For me, snacking is a must! It helps me get from one meal to the next — no headaches, drops in energy or stomach rumbling. My secret: choosing snacks that contain hunger-fighting ingredients. Here are five favorites.
Snacks aren’t bad. In fact, they are “mini meals” that are meant to curb hunger and help supplement nutrients you may not be getting enough of from meals (like fiber from fruits and veggies). Studies show that waiting too long to eat between meals can cause you to overeat later in the day — not exactly the best way to lose weight or stay healthy.
Stick to snacks that are between 100 and 200 calories each. You especially need them when you have three to five hours between meals. My snack breaks often fall at 10:30am and 2:30pm — about one and a half to two hours between my meals.
1) Peanut Butter and Whole-Wheat Crackers
Combine lean protein, fiber and healthy fat and you’ve got a satisfying snack. Protein and fiber work for cutting down and controlling hunger, while fat takes a bit longer to digest and keeps you feeling full longer. Peanut butter is high in healthy monounsaturated fats, but be sure to portion out one tablespoon to keep calories in check.
Portion: 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter and 4 whole-wheat crackers
Total: 180 calories, 5 grams of protein
2) Vegetable Soup
Don’t eat enough veggies? Try snacking on a warm, hearty vegetable soup — 20 minutes later you’ll feel like a new person. Vegetables contain fiber, which helps you feel full and also helps stabilize blood sugar throughout the day — meaning no gnawing hunger pains. Try a minestrone or bean soup for additional protein. If you’re feeling extra hungry at snack time, add one or two whole-wheat breadsticks or a small whole-wheat roll.
Portion: 1 cup vegetable soup
Total: 100 calories, 4 grams protein
3) Low-Fat Cottage Cheese and Fruit
With its good balance of protein, carbs and fat, cottage cheese is one of the most underappreciated foods. Add fiber with fresh fruit, such as berries, melon, pears or pineapple, for a perfect snack. A 1/2-cup serving contains 7% of your daily calcium needs, which is important for healthy bones.
Portion: 1/2 cup low-fat or nonfat cottage cheese with 1/2 cup sliced or 1 medium piece of fresh fruit
Total calories: 140 calories, 14 grams protein
4) Hummus with Sliced Veggies
This Middle Eastern chickpea spread is packed with protein, fiber and heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Veggies like carrots, bell peppers and broccoli make great dippers and add good nutrients, including beta-carotene, vitamin C and, of course, more belly-filling fiber. Two tablespoons of plain hummus has 50 calories and 3 grams of fat, so you’re probably better off measuring out two to three tablespoons instead of sitting down with the entire container.
Portion: 3 tablespoons of plain hummus plus 1 cup of sliced veggies
Total calories: 120 calories, 7 grams protein
5) Trail Mix
Almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanuts or pecans are full of healthy fat, fiber and protein. A delicious homemade trail mix is simple: Portion out a handful of nuts and mix in two tablespoons of dried fruit like raisins, cranberries or apricots. To minimize calories, choose nuts that are dry roasted or raw. For a change of pace, throw in whole-wheat pretzels or some of your favorite cereal (I’ve been on a Puffins kick lately). Packing your trail mix in plastic bags or containers makes it easy to grab and go. If you find yourself plowing through your snack mix, try using shelled nuts that will take longer to eat.
Portion: 15 nuts plus 2 tablespoons of dried fruit
Total calories: 170 calories, 7 grams protein