10 can’t-go-wrong munchies to satisfy every craving
Want to stick to your diet? Start snacking. It helps control hunger and rein in portion sizes at meals. And don’t worry, it’s supposed to feel indulgent. If a healthy snack isn’t satisfying, you’ll go in search of something that is.
For help with healthy snacking, we turned to Tara Gidus, R.D., of the American Dietetic Association. “A snack should fill you up, be reasonably nutritious, and be in the 100- to 200-calorie range,” Gidus says.
Ditching the celery sticks doesn’t mean abandoning the whole food group. Frozen vegetables often taste better because they’re not turning into starch, like their produce-aisle counterparts. Freezing vegetables seals in their naturally sweet flavor.
Half of a cup of peas has 55 calories and 3 g of fiber; the same amount of corn contains 72 calories with 2 g of fiber. The high-fiber and low-calorie-density combination means they’re filling and satisfying, and the frozen part makes them interesting. They’re firm, but not rock hard, and they melt in your mouth.
“You can use the same trick with fruit,” Gidus says. “Freeze grapes or cherries, and it’s a whole different experience.”
These are the chewiest bars going (don’t confuse them with other types of Kashi bars—look for “chewy” on the label). They have 130 to 140 calories each, 4 grams of fiber, 5 g of protein, and they’re made with real nuts and whole grains. And they actually taste good.
“You’ve got chewy, you’ve got sweet, and you’ve got a bar,” Gidus says. “That’s got a real snacky feel to it. The calorie range is right, and the fiber is high.”
A 2003 Brazilian study found that three apples a day can keep weight gain at bay — and can even help you lose. “There’s no magic compound,” according to Rui Hai Liu, Ph.D., an apple researcher at Cornell University.
“The best way to lose weight is to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables. That increases volume and decreases calorie density.” If you’ve got 5 minutes and a knife, cut your apple up and mix it with some chopped walnuts and a teaspoon or two of maple syrup. Or eat it with a tablespoon of peanut butter to add about 100 calories’ worth of the satiating power of nuts.
If you think the microwave’s only contribution to snack time is popcorn, you have to try Quaker Express. Office-friendly, it’s packaged in an individual cup. Just add water and microwave for about a minute, and you’re set to snack.
“Studies have found that oatmeal is more filling than dry cereal with the same calories and fiber content,” Gidus says. The Baked Apple flavor has a slight fiber edge (1 g) over the other flavors. Best of all, it won’t stink up the office.
If edamame had a tryst with orange-dusted nachos, the result would look a lot like soy chips—a high-fiber, low-fat snack that’s a significant source of soy protein. And soy protein, according to a recent study in the International Journal of Obesity, not only helps facilitate weight loss, but also helps ensure that the weight lost is fat rather than muscle. The isoflavones in soy act like estrogen and inhibit the enzyme that facilitates fat deposits, according to Paul Cooke, Ph.D., a soy researcher at the University of Illinois.
A pack of soy chips racks up as many as 7 g of soy protein in about 100 calories, which leaves room for a 1/4 cup of Guiltless Gourmet bean dip. The dip adds 60 calories and another 4 g each of fiber and protein.
Unwrap a frozen juice bar and you can practically hear the ice cream truck rounding the corner of your cul-de-sac. “They’re sweet and tangy, and anything frozen takes longer to eat,” Gidus says. “They’re just afew calories, and they’ve even got some vitamins.”
Our favorite: Edy’s Tangerine, with flavor as bright as its color—and a mere 80 calories.
You know fiber promotes weight loss; you know that high-fiber cereal is an easy way to it; and you know that cereal isn’t just for breakfast. But you’d be happier eating this magazine than a bowl of All-Bran.
Enter Barbara, with her Cinnamon Puffins. They’re crunchy, puffy, and very, very cinnamony. A 3/4-cup serving has 100 calories and 6 g of fiber. “It looks like a lot,” Gidus says, “so your eyes see a substantial snack. It’s a lot more impressive than 10 little walnuts.” Add low-fat milk if you want, but Puffins can stand alone.
We’re not done chewing yet. Licorice, which has an active ingredient called glycyrrhetinic acid, has been shown to help reduce body fat mass. (The good news is you don’t have to be able to pronounce the acid to reap its benefits.)
Decio Armanini, M.D., who did the research at Italy’s University of Padua, explains that there are two ways licorice works. The first is complicated and involves blocking an enzyme that plays a role in fat accumulation. The second is simpler. “Licorice can reduce appetite,” he says. “The effect is probably related to the agreeable taste of licorice, and for that reason people do not need to eat more.”
We’re not talking Twizzlers here; go for the real thing, preferably with licorice extract high on its ingredient list. (Look for it in grocery stores, not convenience stores.) A handful is about 150 calories and will keep you busy chewing something sweet, flavorful, and satisfying for twice the time it takes to down a bag of M&Ms.
Skip the usual fruit-on-the-bottom suspects—high in sugar, ho-hum in texture. Try Fage Total Greek Yogurt instead. This imported greek yogurt is strained, which makes it fluffy. It’ll fool you into thinking it’s fat-filled, but the “0%” on its label tells you how much fat it really contains.
The 100 calories per serving give you room to maneuver, so sweeten the pot with chopped apricots or dates. “There’s evidence that dairy calcium helps you lose weight, and this also adds protein and fiber,” Gidus says.