While snacking is generally discouraged for those trying to lose weight or cut down on calories, many people find it impossible to get through the day without snacks between meals. In fact, some studies show that it's healthier to eat small meals throughout the day rather than a few large ones. This works well for those who are naturally "grazers," people who tend to eat small amounts frequently rather than saving all of the calories for a few key meals. Snacking can be very important in keeping you from getting too hungry, since most people are less discerning about what they eat once they're extremely hungry.
However, those who are trying to lose weight or watching calories might still be hesitant about snacking too much, since this is yet another avenue to adding unwanted calories to your diet if you're not careful about it. Fortunately, with the right snacks, you can stay energized without worrying about calories.
According to Certified Nutritionist Specialist Elizabeth Quinn (MS, CNS, FMCHC), this is all about the amount of fiber a mid-day snack contains. "Snacks that contain a lot of fiber will make you feel fuller and satisfied for longer periods of time," she explains. "Fiber slows down the digestive process and keeps foods in the stomach for longer." Other healthy foods that you may think to snack on--such as smoothies--typically make you hungry more quickly, because they contain almost no fiber at all.
Some of the most fiber-rich foods also happen to be low-calorie, making it easy to stay satiated without ruining your diet plan. With a little research and planning ahead, it's not hard to keep yourself from getting too hungry between meals while staying within the range of calories you're aiming for.
No, we're not talking about the butter-and-salt covered popcorn you get at the movie theater or in a microwavable bag. According to Kevin Daly, Marketing Manager at Zevo Health, home-cooked popcorn can scratch the same itch as potato chips, but at a small fraction of the calories. "Because it's airy, you may have a large portion without a lot of calories but a high-fiber snack that will make you feel full," he says.
We recommend adding just a little bit of oil and salt for flavor, but Daly recommends sprinkling a little Parmesan cheese for that extra oomph.
2. Cheese and Crackers
While cheese may not be the first food you think of when you consider "low-calorie," according to Registered Dietation Nutritionist Katie Tomaschko, it's all about the type of cheese you reach for. "When looking for a healthy and satisfying low calorie snack, the most important aspects to look at are protein and fiber," Tomaschko says, which low-fat (or string) cheese and whole-grain crackers are full of. String cheese is also a great option because it comes pre-portioned.
3. Dried Apricots
This low calorie snack is as flavorful as it is nutritional, packing a punch with a tangy and sweet taste. Dried apricots are perfectly snackable and will hardly add to your calorie count for the day, along with providing potassium and magnesium, two minerals known for helping with stamina and energy. They're also full of vitamin C, which boosts the immune system!
4. Veggies and Hummus
This is the perfect low-calorie food for those looking for a protein-rich option. Hummus is made from chick peas, tahini, olive oil, salt and lemon juice, making it the ideal all-natural choice to dip your veggies in. Veggies like radishes, celery, cherry tomatoes or bell peppers go great with hummus and will add a share of vitamins to strengthen the immune system and reduce heart disease.
This tropical and healthy snack is a powerhouse of nutrients, making it great for digestion and weight loss. This low fruit adds flavor to smoothies and milkshakes, and it's also delicious on its own. Papaya is high in fiber and fights indigestion, so it's full of benefits while also being a filling snack.
6. Apples and Peanut Butter
Apples and peanut butter are a satisfying and guilt-free combo that provides protein and fiber, and it's hard to beat the taste of crunchy apples dipped in creamy peanut butter! Registered Dietician Nutritionist Katie Tomaschko says that protein--something peanut butter is chock-full of--makes a major difference in keeping you full. According to Tomaschko, " Protein is the most satiating macronutrient (versus carbs and fat), and fiber is known to promote fullness and increase the length of time you feel full. "
This snack is perfect to fill you up while providing vitamin A, B vitamins and folates at the same time!
7. Zucchini Chips
If you're looking for a crunchy, addicting yet healthy food, zucchini chips are the way to go. Bake them in the oven or in the air fryer with a spritz of olive oil for a crispy result. For extra flavor, sprinkle on some chili powder. The next time it hits snack time and you're craving potato chips, try zucchini chips instead!
8. Cottage Cheese and Bananas
Cottage cheese is an excellent choice for a filling, low-calorie snack. This soft, low-fat and low-carb food goes great with bananas, and you can even add a bit of granola for some crunch. Cottage cheese is easy to pick up on your next trip to the grocery store, and it provides the B vitamins and calcium to make any day go by quickly.
Not a banana fan? You can also swap out it out for a variety of other fruits, such as berries or peaches.
9. Greek Yogurt and Berries
Greek yogurt is another protein-rich food that fills you up without packing on the calories. Greek yogurt provides essential nutrients like calcium, potassium and magnesium, while the berries are full of antioxidants. This healthy and delicious snack will keep your work day going without letting your blood sugar dip too low.
10. Granola Bars
In a hurry, without the ability to savor something fresh like the other items offered in this list? It's good to keep a reserve of granola or protein bars stashed in the pantry for moments like these. Just remember: Not all pre-packaged bars are created equally. Check the ingredient listings to see exactly how many calories, protein, fiber, and sugar is in each one, so you know exactly what you're eating.
This post was originally published on July 22, 2021.