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.
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Snacks should give you more energy, stabilize food cravings, and leave you satisfied, but not terribly full. The ideal snack is a mini-meal, comprised of all the nutrients you need to fuel your body, with an emphasis on the appetite-controlling trifecta of protein, healthy fats and fibre — all for about 250 calories or less, depending on your level of activity. Protein slows digestion and keeps blood sugar levels steady, while fat has a satiating effect on the brain. Meanwhile, fibre is slow digest, keeping you feeling 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. For those of us who don’t have the time or energy to whip up fancy snacks, here are 10 simple options that check the protein, fiber and fat boxes and are super easy to prepare and take with you on the go.
1. String Cheese
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. Pair some string cheese with a few whole-grain crackers or a handful of grapes for a satisfying snack you can enjoy at your desk.
2. Hard-Boiled Egg
With 70 calories and six grams of protein, you also receive a healthy dose of vitamin D and vitamin B-12 in just one egg. Don’t skip the yolk, either. 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.
3. Apple With Nut Butter
This classic snack hits all the snack combo needs: fibre 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 the others. Plus, almonds contain omega-9 fatty acids, which are great for heart health. Buy them pre-portioned or place separate servings into little bags for grab-and-go snacks. Mix with dried fruit for extra fibre and sweetness.
With serving-sized pouches that are easy to take with you to the office, there’s now no excuse to skip breakfast. Enjoy the perfect mid-morning snack with coffee — just add hot water and stir, and you’ve got a protein-and fibre-rich snack. Always buy plain oats, since the flavoured varieties are full of sugar and chemicals. For more flavour, add some fruit or crushed nuts.
6. Veggies With Hummus
Hummus is a relatively low-calorie dip that packs tons of nutrition. It provides healthy fat and protein, 4 grams per quarter cup, while sliced veggies like carrots, peppers and celery sticks deliver a huge dose of fibre. You can enjoy a satisfying crunch without turning to quick-burning carbs like chips or pretzels. Buy hummus in a tub or in individual servings, but if you love it as much as we 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 really is nutritionally superior to the regular kind (and it’s creamier and tastier, too). Greek yogurt has 12 to 20 grams of protein per container, more than traditional varieties, and half the sugar. Its thick consistency makes it a great spread or dip, too.
8. Protein Bar
Protein bars are an easy snack to grab on the go, especially for after a workout, but be sure to read your labels carefully. Some varieties are little more than glorified candy bars, loaded with sugar and fat, with some brands boasting 450 calories per bar. For the healthiest choice, look for a bar with 10 to 15 grams of protein and 5 grams of fibre, and 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 your crunchy cravings. Full of protein and supplying 3 grams of fiber, these little guys can be popped in the microwave for an easy snack. Just add salt, pepper and any spices to taste.
10. Roasted Chickpeas
If you like chickpeas, but you prefer crunch over the creaminess of hummus, try roasting your own. 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 flavour them with olive oil and herbs, or with cinnamon for a sweet treat.