Snacking throughout the day may seem like a bad idea diet-wise, but it’s actually a healthy practice. By staving off hunger, it prevents you from overindulging. Plus, it’s a great way to fill nutritional gaps in your diet. Haven’t had a serving of dairy or a vegetable by lunchtime? A yogurt or veggies and low-fat dip for a snack can help you meet your daily quota.
“Frequent snacking provides the body and brain with a steady supply of the glucose it needs to run efficiently,” says Julie Fromm, registered dietitian at Henry Ford. If your glucose supply dips too low (because you’re not getting enough calories from food), you get foggy, cranky, even light-headed.
To keep your energy humming all day, it’s best for adults to eat within two hours of waking up. After that, you should ideally consume a meal or snack every three to five hours. The exact time isn’t as important as listening to your body and its hunger cues.
The snacking downfall, though, is relying on unhealthy picks. Convenient snacks often come in dangerous packages, such as chips, cookies and amped-up energy bars. The key to responsible snacking, says Fromm, is selecting healthy snacks that give you a balance of complex carbohydrates and protein, plus some fat to help slow the absorption of glucose in the bloodstream. Stay on top of your game with one of these 10 healthy snacks, all for 150 calories or less!
- 1-ounce box raisins (90 calories) + 15 pistachios (60 calories)
- 1 Tablespoon peanut butter (90 calories) + 3 whole wheat crackers (60 calories)
- 8 ounces low-sodium vegetable juice (50 calories) + 1 hardboiled egg (72 calories)
- Trail mix consisting of ¾ cup oat cereal (90 calories) + 1 Tablespoon Craisins (32 calories) + 1 Tablespoon sunflower seeds (35 calories)
- 8 ounces of low-fat plain yogurt (90 calories) + ¾ cup frozen berry blend (60 calories)
- 8 ounces of skim milk (80 calories) + any small piece of fruit (about 60 calories)
- ½ cup grape tomatoes (22 calories) + 1 ounce mozzarella cheese stick (72 calories)
- 1 cup chopped broccoli (31 calories) + 1 ounce cheddar cheese (115 calories)
- 3 cups air-popped popcorn (90 calories) + 1 Tablespoon grated parmesan cheese (20 calories)
- 20 baby carrots (70 calories) + 2 Tablespoons hummus (70 calories)
If you keep your portion sizes in check (especially with dried fruits, nuts, nut butters and trail mix), and select options from two of the food groups listed below (fruit and dairy, for example), your snacks will give you about 150 nutrient-dense calories. Make it a no-brainer by choosing snacks that require minimal to no prep or cooking. Keep a stash in your bag, desk drawer or glove box and you’ll never go hungry again!
Snacking Staples by Food Group:
Fromm suggests using MyPlate to plan your grocery shopping so you always have grab-and-go items on hand. Choosing snacks from the MyPlate food groups also limits added fats and sugars common in most pre-packaged snacks.
- Dairy: Cheese sticks, shelf-stable milk (cow or non-dairy), plain yogurt
- Protein: Nuts or any type of nut butter, seeds (sunflower, pumpkin), eggs (hard-boil a batch, cool, peel and refrigerate), lean sliced lunchmeat
- Whole grains: Crackers or cereal (be sure “whole grain” is the first ingredient), popcorn (kernels you can air-pop or versions with minimal salt and fat), plain or low-sugar instant oatmeal packets (great if you have access to hot water)
- Fruit: Any type(s) you like
- Vegetables: Celery sticks, grape tomatoes, broccoli florets, bell peppers, carrots, low-sodium vegetable juice (in 5.5 or 8 ounce cans)
For more information on healthy eating, visit our EatWell section for recipes and more advice from registered dietitian nutritionists.
Julie Fromm, R.D., is a community dietitian with Henry Ford Health’s Generation With Promise program, which focuses on empowering youth and families in the community to increase their consumption of healthy foods and physical activity and balance caloric intake.