by Theresa Houghton
When you’re pursuing a healthy lifestyle, there’s nothing worse than listening to your stomach rumble while stuck in traffic on the way to work, knowing all your resolve will go out the window the second you encounter the ubiquitous box of break room donuts.
Never fear! With some strategic planning and food prep, you can fortify yourself against the dreaded state of being “hangry” during your commute or any time of day. Here are some delicious, nutrient-packed meal and snack ideas to get you started.
Before Your Commute
The most obvious way to avoid hunger while driving to work is to have breakfast first! Starting the day with a meal at home keeps you away from the donuts – or the drive-through – and gives you the energy to power through tough work days.
Oatmeal is a favorite choice you can whip up quickly before work or cook overnight in a crock pot. Slow cooking a big batch of steel-cut or rolled oats makes it easy to feed your whole family a good breakfast with very little hassle in the morning. Just scoop it out into bowls, top with fruit and nuts or seeds, and you’re good to go.
For a colorful alternative, try building your own parfait. Start with almond or cashew milk yogurt and layer it up with seasonal fruits and homemade granola or muesli. Make a whole collection of different parfaits in tall glass containers with lids or a set of mason jars, and pop them in the fridge to enjoy throughout the week.
Too busy to get elaborate? Toasted whole-grain bread with nut or seed butter and sliced fruit is a fast and filling alternative.
On the Way to Work
Some days, of course, you just can’t get in a good breakfast before you jump in the car. You sleep through your alarm, the kids can’t find their homework, your left shoe mysteriously goes missing…whatever the case, you’re not out of luck.
Smoothies are known for being quick, delicious and easy to make.
Toss some plant-based protein powder, such as hemp or pea, into a single-serving blender cup with a handful of leafy greens, some frozen fruit, a sprinkle of chia or hemp seeds and some beans, blend it up and sip it as you drive.
For something you can literally sink your teeth into, give frozen breakfast burritos a try. Over the weekend, cook up a batch of basic tofu scramble with onions, peppers and other veggies. Roll it up in whole-grain tortillas with some black beans, salsa and chunks of baked potato, wrap your creations in aluminum foil and pop them in the freezer. When you’ve got an insane day ahead, simply swap the foil for a paper towel and pop the burrito in the microwave for a couple of minutes.
During the Afternoon Slump
Now it’s three o’clock, and everyone in the office is either sucking down their fifteenth cup of coffee or hitting the vending machine while you’re at your desk, feeling the weight of the day but not willing to succumb to cravings.
Stock your desk with these snacks to get your momentum going again, no artificial stimulants required:
· Energy balls: Packed with basic ingredients like oats, dates and nuts or nut butters with tasty add-ins like dried fruit or dark chocolate chips, these literal “bites” of energy are quick to make and come in so many varieties, you could have them every week and never get bored.
· Trail mix: Skip the sugar-laden, oily snack packs at the store, and make your own mix of nuts and dried fruit at home. Change it up by adding flaked coconut, air-popped popcorn or whole-grain pretzels.
· Roasted chickpeas: Like roasted nuts, with a twist! Drain a can of chickpeas or cook some up in a pressure cooker, coat them with your favorite spice mix and bake them at 400°F for 20 to 30 minutes until crispy. You can also cook them in the air fryer to get that satisfying crunch.
· Fruit: The simplest, most convenient snack of all. Just wash and eat.
When You Walk in the Door
A long commute can leave you jonesing for a snack, especially if you didn’t get a chance to eat between lunch and the drive home. In addition to the tasty options listed above, you can power up your afternoon with a quick bite like a slice of toast with avocado and tomatoes or a plate of veggies with homemade hummus dip.
No matter when the munchies strike, you’ll be ready to strike back when you have these tasty foods ready to go. Your body will thank you for being well-equipped with nutritious options, and you’ll never have to face drive-through drudgery or do battle with office snacks again.
About the Author Theresa “Sam” Houghton is a writer, speaker and health coach from Troy, NY. She’s a regular contributor to NutritionStudies.org, and her work has appeared in the Honest Weight Food Co-Op Coop Scoop, Natural Awakenings Magazine and the NutritionFacts.org 2017 Daily Dozen calendar. She has been a featured guest on Focus on Albany, WMAC’s Food Friday and the Just Ask David podcast. When she's not writing or cooking, Sam likes to read and study the Bible, cook tasty plant-based food and knit socks. You can find out more about Sam at GreenGutWellness.com.