Whether you’re a clean eater, paleo devotee, or you eat to fit your macros, I’m pretty sure we can all agree that eating fresh fruit and vegetables or food you’ve prepared yourself with no nasties added is the best way to eat. It just makes sense to know exactly what’s in your food!
If you eat that way all the time, then kudos to you, but the reality is we all live busy lives and it’s difficult to create every snack from scratch, especially when all the washing up from your meal prep is still dirty in the bowl. The best we can do at these times is try and make the healthiest decision possible, so to help you out I’ve taken a closer look at five snacks you can buy straight from the supermarket aisles on your way to work to see if any are wise choices for quick desk snacks!
I am a self-confessed lazy eater – I find it hard enough to prep my breakfasts and lunches, so adding snacks for work to the mix is a step too far for me. I also snack a lot during a work day, and if I don’t have something quick to hand when the urge strikes, I’m likely to go to the canteen to pick up something sugary.
That’s why I tend to buy my snacks for the work day from the supermarket, going off what I think to be healthy for me, or at least the healthiest I can do at the time. The absolute healthiest snacks you can buy straight off the shelves are nuts, fruit or even cooked chicken – but usually there’s only so much you can eat before you’re craving something packaged.
Let’s start with beef jerky. That’s just dried beef which is high in protein, so that’s healthy, right? Let’s take a look at the ingredients.
Beef, Demerara Sugar, Apple Juice, Tomato Puree, Natural Flavouring, Molasses, Salt, Soy Sauce (Water, Soyabeans, Salt, Vinegar), Vinegar, Black Pepper, Apricot Puree, Spices, Dried Garlic, Dried Onion, Herbs.
We’re often told to pay attention to the first few ingredients in the list as they’re the most abundant, and second in this ingredient list is a type of sugar. Not only that, there’s another three forms of sweetening featured (apple juice, molasses and apricot puree) forming a total of 6g of sugar in 50g of beef jerky. Not so saintly now.
So is it healthy? The ingredients look fairly legit without lots of E-numbers, plus the 30g of protein will help prevent an insulin spike from the sugar and fill you up until it’s time for the next snack.
I grabbed this without looking at the ingredients or macros apart from the 9g of protein stated on the front, and I have to admit, it was pretty delicious. Let’s see if the ingredients to see if they stack up with the taste.
Oats (29%), margarine (vegetable oils [rapeseed, palm], water, salt), golden syrup, soy protein crispies (11%) (isolated soy protein, tapioca starch, salt), demerara sugar, linseeds, sunflower seeds, cocoa powder (3%), stabiliser: xanthan gum, natural vanilla flavouring
Again, there’s plenty of sugar in here, as well as margarine and soya. 50% of this flapjack is fat (14g), which seems to mainly come from the trans fats of margarine. We’re recommended to have as little trans fat as possible as this nasty stuff raises your bad cholesterol whilst lowering your good cholesterol. Now I know what’s in this seemingly-innocuous snack, I’ll be giving it a wide berth in the future.
Bounce Balls have sprung up in shops and supermarkets everywhere, and are marketed as being a healthy energy snack with buzzy ingredients like spirulina, cacao, and ginseng. Given that they’re in a package, though, do the superfood ingredients align with the rest of the ball?
Blue Agave Syrup, Inulin (Dietary Fibre), Cashews (12%), Whey Protein Isolate (from Milk) (11%), Coconut (8%), Whey Protein Concentrate (from Milk) (7%), Rice Bran, Brown Rice Flour, Macadamias (6%), Stabiliser (Guar Gum), Tapioca Starch, Flavourings, Whey Protein Hydrolysate (from Milk) (1.5%), Safflower Oil, Vanilla Extract, Sea Salt, Antioxidant (Natural Mixed Tocopherols), Sesame Seeds, Stabiliser (Calcium Carbonate), Emulsifier (Sunflower Lecithin).
Oh man, that’s a looong list of ingredients – you could guarantee if you made your own energy balls at home the ingredient list wouldn’t be anywhere near as lengthy. Looking closer, though, there isn’t anything overly worrying on there, and there’s a couple of interesting ingredients on there like inulin, which has been shown to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Don’t make the mistake of eating five of these a day though – there’s still 10g of sugar per ball. Stick to these as a pre-workout energy snack and you should be fine.
Paleo is still a buzzword in health circles which supermarkets have cottoned onto – you can buy the Primal Pantry bars in Tesco, and the PALEO bar is actually Aldi’s own! I find these types of bars quite dry and unsatisfying, but I seem We’ll look closer at the Primal Pantry bars, as there’s more information available, although the Aldi bars are fairly similar.
Dates, Cashew Nuts, Coconut (20%), Macadamia Nuts (10%)
Five ingredients! That’s more like it – that’s almost as good as you’d make at home. However, per bar there’s 15g of sugar from the dates – for context, there’s 18g in a Flake bar. Granted, the other healthier ingredients help stabilise blood sugar, but I might be willing to make that trade-off for a Flake for enjoyment’s sake!
Rice cakes and corn thins – the long-time slimmers’ friend! Not exactly the most thrilling of snacks, but add a layer of chocolate and they suddenly become a lot more interesting. The claim of 73 kcal per thin suggests they’re a healthy snack, but what’s actually in them?
Dark Chocolate (54%) (Sugar, Cocoa Mass, Cocoa Butter, Lactose (Cows’ Milk), Butter (Cows’ Milk), Emulsifier: Soya lecithin; Flavouring), Corn (45%), Salt, High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Emulsifier: Sunflower Lecithin.
That doesn’t seem bad – we can pronounce most of those words, at least. There’s 5g of sugar per thin – if you eat both in the packet, that’s 10g. These aren’t particularly filling, so if you go on to eat another packet, that’s 20g. See the problem here? These are fine as a quick snack if you need that sugary hit, just beware of going on to eat many more – they’re more-ish and not very filling!
The moral of the story here? It’s still better to make your own snacks, or just eat a handful of nuts and a banana at your desk. Even if something seems like its ingredients are healthy, this can be misleading due to the amounts of sugar added in different formats. Before doing this research I certainly wasn’t aware of all this added sugar, so I’ll be more conscious with my snack choices from now on.
In desperate times, though, you’re much better off grabbing a bag of beef jerky mid-morning and a Bounce Ball as a pre-workout boost – these should fill your tummy, level your blood sugar, and keep you working furiously until your next meal! That should help keep your boss happy.
Welcome to That Squat Bot! I'm Sarah, a Personal Trainer based in Manchester, UK.
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