon :

      I LOVE the cliff kid bars! I have them too. Only I have to sneak them from my son.

  29. Re “portion control”, in response to Em #2: I think that can go both ways. If I’m doing something *and* eating at the same time, I can mindlessly eat nuts or pretzels. I am pretty middle of the road when it comes to my relationship with food. Also, stress eating snacks is a pretty common thing and if happens once every 2 months, I don’t know if I’d consider it a psychological issue? (Maybe the difference in our comments is just semantics and we mean the same thing but it struck me as odd that anyone who eats more than a regular portion is either starving or has psychological issues.)


    I keep the following at my desk on and off:
    – pretzels
    – almonds or hazelnuts
    – cans of soup (lentil or vegetable)
    – oatmeal variety pack
    – cans of grape leaves
    – microwave popcorn
    – peanut butter
    – (refrigerator) hummus

  30. I just wanted to say you ladies are awesome. I thought I was weird for needing to snack so much, but it’s not just me. I have a mini-fridge in my office from back when I was expressing breastmilk, but I kept it because it’s just so handy. I let the ladies in my area use it so we free up more room in the fridge down the hall.

    Just one thought to add – I keep salad dressing in there for when I go to the local salad bar. I can save on the cost of salad by not buying their dressing and just using my own in the office!

  31. San Jose in house :

    I also have issues with stress eating, but individually packaged portions are a pain, so I buy my snacks in bulk and put them in the mini zip locs.

    • San Jose in house :

      what I mean to say is that buying pre-portioned snacks are really expensive. You can use the smallets zip locs or the gladware containers to make your own individual portions of any snack.

  32. I keep just a few things:

    – Tazo Tea
    – Cliffs Kid Bars
    – and my absolute favorites, Go Picnic meals. I found them at World Market and I’m in love. (I think you can order online at too.) No need to refrigerate, no need to microwave, no need to portion. Just 300 calories of a well balanced meal. I also bring them with me when I travel, I get soooo sick of hotel food.

    • Wow, those gopicnic meals look amazing! I may need to pay a visit to World Market. Any idea how much they are there?

      • They were $5 at World Market, but I think they’re cheaper if you get them online. I swear by them, they’re lifesavers for me!

  33. Random observation after reading all the comments: ever notice that men don’t bring food to work like we do?

    • I don’t bring work to food (see my comment above) but my husband does! He can keep himself from nibbling on it constantly – nuts, fruit, even candy.

      Well, actually, he’s pretty weak with the candy which makes me love him more!

    • I actually have nothing but a couple granola bars (back-ups that usually hang out a month before being eaten) and tea. I used to bring snacks (years ago), but found that I was eating all the time, especially when stressed. I stopped stocking snacks and have been 10 pounds lighter ever since. There’s essentials in the office pantry (crackers, etc.), but not my favorites, so I only eat them if absolutely necessary (starving). Just reading everyone’s lists of snacks is making me hungry – don’t know how everyone has such good self-control!

    • I thought the same thing. I need to get my husband a drawer like this because I just realized he probably totally snacks at his work on garbage!

    • Some do – our senile engineer always has a bin of candy on his desk (though he doesn’t actually eat any, it’s just for passers-by), and my husband has a beer fridge (with beer, pop, and fruit) at his desk, as well as a bin of spiced nuts.

      I think it’s more about planning and self control – most of the guys I work with visit the vending machine daily, and more than a couple have said that if they had my snack drawer they’d eat it all within a week (I usually only have to top up one type of drawer-snack once or twice a month).

    • My husband brings lots of snacks to work.

  34. Need a screen name :

    My stash includes different teas and Mrs. May’s fruit/nut bars (CostCo).

  35. Cats Ahoy! :

    I have the usual teas and protein bars, but I also like to keep tiny tablespoon-sized containers of cardamom and cinnamon and some packets of instant coffee for flavoring my Greek yogurts.

  36. I find that the stack of take-out menus fits neatly in my desk drawer. Which may explain my cholesterol level. I do enjoy wasabi peanuts for a quick snack, cause, hello clear sinuses! Plus, it’s easier to eat just a few when the first ones make your tongue go numb,

  37. I’m a big snacker, but I try to limit the snacks I have at work because of that – especially at month end I eat & eat. I balance my snacks with smaller meals, so it all works out.

    Things I always have on hand, though, are instant oatmeal & Fibre 1 bars. I have one of each for breakfast daily – the Fibre 1 bar when I get to the office & the oatmeal around 9:30 – 10:00. I also really like to have Purdy’s 100 calorie Peanut Butter fingers (little chocolate covered peanut butter chocolate bars). My favorite afternoon snack is either an apple & a slice of medium cheddar cheese or a small serving of trail mix. Yogurt & a carb is also a good snack for me.

    I really like all the ideas people have been posting – I think I need some microwave popcorn for this month end – then I can eat it all afternoon & it’s a lower calorie snack.

  38. I keep several of those same things in my drawer. Peanut butter is great to have because it can go on so many things (or be eaten alone). Sometimes if I haven’t eaten breakfast I get shaky, so I just eat a bite or 2 of peanut butter and I’m good. I also like to keep Honey Nut Cheerios for that purpose. I try to keep cheese or applesauce in the fridge for when I’m feeling snacky and bananas and clementines are good, but of course can go bad. I also have oatmeal for an easy breakfast and hot chocolate mix since my office is usually 30 degrees even when it’s 110 outside. And of course, a must have is chocolate for my afternoon cravings.

  39. Bliss Doubt :

    So here I am nearly two years later. I was googling to get more ideas for office lunches. I don’t like going out for lunch, when all the traffic is out for lunch, especially in summer with triple digit temps, or really any time, unless someone is treating me to a restaurant lunch. I started with Patak’s chickpea and rice curry, 10 oz. sealed microwaveable packages that don’t have to be refrigerated. I’ve been through several 8-serving cases of those in the past couple of years (with free shipping from Amazon). They always taste good. I’ve just received a 6-pack of assorted Sanskriti microwave meals to try. The ingredients on the packaged Indian entrees are really very pure, nothing you can’t pronounce, just food and spices. I usually keep a non-candy trail mix, like pumpkin seed/nut/raisin, in my desk drawer. Even though they have some cr*p for ingredients, a few if those little tuna lunch kits with the can of catfood plus a few crackers, are always in my credenza. They must be popular because now they come in hot Thai chile and lemon pepper flavors. I usually have some dark chocolate and a couple of single serving bags of potato chips around. I keep my own supply of canned sodas, but there’s a guy in my office who thinks I don’t know he steals them sometimes. I keep cheese and tortillas in our full size office fridge. Avocados store well in my credenza. They ripen in there. An avocado and some crackers make a really delightful lunch. I put apples on the fireplace mantle and nobody cares. I think it’s pretty easy to eat at the office nowadays.

    • I like making a week’s worth of whole wheat pasta and chickpeas. It takes less than 2 minutes to put some in a bowl with frozen veg and a bit of pasta sauce, and the entire cost is about $8/week.

  40. Add some peanut butter to your instant soup so it’s filling; I like mine with a bit of mustard and hot sauce for a thai-style flavor. TJ’s, Sprouts/Henry’s and some conventional stores carry instant soups without MSG. Yes, they do cost more than Cup of Death by Sodium, but if you only need them as a backup, they’re worth it. Otherwise, use the ramen noodles with as little seasoning as possible, or mix up a blend at home and keep it in a little container at the office. I also like to keep packets of miso soup around.
    Seaweed is really nice if you need some crunch without the grease of a potato chip. They’re not as hearty as kale chips, but are still pretty addictive.
    I don’t really have trouble with portion control. I serve myself and put the food away. If I want more, then I’ll get more, but I’m usually alright, and I doubt that my waistline will suffer from more plain oatmeal with cinnamon(I don’t buy the premixed packaged junk). That’s always been my strategy with everything. I can’t sit with a bag of chips or an ice cream container.