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Shelf-stable healthy food?

(Is there such a thing?) Anyway, my apologies if this has been done before, but I'm looking for reasonably healthy/low-calorie snacks or lunch items I can leave at the office for "snack attack" days, to keep me out of the office vending machines or for days when I'm late leaving the house and don't have time to pack my lunch. The only healthy thing that we have in the office vending machine is peanuts, which certainly have nutritional value, but they are a bit high in fat to indulge in regularly, plus, I hate paying the 85 cents...

I was thinking along the lines of beef jerky... Or, maybe oranges that would keep in the office fridge for a week or two... The idea is that I want to make one grocery run and bring a big bag of stuff to the office that would keep for a few weeks.

Any other ideas for me?

Thank you!


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  1. So you DO have access to a fridge? If so, hummus is great...I love it with celery and more recently snap peas. How about some greek yogurt? For your drawer, maybe some dried fruit? I keep a baggie with unsalted dry roasted peanuts combined with raisins or low-salt mixed nuts with raisins. Apples keep at least a few days in your drawer, might depend on how cool the a/c is in your office, though.
    Whole-grain cereal might be nice too if you like to munch on it dry.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Val

      Yes, I have access to a fridge (and a freezer), though, it's usually quite full, so I can't take up too much room. But, your suggestions (and everyone else's) are great!

      P.S. aircon in our office is barely functional in summer. So, anything that will spoil, like apples, must be kept in the fridge.


      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        Heh, I'm in SW Florida...and our office is well, downright frigid...some days I cannot wait to get out in the 100% humidity 90 degree heat just to thaw out!

    2. I'd look into the various Indian foods that are shelf stable. I haven't found any that are really good yet, but a few that are good.

      If you have a trader joes, I would suggest you try some of their shelf stable Ind food, and also check on their dried fruit / granola / nut section. They have dried bananas with only one ingredient: Bananas.

      1. My office drawer includes tuna pouches, ryvita crackers and cherry tomatoes, Trader Joe's miso soup, trail mix, oats, Barbara's puffins, rice crackers, and occasionally, the odwalla/luna-type bar. I bring in apples and bananas every day.

        1. I always keep a box 100-calorie packs of microwave popcorn and a tin of lightly salted almonds in my desk and a package of 2% milkfat string cheese in our small office fridge.

          If I'm getting snacky, or if I forget my lunch, I pop the popcorn, split the string cheese in tiny bite-size pieces and dump it and the almonds in the popcorn bag, shake and eat. Not very chowy, but not a bad nibble when you need one.

          I usually have individually wrapped servings of quality dark chocolate for sweet tooth cravings.

          Other things I often keep at my desk include peanut butter, rice cakes, dried fruit (which can also join almonds and string cheese in the popcorn bag).

          1 Reply
          1. re: alexajord

            I love your spontaneous "trail mix" of popcorn idea!


          2. How about energy bars, e.g. Luna Bars, Lara Bars or Clif Bars?

            2 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              Many aren't necessarily "healthy" in that they have preservatives, high sugar and, fat contents (and trans fats at that). Some are good though, just read your labels with caution. They are often intended to pack in a lot of calories into a tiny punch in something easily digestable for athletes. For the typical office worker, many will have the same effect as a Snickers.

              1. re: enbell

                Larabars and Clif's Nectar bars are good -- fruit, nuts, maybe some cinnamon, no preservatives or added sugar. I like the Larabar "apple pie" and "cherry pie" flavors, which I can usually find at Trader Joe's. (Ingredients on the "apple pie": dates, almonds, unsweetened apples, walnuts, raisins, cinnamon. 180 calories.

                Of course, you could achieve a similar effect with bags of raisins and mixed nuts, but then you have the issue of going back to the bag for one more handful, rather than having a discretely packaged snack.

            2. Not low-cal (or even sanitary), but I used to keep a big jar of peanut butter and a spoon in a drawer at my desk at work. It really helped stave off hunger and help me forget I haven't had lunch or dinner.

              Apples keep reasonably well for a week or two without the fridge too.

              1. TJs has a wide variety of trail mixes, rice crackers, tortilla chips. There are some shelf stable juices and some company that has hummus in a glass jar though I don't remember the brand. Canned or tetra-packed soups (like Imagine brand)? Black bean, lentil, or squash, etc. Dolmas.

                  1. Things that I keep (or have kept) in the office:

                    pretzels (100 cal packs)
                    fruit leather-type things (Trader Joe's has some good ones)
                    tangerines/clementines (easy to peel, not to big)
                    4 inch pita (can be good with hummus, or filled, or as a small openface sandwich)
                    cheese (right now I have a big bag of Cabot reduced fat cheddar in .75 ounce individually wrapped pieces -- snack on alone or combine with a split mini pita and nuke for a melted cheese sandwich)
                    baby carrots (also good with hummus)
                    various snack/energy bars (right now I'm addicted to Clif Nectar bars, but I also like Luna bars and Kellog's "Bliss" bars)
                    beef jerky
                    wasabi rice crackers
                    really good chocolate (a couple of squares is less than 100 calories)
                    nuts (I like 50 percent salt cashews)
                    canned tuna
                    McDougall's instant dry Pad Thai noodle soup (or other dried soups)

                    1. I had a really nice cup of Imagine Organic Creamy Tomato Basil Soup
                      today. It comes in a shelf-stable box. It is only 90 calories and 1.5 grams of fat ... they use soy milk. I'm not a soy milk fan and I bought this before reading the ingrediants. No odd soy taste ... just a nice cup of tomato soup.

                      They have a dozen different flavors. Of course, once you open the box you have to refrigerate what is left.

                      I just poured it into a mug and nuked it for 2 minutes. Made a nice lunch.

                      Minute Rice has just come out with single serve rice cups that really take one minute ... remove top ... doesn't need water ...nuke.

                      I tried the brown rice, white rice and chicken-flavored rice. They were all good. They also have wild rice and saffron rice but my market doesn't sell those.

                      Cups of no-sugar applesauce are nice. There are also apple/berry versions and organic one. Also, pineapple fruit cups only have pineapple if they are packed in juice ... no sugar or HFCS.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: rworange

                        Ah, I was going to mention boxed soups, too. I like the one you mentioned (Imagine tomato basil) and also Pacific Natural Foods (esp. the tomato with roasted red pepper), which comes in these great snack or meal-sized mini boxes.

                      2. Some of you guys sounds like me. I think I have enough food stashed in my desk and the fridge to feed the entire floor for a few days. Hopefully w/o repeating too many of the ones already mentioned, I have:

                        ** In the fridge **
                        hothouse cucumbers (can be sliced and salted or dipped in guac or wrapped in deli meat)
                        dr. praeger's potato pancakes
                        deli meat
                        whole fruit bars (if you have a freezer)

                        ** In my desk **
                        Nairns brand oat crackers (no salt or sugar, shockingly delicious and filling)
                        Lundberg brown rice cakes, esp. the sesame flavor
                        wasabi peas
                        spiced nori seaweed packets
                        regular sized nori (I make myself rolls using nori, deli meat, and cucumber)
                        dried squid (think jerky... much better than they sound to someone who hasn't tried)
                        those "almond accent" slivers you're supposed to put on salad, but taste so good plain they almost never make it to my salads
                        snow pea crisps (another supposed salad topping)
                        jars of artichoke hearts
                        almond butter
                        instant milk powder
                        Glenny's Soy Crisps (the kinds with calcium added)
                        a few raw baking potatoes to nuke in the microwave if i want something resembling a real meal

                        1. I like some of the Kashi/Luna bars and have some in my desk right now. I also have instant oatmeal, trail mix, dried fruit and granola. When I don't want as many carbs, I try to keep a couple of meal replacement shakes (a la Slimfast) in the fridge. The fridge at work is ok for canned/prepared goods, but I'd never put fresh fruit in there.

                          1. For the freezer, grab those bags of frozen edamame from Trader Joe's; toss in micro and salt, and voila, protein/fiber/carb snack or addition to a salad for a meal.

                            Vegetable broth + frozen veggies or mixed veggies + ready to heat brown rice in the micro makes your own veggie rice soup.

                            Couscous - keep some stock, heat it in the micro, add couscous, let stand, and fluff with fork. Keep some seasoning in your desk too to add.

                            I like Stallone's Protein Pudding as well.

                            Bring in some hard boiled eggs on Monday, enough to last through the week, then eat with or without yolk and some Ak-Mak crackers.

                            0% Total Yogurt w/ a little jam stirred in or some high fiber cereal

                            Whole Wheat La Tortilla tortillas sprinkled w/ low fat cheese (love the soy cheddar and mozzarella blend from TJ's), nuke and fold for insta-healthy-quesadilla with high fiber and protein.

                            Instant McCann's oatmeal.

                            Zen Bakery Fiber Muffins or Bran Muffins - nuked are yummy

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Emme

                              Just reading this makes me need a huge glass of water. I eat all the stuff listed as well, but, man, the sodium content. One realizes that when one sees it all in a list. To add to that, though, dried seaweed. Kim's Korean has a ton of it, low calorie and very nutrient dense. And good!

                              There's a thread on the home cooking board about Japanese/Korean foods to take backpacking that got me thinking along these lines. Helpful hints there.

                              1. re: jeanmt

                                i have low blood pressure, and eat quite a bit of salt. i never even consider sodium content, so for that i apologize.

                                1. re: Emme

                                  I don't care about sodium content either...I just tend to get a deep craving for an apple when I eat too much packaged foods.

                                  I remembered my old standby...a bag of potatoes for nuking! I imagine this would work with sweet potatoes, as well. You could then add shelf stable toppings..or keep a bottle of Sirachi in the refrigerator.

                            2. Awesome ideas everyone. Thank you for your input. I'm amazed and delighted by how creative everyone is. Then again, you are chowhounds--I should have expected it!


                              1. hey TDQ-- my apologies to everybody but *screw* all these TJ's recs! the msp local co-ops have great snacks including oil-free granolas, trail mixes, dried fruits & veggies, edamame, tofu dips, readymade vegan wats & injera, fresh veggies, organic fruit (i love getting the small stone fruits because i can have 2 flavors at a sitting), wholegrain artisan breads, funky yogurt and kefir (great for holding off hunger for an hour), those energy bars yuppies eat, dehydrated or shelf stable veg soup, lowfat local cheese, seaweed, artisan miso, healthy crackers ready to be dipped in local salsa, fresh deli items galore. . . mississippi market on selby is probably closest to you but i adore the wedge's produce, breads & bulk sections; & seward's deli. take a couple hours and browse the whole store reading ingredient lists-- there is *so* much there!

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: soupkitten

                                  HAHAHA! Soupkitten, you crack me up. I appreciate everyone's recommendations, but I'm not a fan of TJ's, mostly because I can't get near the place because the parking lot's too jammed. Plus, the nearest one to me isn't that near... I would have to drive there, which would defeat the purpose (more on that below...)

                                  I've already picked up some soup, edamame, healthy crackers, yogurt and lowfat local cheeses. This thread has been a good reminder to pick up some seaweed--they have some wonderful seasoned seafood at United Noodle.

                                  But, I don't know about the artisan miso--what section do I look for that in? (as you can guess, MissMarket is the most convenient, but I've been getting to the Wedge a lot lately, too. I love that place!)

                                  I know this sounds crazy, but I normally bring my lunch to work, which is easy to do when I'm driving my gas-guzzling car. But, lately I've been trying to ride my bike to work 2-3 days a week, a save the earth thing, but it's a three-fer, because I save gas-money and get exercise, too. As the weather gets nicer and as I get better conditioned, I'd love to commute by bike every day...

                                  I'm having a hard time carrying so much stuff on my bike--and my CSA just kicked in, so, I know I need to at least bring some vegetables everyday or we'll never use up the whole box!

                                  Also, on cycling days, I'M STARVING. So, I wanted to have some emergency food items I could bring in and stash in a drawer in my office on the days I drive to work to supplement what I can carry on my bike. We have a small fridge and freezer I can put a few things in as well...


                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                    awesome! then i repeat the trail mix and oil-free granola suggestion (bring resealable jars so they don't get stale or all over the desk drawer) and second the recs for hummus for the fridge (and the kefir!). you can mix the granola with yogurt and/or fresh fruit for a little snack variety.

                                    the miso is in the refrigerated cases at the co-ops in tubs--look by the refrigerated bulk stuff-- it's usually above it or around there someplace. there are also good misos at shuang hur and united noodle. you can toss your csa veggies with a little water and miso and you're good to go. (also at shuang hur/UN you could get the dehydrated shrimp or dehydrated bbq pork & veggies to go in as well-- but maybe your co-workers would hate the smell of actual cooking. . .)

                                    *grudgingly* the energy bars might not be the worst idea ever, can't bike w/no fuel.

                                    one idea: for bringing lunch to work in a compact carrier that has a small fridge footprint, try using one of the 4-tiered stainless food carriers from one of the indian grocery stores ($10 at patel's the other day). *amazing* how much food you can cram in them.

                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                      All great ideas, thank you.

                                      My co-workers already think I'm a lunatic (and they might well be right!) so, no harm in getting the dehydrated shrimp and dehydrated pork! I'm less worried about what they think and more worried about not taking up more than "my share" of space in the office fridge, so, good tip on the tiered food carrier...


                                    2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                      Wish I could ride my bike to work but I have to take disabled clients to appts.
                                      Check out the cool tote lunch bags.
                                      Do you have panniers on your bike?

                                      1. re: lgss

                                        Hey, those are cool! I have panniers on order...I've never used them before, so, we'll see how it goes. I've always wanted to ride my bike to work but never had the right situation. I feel so lucky everything is working in my favor to enable me to do this right now.


                                  2. Drawer food: raisin and peanut mix, granola, individual serving UHT milk boxes, jerky or cabanos, dried mangos, dried apples, dried apricots, crackers, honey, maybe smoked fish in a tight container. Keep some cheese in the ref.

                                    1. In my last office we had a terrible critter problem (ants and rats!), so I would be sure that you have sealed containers for any food you keep in your drawer!

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: dkenworthy

                                        Oh yeah ... and metal is better ... like old cookie tins.

                                        The night I picked up a plastic container with coffee creamer in it and a mouse jumped out ... priceless. I was working graveyard shift at the time and this almost put me in a real graveyard ... did wake me up though. Mice can gnaw through plastic and if there is some residual food on a container or around it, I think it gives them ambitions.

                                        1. re: rworange

                                          In my desk I have: Glenny's soy chips, instant oatmeal, dried fruit, and instant soup. The one item with a high salt content, but is a perfect snack is INSTONE pudding that I buy in 4 packs from GNC or online....all flavors are great.