While I'm not often complimented on my outfits, people at work are always complimenting me on the fact that I always seem to bring my own healthy food to work. Often, they'll say that they also want to stop spending so much money buying lunch every day, but that they don't know where to start. I always let them know that even though I'm no planner, it's easy to keep a few healthy vegan staples as snacks and last-minute meals at the office.
Personally, I'm a snacker. While I do almost always eat lunch, the meal is only slightly larger than my other snacks throughout the day, and I generally eat something different every two to three hours — what can I say, I have a small tank, and I have to fill it up often. For this reason, I've come to appreciate the importance of keeping more than a few healthy snacks in my desk drawers and the communal fridge at work. I need a snack for when I want something sweet, for when I'm tired, for when I forgot to bring lunch from home, for when I need something salty — and for when I'm not even hungry, but just want something tasty in my mouth.
Below are my picks for 19 healthy vegan staples and snacks to keep at the office. They're cheap, mostly keep for a long time, and don't contain any crap, without compromising on taste.
Even though I need a fair amount of variation in my diet, this is my breakfast almost every day — and I somehow manage to never get bored by it. Maybe that's because I can make it a little differently each time; sometimes I microwave it with frozen fruit, sometimes I put fresh blueberries, seeds, flax, nuts, shredded coconut...the possibilities are pretty endless, and this is a filling, cheap way to start your day. Just keep a bag of it at the office, add water or soymilk and a microwave, and you're good to go. (Don't use those instant packets if you can help it. You lose fiber and nutrients, and they often add sugar to them. Plus, it costs more.)
2. Frozen Fruit
Like I said above, I most often use the frozen fruit I keep in our office freezer for my oatmeal, but I also like to eat it plain sometimes. It sounds crazy, but it really satisfies a sweet or ice cream craving. My favorites to eat plain are frozen mango and cherries (just let them thaw a bit so you do hurt your teeth)! If you have a blender in your office, you can also keep some frozen bananas and berries and make some impromptu smoothies for way cheaper than you'd buy one. Or, microwave some and add it to plain coconut milk yogurt.
3. Corn Tortillas
Keep some tortillas in the fridge (or freezer!) and you have the beginnings of a quick lunch, or a nice substitute for bread. (Peanut butter tortillas are actually pretty bomb.)
4. Shredded "Cheese"
Keep a bag of shredded "cheese" in the fridge or freezer, pop it on the tortilla, microwave or put in a toaster oven, and you have an instant quesadilla snack for pennies.
5. A Can Of Beans
I almost always keep a can of black beans in a drawer. Not only are they healthy and tasty, but they never go bad or take up refrigerator space. Put them on top of your tortilla with cheese, pop it in the microwave for two minutes, and eat the tasty combo with a side of carrots or some salad for lunch. Easy, cheap, healthy.
6. Flavored Nuts
I love Trader Joe's thai chili lime cashews for when I need something salty or spicy, but you can also try some sesame cashews if you have more of a sweet tooth (just read the label, sometimes they add a ton of sugar to them). When you're feeling sluggish and like you want a certain flavor, snack on a few of these for more energy than chips would give you. You can also mix them into your oatmeal (after you microwave), put them in a bowl with popcorn, or toss them on a salad.
7. A Bar Of Super-Dark Chocolate
I always need to have a bar of chocolate in my drawer, and thank god dark chocolate is vegan. These days, I'm only into the hard stuff — I'm talking low sugar, 80% cacao and up. My favorite is Lindt's 90% cocoa bar, but there are lots of options. Eat a square or two when you're craving something sweet, feeling bummed, or know you shouldn't have anymore coffee.
8. Peanut Butter
Luckily, my office always keeps peanut butter and apples as a staple for all of us, so that's one of my go-to snacks. I don't need to tell you how awesome peanut butter is (or really, how awesome any nutbutter is). If you're craving candy, slather some on a square of your dark chocolate. Try dipping frozen fruit in it (yes, really). Slather it on celery, toast, or put it in your oatmeal. You can't go wrong.
9. Sprouted Bread
Sometimes you just want some toast. I love Ezekiel sprouted whole grain breads; instead of being made with only wheat and flour, they have a bunch of other good stuff and no flour, making it easier for your body to process. I sometimes have a slice with peanut butter for breakfast, but if I'm feeling especially like I need some comfort food, I'll just have a slice with some Earth Balance on it. If there's room, keep a loaf in the freezer.
Buy a bag of popcorn at the grocery store and keep it in your drawer. Make sure it's lowish in salt and sugar, and you've got a great snack on your hands. Popcorn is high in fiber and zinc, and it's more filling and nutritious than most chips when you just want a snack. Like I said, you can mix it with some nuts, or even drizzle some olive oil on top, if your office keeps some.
11. Fennel Seeds
Weird, right? I love them though. Sometimes I just want to chew on something like gum, but I don't want all the chemicals. Enter fennel seeds, which Indians have been using for centuries as a breath freshener. They're supposed to help you digest, they taste like licorice, and they make a great palate cleanser after a meal.
12. A Bag Of Lettuce Or Kale
If you have an office fridge, just buy a small bag of lettuce and maybe a couple other little veggies, and keep it there. Do it at the beginning of the week, and you don't have to think about packing a salad ahead of time, ever.
13. Vegan Cesar Dressing
If salad for lunch seems depressing, I think Hampton Creek's Just Caesar could change your mind. It's made me want to eat a giant salad for breakfast before, that's how tasty it is. It's just like caesar, except because it's vegan, it's not quite as fattening and doesn't leave you feeling heavy. If you have an office fridge, put your name on this or it will get stolen.
Celery doesn't get enough credit. Have it on its own when you just want to chew on something, or slather it in peanut butter, bean dip, or hummus. It'll take you straight back to elementary school, in a good way.
15. A Bag Of Frozen Peas or Succotash
Sometimes you want some veggies as a side but you don't have anything fresh. That's why I always keep a bag of frozen peas at the office — they taste good on their own, are filled with protein and vitamins, and go with just about everything.
16. Bean Dip
Find a vegan bean dip, and keep it in the office fridge. (Or if you don't have one, just bring a little container.) It's great for dipping veggies in, and is a high-protein snack that helps satisfy a salty craving.
17. Snap Peas ( Fresh Or Crisps)
Fresh sugar snap peas are delicious and super high in vitamins, fiber, and protein. They really are sweet, too. Also delicious are snapea crisps, which are almost equally healthy and satisfy your need for salt (without actually being all that high in sodium).
18. Spices & Nutritional Yeast
If you have room, keep some cinnamon, hot flakes, and pepper at the office. The cinnamon is good for you in your coffee or oatmeal, and the hot flakes and pepper will add bite to your quesadillas and salads. Nutritional yeast, despite sounding gross and like something that would give you an infection, is actually basically a superfood that tastes like parmesan cheese. It's a great source of B12 and fiber, and it tastes awesome sprinkled on sprinkled on salad, beans, popcorn... you name it.
19. Dried, Unsweetened Papaya
In general, I'm actually not that into dried fruit. Usually, it's too sweet, and just not as healthy as eating it fresh. I make a very specific exception: dried, unsweetened papaya. It's hard to find in stores unsweetened sometimes (you can order it online!), but it is better than any gummy candy out there, and really chewy. Have a spear of this if you're trying to get off junk food. It's nature's candy.