As a nutritionist counseling clients on healthy eating and weight loss, I am often asked about how to choose a healthy snack. Let’s face it: Most of us don’t just eat three meals a day without any snacks. Snacking can be a good practice if we make healthy choices. Snacking can also be a great way to boost our intake of fruits and vegetables, and nutrients such as fiber, which so many of us fall short on. Here are a few tips for choosing a healthy snack: eat real food, keep it portion-controlled (and calorie-controlled), aim for a fruit or veggie serving, and try to get some protein or fiber in your snack to help you feel full and stabilize blood sugar.
Here are some healthy choices to eat if you get a snack attack. I offer additional suggestions in my book Finally Full, Finally Slim and suggest creating the “perfect pair”– to pair a fruit, veggie, or whole grain with a protein or a fat. These combinations create a satisfying snack and keeps you full for longer than a single-food-group-snack. Enjoy!
1. HUMMUS AND VEGGIES
Hummus and vegetables makes for a great snack. Here is a good chance to get a dose of colorful vegetables including carrots, red and yellow peppers. All veggies are great choices. Hummus contains protein which will help keep you feel full. Aim for around a quarter cup serving of hummus and as many fresh veggies as you like.
2. GREEK YOGURT WITH FRESH BERRIES
Greek yogurt makes for a great snack as it is a good source calcium and protein. Choose the low-fat varieties which makes this tasty snack relatively low in calories. Top it with your favorite berries for a healthy dose of antioxidants and fiber.
3. VEGETABLE/BEAN SOUP
Soups make for a great snack. Eating soup is a great way to pack in several servings of vegetables. Soup is filling and takes a while to eat, and because most of us eat soup sitting down, we eat it mindfully. Great choices are veggie based soups such as minestrone, white bean, and lentil soup. The beans contain fiber and protein which help you to feel full. One caveat: If you are eating it out, be sure to check sodium content, as many soups contain too much.
4. PART-SKIM CHEESE AND WHOLE GRAIN CRACKERS
Cheese and crackers can make for a healthy snack. The cheese contains protein and calcium while the whole grain crackers contain fiber which will help us stay full. A healthy portion is around an ounce of each. An ounce of cheese is one slice or if it is cubed, looks like four dice. Check the nutrition facts label on the crackers to see how many crackers constitute a one-ounce serving and be sure that the first ingredient is a whole grain (such as whole wheat, rye, or oats.)
5. SLICED APPLE WITH ALMOND BUTTER
Apples make for a great snack — high in fiber and low in calories. Add a schmear of almond (approximately 1 tablespoon) for a serving of good fat and fiber which will keep you full and help keep your hunger at bay.
6. MIXED NUTS AND (LOW-SODIUM) VEGETABLE JUICE
This is a great snack if you are on the run. Low-sodium vegetable juice (such as V8) is filling and chock full of nutrients such as potassium and vitamin C. Nuts contain healthy fats along with some protein and fiber; just be sure to keep your portion to 1/4 cup serving or one layer of your palm. A quarter cup serving also looks like a golfball.
7. FROZEN BANANA AND PEANUT BUTTER
This is a yummy snack to keep in your freezer if you are craving a frozen treat. Peel a banana and spread it with peanut butter (no more than 1 tablespoon), place it in a baggie, and freeze. The banana contains fiber and potassium, and the peanut butter contains a serving of heart-healthy fats.
8. Air-popped popcorn with Parmesan cheese
The great news about popcorn is that it is a whole grain, and unlike pretzels and chips, where a serving is one cup or less, a serving of popcorn is 3 cups. Air popped popcorn is healthiest. And feel free to drizzle it with 1-2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese for an added kick.
By Lisa Young, PhD, RDN