Snacking can make or break your best efforts to eat healthily, especially if you are trying to lose weight. When done right, snacking can keep your energy high and your metabolism revved all day long, but when done wrong, you can completely sabotage your weight loss efforts.
Why can’t you just run to vending machine and grab a 160 calorie bag of potato chips? Because snacks should fuel you, giving you more energy, stabilizing food cravings, and leave you satisfied. The ideal snack is a mini-meal, comprised of all the nutrients you need to run at your best, with an emphasis on the appetite controlling trio of protein, healthy fat and fiber, all for about 250 calories or less depending on your activity level. Protein slows digestion and keeps blood sugar levels steady; fat has a satiating effect on the brain; and fiber is impossible to digest, keeping you full for hours.
The best way to stick to eating healthy is to find a way to ensure you aren’t left feeling hungry and deprived. The following 10 snacks check the protein, fiber and fat boxes, clock in under 250 calories, and are easy to prepare, portable and, of course, delicious.
1. String Cheese
Go for the classic string cheese or opt for the tiny portable cheese servings most major labels offer. High in protein (about 6 to 8 grams per serving), the calorie and fat contents will vary depending on what variety of cheese you use. ‘Part-skim” is usually a good way to go if you’re looking to watch calories but it still gives you a little fat for satiety. Pair it with a few whole grain crackers or some grapes or just toss some in your bag to eat on the go.
2. Hard Boiled Egg
At 70 calories per egg and five to six grams of protein in the white, you also receive a healthy dose of vitamin D and vitamin B-12. Don’t skip the yolk: while it is pretty common belief egg yolks are bad for you because of their high cholesterol content, most nutritionists agree that in moderation, whole eggs are an extremely nutritious choice. To hard boil your egg: Place eggs in a single layer in a pot. Fill the pot with water until the eggs are just submerged. Sprinkle with salt—it will help keep the egg coagulated if there happens to be any cracks. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Just as the water begins to boil, turn off the burner and let the pot sit for 11 minutes. Rinse in an ice bath to stop the cooking and wait for them to cool or store in the fridge. Peel ahead of time for an easy on-the-go snack. To keep sodium in check, sprinkle with pepper or hot sauce instead of salt.
3. Apple with Nut Butter
This classic snack hits all the snack combo needs: fiber in the apple and protein and fat in the nut butter. Think beyond the peanut and try almond butter, cashew butter or walnut butter. Bananas work great, too: peel a banana, slice it in half lengthwise, fill with nut butter and roll up in tin foil. Freeze for an ice cream style treat.
All nut varieties are a great snack choice but almonds contain the most protein while having the least amount of calories compared to any others. One ounce, about 12 nuts, or a palm full, has about 184 calories. Almonds contain omega-9 fatty acid, which is great for heart health, and will keep you full all day long. Buy them pre-portioned or place separate servings into little bags for grab-and-go snacks. Mix with dried fruit for extra fiber.
With pouches that are easy to carry with you and some brands now offering a convenient bowl so you can just add water, there’s now no excuse not to eat breakfast or enjoy the perfect mid-morning snack with coffee. Just add hot water and stir, and you’ve got a protein- and fiber-rich snack. Always buy plain oats, since the flavored varieties are full of sugar and the sugar-free varieties of those often have chemicals. For more flavor, add some fruit or a few almonds.
6. Veggies with Hummus
Hummus is a relatively low calorie dip with tons of nutrition. Hummus provides healthy fat and protein, 4 grams per quarter cup, while sliced veggies like carrots, peppers and celery sticks deliver a huge dose of fiber. Plus, you can enjoy a satisfying crunch without turning to quick burning carbs like chips or pretzels. You can buy hummus in a tub or in individual servings, but if you love it as much as most people do, you’ll want to make it yourself. Just blend chickpeas, olive oil, tahini and lemon juice in a food processor until smooth.
7. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt may seem like a fad, but it really is nutritionally superior to the regular kind. Greek yogurt has 12 to 20 grams of protein per container, more than traditional varieties, with half the sugar. Greek yogurt is strained, so it has a thicker consistency, making it great as a spread or dip, similar to mayo too.
8. Protein Bar
Protein bars are an easy choice but be sure to read the label carefully. Some varieties are little more than glorified candy bars, loaded with sugar and fat, and others can contain so much protein the bar has more than 450 calories. Look for a bar with 10 to 15 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber, with less than 15 grams of sugar. You don’t need to eat the entire thing in one sitting either: split it in half, eat one and save the other for tomorrow.
Edamame is a fun finger food that will satisfy a crunchy craving. Edamame are soybeans that are still in their pods, and can be made in the microwave for an easy snack. Full of protein and supplying 3 grams of fiber, these little guys will seriously curb any cravings, and they’re so low calories, you can enjoy a healthy portion size.
10. Roasted Chickpeas
If you like chickpeas but you prefer crunch over the creaminess of hummus, try roasting your own chickpeas. You’ll receive the same nutritional benefits in a pop-able, crunchy pea, similar to corn nuts. Just drain a can of chickpeas, rinse and pat dry. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Arrange chickpeas in a single layer on the sheet and bake for 3 to 3 1/2 hours, until golden brown and crispy. Shake the pan every so often to avoid sticking. Remove from the oven and transfer to a bowl to cool. You can flavor them with olive oil and herbs, or with cinnamon for a sweet treat. Eat them on their own, or add them to oatmeal, yogurt or salads.