Commuting snacks
August 29, 2016 11:17 AM   Subscribe

What would be a healthy, non-messy snack (homemade or store-bought) to eat on my 6 pm hour-long bus ride, which is followed by a very hilly 30 minute walk home? Ideally something bite-sized.

My bus ride makes me very hangry, and after my strenuous walk home I am often so exhausted that I have to lie down and resort to ordering takeout. It really messes up my whole night. On the flip side, I sometimes snack so much that I'm too full for dinner, which I don't want either.

My bus technically doesn't permit food, but I could get away with eating something very clean/non-smelly. Right now I'm sneaking Kind bars, which is not ideal since they can get a bit sticky/melty in the heat. "Energy balls" look appealing.. are they a good idea?
posted by acidic to Food & Drink (32 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
I usually take a baggie of Cape Cod mix (cashews, almonds, and dried cranberries) to work with me for those low-energy moments.
posted by pxe2000 at 11:20 AM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would go with protein - peeled hardboiled egg? Cheese sticks? Both would be clean, quick and non-smelly. I totally hear you on the hangry thing - I get the same "must lie down" thing some nights.
posted by Frowner at 11:21 AM on August 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Crispy roasted chickpeas! Almost 20g protein in a half-cup, totally customizable to your tastes.
posted by amnesia and magnets at 11:27 AM on August 29, 2016 [10 favorites]

My go-to snacks in these scenarios are a banana, hardboiled eggs, those wax wrapped cheeses, an apple. Maybe a bagel/meat/cheese sandwich.
posted by rozee at 11:29 AM on August 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've been eating these nut butter-filled Clif bars lately. They're not low-calorie, but they're clean and fairly non-sticky for an energy bar. It's like an energy bar wrapper for your dose of peanut butter.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:30 AM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I like having a packet of almond butter on me that I can just squirt straight in my mouth when I'm out and about.
posted by EmilyFlew at 11:31 AM on August 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Apparently nature's most perfect snack is 8-12 almonds. It's a little dry, but doesn't need preparation aside from maybe putting in containers, doesn't need refrigeration, aren't quite as lethal to the gen pop as peanuts, and are pretty easy to not drop.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:33 AM on August 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

- plain, roasted, unsalted peanuts (out of the shell) or cashews;

- Tofurkey jerky;

- glass Gerolsteiner bottle that I refilled with tap water and keep cold.

If you can refrigerate at work:

- carrots that you yourself cut into carrot sticks (smaller thicknesses, fresher, more discreet, also a lot better);

- small pieces of celery;

- cheese in pieces - you could use the mozzarella sticks in plastic, but that's rather wasteful of packaging and expensive too. This way you get more variety. Swiss or other very firm cheese works best.

I personally like having the celery/carrot _and_ the nuts, since the moisture of one balances the dryness of the other.
posted by amtho at 11:37 AM on August 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Jerky would be a good option, or these "chunks of energy": they're tastier than a Clif bar and perfectly bite-sized, so it's easy to portion a reasonable, non-dinner-ruining number.
posted by torridly at 11:43 AM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've been enjoying these nut butter protein balls. I've been making mine with almond butter and chocolate chips, but peanut butter is also good.
posted by coppermoss at 11:44 AM on August 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

posted by SemiSalt at 12:28 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am the same. And getting tired of the same snacks!
How about cut up apples with those self serve peanut butter packs?
Gogurt (or something healthier with more protein-greek yogurt)
Balance bars
I have heard lately that pistachios are actually better than almonds as far as lower fat.
posted by tangomija at 12:33 PM on August 29, 2016

Larabars really worked for me when I was doing a stupidly long commute. I got boxes of them at Trader Joe's.
posted by sciencegeek at 12:35 PM on August 29, 2016

Forget traditional jerky.

You want Simply Snackin protein snacks. Portable, portion sized, moist, favorful.

*I don't own the company or benefit in any way. I'm just a huge fan.
posted by 26.2 at 12:51 PM on August 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Cherry tomatoes, cheese cubes (you can buy those large slabs of your favourite type of cheese to cut), and seconding almonds.

I keep a sealed bag of salted almonds in my desk drawer at work. Consider keeping snacks at your desk and eat a bit before your commute home, if eating on the bus is frowned upon.
posted by ThatSox at 1:04 PM on August 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

When I was commuting, my go-to bus snacks included fruit, some kind of portable dairy product (yogurt cup, waxed cheese), mixed nuts, or (in desperate circumstances, as I don't especially like peanut butter) "homemade" peanut butter cracker sandwiches, usually made with breton vegetable crackers.
posted by janepanic at 1:06 PM on August 29, 2016

Is there any reason you can't have a snack before you get on the bus, so you never reach the hangry place but prevent it altogether? If you can, then I'd make the snack more substantial--200-300 calories depending on your body.

Anyway, for a stopgap snack, I recommend something with easily accessible sugars in it rather than just protein--but not anything super processed (like the brown rice syrup in Kind bars) because it spikes your blood sugar too much. My go to snacks in this situation are Lara Bars (varieties without chocolate and I usually only eat half) or 5-7 prunes. This kind is my fave. Your metabolism might require more than that, but for me this is what works if I need to save a good appetite.

You might also find it helpful to have some water with your snack--a lot of people just don't drink enough water during the day and sometimes it can help "fill" you a bit until you can get home to make dinner. After you've had your snack--plot your dinner plan if you don't know it yet. Then you can start making dinner the instant you get in the door.
posted by purple_bird at 1:09 PM on August 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Another vote for Lara Bars, and you usually don't even need to eat the whole thing. I also have a cousin who keeps mixed nuts in an empty Altoids box for those times when she needs a snack, which I think is a great idea.

(Just want to note that hardboiled eggs are most definitively not non-smelly. When the secretary in this office eats them for lunch, I have to leave and go to another room.)
posted by holborne at 2:22 PM on August 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

Crispy and crunchy foods might attract attention on a no food allowed bus and potentially annoy fellow riders (I'd get cranky sitting next to some gnawing on carrots and celery). Things like cheese sticks and Lara bars may be a better bet.

This post may also have some good ideas.
posted by _Mona_ at 2:45 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

String cheese?
posted by MsMolly at 2:56 PM on August 29, 2016

I used to get laughed at for having breakfast cereal in my car for commuting. A small container of breakfast cereal (dry, no milk, obviously) is an option. I like mini-wheats for a bit of sweet and some fiber, and easy to eat as finger food, but pretty much any cereal with big enough to chunks to eat might work for you. Also, cheese for a bit of protein, slower energy...
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 3:15 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Raw almonds are my healthy snack jam these days. $7/lb at TJs.
posted by rhizome at 4:28 PM on August 29, 2016

A carton of chocolate milk, or dehydrated fruit (pineapple, mango, apricot)
posted by kinoeye at 4:34 PM on August 29, 2016

I like a Babybel cheese (Swiss is my favourite) or a string cheese, eaten at the same time as an apple. Apple + cheese = awesome.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 5:43 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

How about a protein shake? Muscle Milk banana flavor is pretty good and doesn't need refrigeration. Very easy and fast to drink. I've heard Ensure recommended but haven't tried it myself. If refrigeration is an option, I like the Stonyfield yogurt smoothies too.
posted by danceswithlight at 5:44 PM on August 29, 2016

Quest bars are very high protein and very low sugars/carbs - filling and no post-gobble crash. You may be able to get away with munching on half of one to stem the hangry.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 5:57 PM on August 29, 2016

I like making my own breakfast bars:

5 Ingredient Bars
Homemade Granola Bars
Soft and Chewy Bars
Strawberry Banana Oat Bars

I like to eat them with an apple or banana.
posted by onecircleaday at 6:26 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh yea, Trader Joe's has these weird dehydrated apple bars. They are all pretty good but the apple + coconut ones are AMAZING. They're just fruit stuck together, and just apples at that (with a little coconut), so they're not too heavy.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:22 PM on August 29, 2016


If I were really hungry, I'd take my proprioceptive chances with sushi (if available in a package at a store somewhere), bring wipes for errant soy sauce and a bag for garbage, and have a second light dinner later (soup or something).
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:56 PM on August 29, 2016

Betty Lou's Nut Butter Balls (the almond butter is my favorite, but they have a range of assorted flavors, some with protein powder added) are really great for this, although it's cheaper to go with a homemade version.
posted by karayel at 9:05 PM on August 29, 2016

Along with Quest Bars there are lots of 20-30g protein bars, and PowerBar (and maybe Clif, too) make "protein bar nuggets" if you don't want to sit on the bus gnawing on a big ol' health bar. A regular Clif Bar is 10g protein, which might be fine by itself, except it kinda sounds like you typically haven't eaten since 12:30pm, so I'd go with something with a little more oomph. If protein doesn't solve your problem, look for bars with more carbohydrates (sugar in various forms, which also means you'll get a lot more flavor options). At the far end of this spectrum you have stuff like Clif Bloks, which are like super-carbohydrate Gummi cubes. And as always, a Snickers always satisfies™.

Kind Bars are indeed "office healthy." Glistening with honey and multicolored nuts stuck together beautifully but kinda tenuously ("chewy!"). Definitely want to be able to skip over to a sink after one of those.
posted by rhizome at 10:00 PM on August 29, 2016

If you don't feel like making crunchy chickpeas yourself, Biena makes the best ones you can buy. The habanero and ranch are particularly good.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 5:14 AM on August 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

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