Good Snacks for Work: Foods that Help Boost Your Productivity

Do you ever get hit with an afternoon slump? It’s that tired, sluggish feeling that comes on in the afternoon, usually around 2 or 3 pm. 

You may find yourself grabbing a coffee or searching for a sugary snack to give you a bit of pep in your step. But fueling your energy with coffee or sugar can come with a crash.  

Luckily, there is a way to eat that is nutrient-dense and gives you long-lasting vitality for the work that you need to get done.   

When you’re preparing good snacks for work, opt for foods from the following three categories: protein, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables.


Protein helps our brains make serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline.


Foods for productivity: protein  

You’ve probably heard all about protein shakes and how muscle builders need protein after working out. But did you know that you also need protein to get energy for the regular workday? And it doesn’t have to come from a powder or a shake. In fact, the best place to get protein is from food.  

 High protein foods: 

  • Eggs 
  • Beans
  • Grass-Fed Beef
  • Chicken 
  • Wild Salmon 
  • Tofu 
  • Tempeh 
  • Dairy 
  • Nuts 
  • Pumpkin Seeds 

The reason protein is so important to eat during the workday is because it builds endorphins. We can actually build good brain chemicals from food!  Protein helps our brains make serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline. This gives us energy and the focus and optimism to take on challenging tasks. 

Protein levels drive hunger, and they are more satiating than carbs (that’s why high protein diets have become so popular recently). How much protein should you eat? In general, your body can handle about a palm-sized portion.  The best part? Satiety from protein can help us reduce sugar consumption.


Foods for productivity: whole grains  

Whole grains are slow-digesting carbs. There are two types of carbs – slow digesting and fast digesting. The fast-digesting carbs usually have little to no fiber (think pizza, potato chips, and goodies made with white flour  or white sugar). These spike our blood sugar, that in turn raises our insulin levels which washes away all the good brain chemicals we built by eating protein.   

Instead of fast-digesting carbs, eat whole grains like: 

  • Bulgur 
  • Quinoa 
  • Whole grain bread 
  • Whole wheat pasta 
  • Brown rice 
  • Oatmeal

When it comes to whole grains, it’s a good idea to read the label – in general, the more fiber, the better.


Foods for productivity: vegetables and fruit 

So, this one’s big. HALF of your snack should be made up of fruits and vegetables. (And no, french fries don’t count!) Nothing is better for your diet than eating an array of unrefined plant-based foods. That means choosing vegetables in their original format – not dehydrated into powder or deep-fried.   

Unrefined plants are full of phytochemicals – these are super nutrients. Each one does something good for your body and different colored fruits and vegetables have a different cocktail of phytochemicals. These can give a great boost to your immune system. 


Good fat is brain food 

Your brain is 60% fat, and it needs healthy fats to keep it functioning, learning, and remembering. The best type of fat is high in Omega 3s and monounsaturated fats. This could come from a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, sliced avocado, or you could even get it from your protein source like wild salmon or grass-fed beef.  Beyond brain health, the food we eat also affects our mood. By eating whole foods we can maintain even moods throughout the day.


Dehydration can impair brain function, leaving you feeling fatigued, mentally sluggish or foggy.


Feeling tired? Drink some water 

This simple tip may just be the most important. Dehydration can impair brain function, leaving you feeling fatigued, mentally sluggish or foggy.  Some studies suggest drinking water can increase your reaction time.   

When I’m asked, ‘What’s the one thing I can do to increase my energy during the workday’? My answer is ‘Drink a big glass of water as soon as you wake up’. Overnight, your brain has lost up to a pound of water because our bodies can’t hold onto it. You want to rehydrate your brain upon waking. To give it extra power, add a squeeze of lemon juice.  This will kick start your digestion for the day.   


You didn’t eat a healthy lunch – good snacks for work to maintain energy

I didn’t eat a healthy lunch – how can I get energy? 

Okay, but what if I had pizza or a burger for lunch and now feel a food coma coming on? What do I do? 

Don’t worry, this happens to all of us.   

The first thing to do is to have some water. The leading cause of low energy is dehydration so refueling with water will optimize brainpower. If you have time for a quick walk around the block, this will help too. When it comes to quick food, here are five good snacks for work to help break free from brain fog: 

Nuts and seeds

Nuts are full of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. These fats are great for our brain health but also keep us satiated. Approximately 23 almonds equal one serving. Go for raw for the best benefits… if you don’t like raw nuts, look for dry roasted. That means they haven’t been cooked in unhealthy oils. Pistachios, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds are all great to have near your desk when hunger strikes. 

Protein bars

Many people turn to protein bars for quick energy. These days the shelves are packed with them. Choose a bar with no more than 10 ingredients. Try brands that use dates as their base – this means the sugar comes from a natural source and the fiber content will help you feel full longer.  


Popcorn is full of fiber but low in calories, so you can eat a few cups without destroying your diet. Watch out for added sugars and salt and avoid kettle and caramel corns. Just don’t opt for microwave popcorn.  It’s full of unhealthy chemicals. 

Dark chocolate

This is one of the healthiest foods that come in a wrapper. Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants and magnesium and is low in sugar. Aim for 70% or higher to get all the health benefits. 

Natural nut butter

Spread it on whole-grain crackers or apple slices for filling snacks with some protein. Look for natural nut butter without added sugars.


Smell your way to an energy boost 

My final tip for energy is not about eating food at all. It’s about smelling it.  

Have you ever walked past a certain aroma and instantly experienced a flashback memory? This happens because smells that enter your nose have a direct link to your memory center. There are scores of studies that show scents affect things like memory, concentration, and sustained attention.   

Two scents to perk you up at work


  • Peppermint – Menthol stimulates the hippocampus area of the brain, which controls mental clarity and memory. This triggers you to wake up and pay attention. 
  • Cinnamon - Cinnamon is a natural energy booster that can enhance motivation, performance, and alertness. It has even been studied on long-distance drivers to minimize fatigue associated with prolonged driving. So, sprinkle it in your coffee, chew cinnamon gum (go for the low sugar variety), or even smell a cinnamon stick for a quick pick me up.


Which foods top your list of good snacks for work? Try a few of these tips and you’ll be doing more productive work in less time!


Proper nutrition is important for both mental and physical health. Looking for ways to help your employees fuel their workday? Provide best in class fitness, nutrition, and mindfulness resources as well as on demand cooking classes through Wellbeats Wellness, a product of LifeSpeak Inc. LifeSpeak Mental Health and Resilience can help your members better understand key issues that affect mental health and take positive action through on-demand, expert resources, tools, and microlearnings.  

To learn more about our full suite of solutions, request a demo today. 


About the author, LifeSpeak Inc. expert Jennifer Mullin

good snacks for work

Jennifer Mullin is an expert at LifeSpeak Inc., and the founder of Blue Avocado Nutrition, a wellness company dedicated to helping people reach their health goals. Jennifer’s own food sensitivities and a quest for gut health compelled her to get certified as a Health Coach at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. From there she was hooked on the power of food to bring wellness to individuals and companies alike.