Desk Snacks That Will Rescue You From the Afternoon Sleepies

desk snacks
Danna Windsor/Thrillist
Danna Windsor/Thrillist

If you tend to eat lunch around the usual time, there’s a common phenomenon that may hit you a couple hours later. It’s the midafternoon slump, wherein my energy and morale get sucked into a black hole of blah. The thing to do is to go out for a brisk walk, and I definitely should do that one of these days. But too often I’m slammed with meetings and things to do, and also I’m kind of hungry...again.

So, snacktime it is. But can we make it healthy-adjacent? As I write this I’m sitting just a few feet away from a basket loaded with dried fruit, chocolate bars, spiced nuts, tortilla chips, and more. (Don’t even get me started on the shelf of sauces and spreads.) One of the perks of this job is that companies are constantly plying us with new treats to try -- and then write about. 

But we’ve learned that what’s within easy reach isn’t always the best option. So over the past few months, I’ve also been collecting snacks here and there on my own, like a little squirrel preparing for winter. I’ve been looking for snacks that do the following:

  • Have some sort of nutritional benefit, like protein or fiber.
  • Are minimally processed, not loaded with chemicals.
  • Have either no sugar or are low in sugar -- unless we’re talking dark chocolate.
  • Satisfy but don’t overfill.
  • Taste good. I’ll admit, I have a preference for salty, crunchy, tart, and spicy. Puffed foods don’t do it for me. Sorry, popcorn and rice cakes.

My favorites listed here are not as cheap as a bag of Cheetos. Some of them are downright fancy, in fact. (Treat. Your. Self.) But there should be something here for everyone. 

$24 per 8-pack ($3 per 1-ounce bag)
We have to talk about these first because they are my favorite. Basically, they are chicharrones but with chicken instead of pork. In other words, take the best part of a rotisserie chicken: the crispy skin, of course, and magically transform that into shelf-stable chips. They pack in 12 grams of protein per pack, they come in original, salt & vinegar, and BBQ, and they taste like all my dreams.

Almost any packaged nuts situation is going to be good for you so long as they’re not made with loads of added sugar and you’re not particular about raw vs. roasted. And Trader Joe’s has so many varieties. My favorite are these cashews. How “Thai” are they, really? I mean, they have lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, so there’s a vague nod to the culinary tradition, I guess. But what I appreciate more is that they have just enough fire to wake me up a bit.

These chips are made with black and navy beans, they’re gluten free, and they’ve got a decent amount of fiber and protein. I’ve tried almost every flavor, and some work better than others; I can recommend the pico de gallo and the jalapeno nacho. Think of a corn tortilla chip, but dipped in bean dip, but also it’s all crispy and there’s no corn. A couple other tortilla chip alternatives I like are Food Should Taste Good and Siete Foods’ line of grain-free chips.

$12 for 7 ounces
Everyone’s all about the protein snacks these days, with good reason. But sometimes I feel like what my brain really needs is a quicker hit of energy in the form of carbs. So here’s one option. West-Bourne is a NYC-based all day cafe, but the menu and name are a nod to LA (they have an outpost there). They just happen to make a solid Chex mix with smoked almonds, corn nuts, and puffed rice. It’s flavored with a bit of chile, garlic, ginger, seaweed, and butter, and you can order it online. 

$20 for two bags via Etsy
My other favorite carb. This crispbread is made with rye flour, oat bran, and various good-for-you seeds, and it disappears quickly. It’s a big step up from those Wasa rye crackers, so if those taste like cardboard to you, give these a chance. I get mine from a shop in my train station, but you can find them at other locations or order them from Etsy. Too fancy? I also like Mary’s Gone Crackers and Doctor Kracker, which you should always pronounce with a German accent.

Some afternoons call for a mild sugar boost -- very mild. I like dried tart cherries because they’re bigger than raisins and they’re not tannic like craisins, but they’re bracingly tart enough to wake me up. They may have some health benefits, like helping you sleep better and recover from those workouts you just started doing. And they’re loaded with antioxidants. But the main thing is that the fiber will help you absorb the sugar more slowly, so you’re less likely to crash. 

Protein and fiber, but also creamy. These are everywhere now. But if you’re clever you can DIY it at the office: when you first get in, put two spoonfuls of dried chia seeds in a jam jar. Fill the rest of the jar with whatever oat milk or almond milk (creamer?) your office stocks in the fridge. Add a packet of honey from the coffee bar. Shake well, and refrigerate until the afternoon. Is it me, or does chia seed pudding remind anyone else of fish eggs?

My one candy exception. The salt makes this bar almost savory, so it doesn’t seem quite so sweet. Plus: Almonds. I’ve been eating all of the salted dark chocolate almond bars I can get my hands on because they’re my favorite, and this one wins. What makes me love it even more: their mission to produce slave-free, transparently-produced responsible chocolate, because human exploitation is not delicious.


I’m totally joking with this one. Or am I? I’ve heard caviar is next hot fitness recovery food because it’s loaded with protein, electrolytes, B vitamins, and magnesium. But it’s also loaded with salt, so I don’t see it replacing protein smoothies anytime soon. Also, only Moneybags McBillionaires get to snack on caviar. I mean, who just digs in with a spoon on a Wednesday afternoon? Maybe you do. China has started flooding the market with caviar and prices have plummeted for the non-fancy, maybe-not-exactly-from-sturgeon stuff. This jar is under $4 and probably tastes just fine. Don’t knock it until you’ve had it with potato chips, which... oh, I guess that’s one of the snacks we were trying to avoid this month.

But also you could just go for a walk. Yes, even in the bitter, bitter cold of winter. It’ll refresh you. C’mon, I’ll join you. Let me get my coat and some snacks.

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Adriana Velez is a food editor at Thrillist.