As an independent creative professional who is constantly on the go – onsite gigs, client meetings, conferences, networking events, coworking spaces – it can take a toll on keeping a regular eating schedule. While of course I would prefer to eat a full, balanced meal when I’m hungry, sometimes #freelancelife gets in the way. Or sometimes I just need something to tide me over until a late dinner, or after a particularly intense workout.
One thing is true for me though: if I get to the point where I’m hangry, it’s nearly impossible for me to think about anything but eating, and I’m going to want to shovel the nearest source of calories into my face. Not exactly ideal if there aren’t many healthy options around, or worse, if there isn’t any food available at all. So, I’ve gotten in the habit of carrying around a few supplemental snacks.
Qualities I look for in a snack:
- Doesn’t need refrigeration. Of course I like to bring fresh foods with me when I can, but I can’t exactly leave them in my purse for emergencies, so they need to be foods that have a decent shelf life.
- Minimally processed, with ingredients that I can identify. Most “snack” foods that don’t need to be refrigerated are going to be somewhat processed (unless you can point me to where they grow the “protein bar” trees), but not all snacks are created equal. If I can explain the entire nutrition panel to you in plain english, I feel pretty good about eating it.
- Nutritional value beyond calories. The closer the snacks are to “real” food, the more likely they are to have a decent nutrient profile as well. I’m not particularly excited about foods that need to be supplemented with add-in vitamins (and that kind of defeats the “minimally processed” purpose above).
- A good macro ratio. This is entirely dependent on your own eating habits, but I like my snacks to be pretty protein-heavy since it tends to keep me satisfied longer. That being said, most “protein bars” out there are made out of all kinds of weird stuff, much of which doesn’t agree with me (nor follow the “minimally processed” rule) so I’m checking out the ingredients as well as the nutrition facts here.
I’ll also mention that I personally follow a Paleo/Primal-ish diet, so I avoid eating a lot of vegetable proteins or soy-based foods. That means you won’t see them on my list. I also tend to favor meat as my protein source, but if you have any favorite non-meat protein snacks, please send them my way in the comments!
Here are several of the snacks I often keep in my bag, broken up by category. I bulk order several of these via an Amazon subscription, but I have purchased many of these in standard stores like Target, grocery stores, drug or convenience stores, and even gas stations!
Larger/meal replacement protein snacks
Carb and Protein balanced snacks that “fit my macros” and can be used to replace a small meal in a pinch, or tide me over before a later scheduled meal.
- RXBars – I literally have an Amazon subscription to these because I think they’re so great. There are several different flavors available, and my favorites are the RXBar Chocolate Sea Salt, RXBar Blueberry, and the seasonal RXBar Pumpkin Spice (don’t judge). Made with dates, egg whites, and nuts, they are vegetarian friendly but not vegan or allergen friendly, but many are Paleo and Whole30 compliant. They also sell them in two sizes (the larger ones are a big snack or tiny meal replacement, where the smaller “RXBar Kids” flavors are a smaller snack size).
- Epic Performance Bars – Similar concept to the RXBars, made by a different company with a few different flavor offerings. I’m neutral towards most of them, but love the Epic Lemon Performance Bar.
- NuGo Egg White Protein Bars – Yes, everyone is jumping on the egg white + dates + nuts combo nowadays. I tried a sample of these and thought they were pretty good, though not as good as the two listed above.
- Empact Bars – smaller in size than the above (comparable to RxBar Kids) and marketed primarily to women. They do incorporate other ingredients, like a probiotic/prebiotic combo, several kinds of seeds, and a few other “natural protein bar” staples like whey. I just tried these bars, and all the flavors I’ve had are delicious. Plus, they’re a small business that supports and empowers women and girls. What’s not to love?
Smaller protein snacks
Low-carb protein-rich supplements that are great before a workout or in between regular meals. Most of these are dried meats.
- Mission Meats Graze Bars – compact grass-fed beef sticks. I enjoy the additional nutritional profile of the grass-fed meat, and they’re the perfect size to keep in my purse.
- Vermont Turkey Sticks – I enjoy the flavor of these pepperoni sticks, and both the regular and mini turkey sticks fit well in a purse or bag.
- Epic Meat Bars – These are a little more interesting than your standard dried meat snack, because they combine unique meats with interesting flavors (like Bacon Bison Cranberry or Lamb Currant Mint). This would have a higher carb content than the two I listed previously, so if that’s something you’re tracking, make a note. But they are definitely delicious!
- Beef Jerky – not all jerky is created equal, so I like to read the nutrition facts and ingredient panel before eating it. I’m personally avoiding soy and minimizing my intake of additives/preservatives, so if I can find an option that doesn’t have them (like Oberto) I’ll usually opt for that.
High carb snacks
Because they’re not the enemy. Sometimes I just need carbs! There are tons of carby snack foods I can turn to, but these are small enough to fit in a day bag.
- Simply Balanced Freeze Dried Fruit – The texture is a little bit “astronaut ice cream” but I don’t hate the fact that I can absentmindedly eat an entire bag and still be within a “reasonable snack” range without getting into “oops I won’t be hungry for dinner later” territory.
- Bare Fruit Chips – I’ve only tried the apple chips so far, but they were pretty dang good by themselves and also as a topping on yogurt.
- Rhythm Superfoods Veggie Chips – Had these at an event once and they did not disappoint. Can you tell I like crunchy carb snacks?
- Larabar – if you like date-based bars, but don’t want all the protein of an RXBar, a Larabar is a delicious, classic, carby choice.
- Health Warrior Chia Bars – I tried a sample pack of these and thought they were pretty tasty, especially for being a smaller snack.
- KIND Bars – I generally don’t eat these because they start falling outside of the “Paleo-ish” territory, but some of their offerings are a pretty good snack if none of my favorites are available. Just check your labels first, because some of these range closer to “meal replacement” territory in terms of serving size.
- Ghiardeli Mini Dark Chocolates – These are the perfect individually wrapped size to keep in your purse for those “holy crap I need some chocolate like NOW” moments (just watch your melting points!)
How about you? What kinds of snacks do you like to carry with you? Any categories that I’m missing? Would love to expand this list as well as my snacking repertoire!