One of the most common questions I get is about snacking.
What are good snacks? And what snacks actually taste good?
A snack of two or three hard boiled eggs is great, but the majority of people won’t eat that.
There is a reason companies like Quest that make “healthy” high protein chips and cookies, because we want something sweet or salty (or both).
However, those are rarely a good substitute for the real thing, and usually leaves you going “it’s okay, but…”
So what are good snacks?
First, let’s look at snacking habits:
A recent survey by the USDA
has found that snacking has doubled since the 1970s. Over 60% of the population today (at least in 2008 when the survey was done) has between 1-3 snacks versus 73% of the population having 0-1 snacks in the 1970s (41% had no snacks, now only 10% of the population skips snacking).
Snacking isn’t bad in and of itself, but the average male eats 586 calories per day in snacks, and women eat 421 calories per day in snacks. It averages out to about a ¼ of your daily calories coming from snacks (usually foods void of any nutrition) and 1 in 6 adults get 40% of their calories from snacks.
It only takes, roughly, a reduction of 200-300 calories from your diet to start losing weight, but if you reverse that and add calories on top of your diet, you can slowly gain weight. Since most people don’t count snack calories, those 400 to nearly 600 calories per day can lead to slow and steady weight gain over the course of a few years.
So the bag of chips, a few pieces of candy at the office breakroom, and a few bites of your kid’s ice cream really start creeping up on you.
Now, let’s define what a snack is.
A snack, when your goal is weight loss, should be between 100-200 calories. Which is a pretty small portion by American standards.
To put this in perspective, one egg has roughly 80 calories, so two hard boiled eggs puts you right in the middle of that calorie range. One apple has about 90 calories, a large banana has about 120 calories, and peanut butter is roughly 95 calories per tablespoon.
So, when you eat four tablespoons of peanut butter (don’t roll your eyes; if you don’t measure peanut butter you’re probably eating about that much) plus an apple, your healthy snack is about 450 calories, and you’ll probably still be hungry after eating it.
That’s not to say you can’t make it work in your diet, but you need to be measuring your portions and tracking everything in a calorie counting app to make sure you don’t have those calories start to sky rocket.
A snack should have some protein, carbs, and fats. But most people just get a carb and fat rich food for snacks like chips or candy.
What are good snacks to eat?
Get one with less than 10 grams of sugar per serving, or get plain or ones sweetened with stevia. Yogurt is one of the most filling foods and it has a decent amount of protein in it. If you get plain, you can add fresh fruit to add flavor or a dash of vanilla extract works as well.
Most people love cheese. They love cheese so much that they overeat it (I’m right there with all of you cheese-lovers as well). Cheese is a source of protein and fat along with having vitamins A, D, and K in highly absorbable forms.
While cottage cheese and string cheese are good low calorie options, those are cheeses that most people won’t overeat or don’t like. If you’re eating cheddar cheese, a serving is between 1-1.5 ounces, which has roughly 50 calories in it. Cheese is a great snack, just remember to stick to the portion sizes or the amount of calories you want for a snack (100-200 calories).
There are so many varieties of cheese in the world and each one has a different nutritional profile. If you have specific ones you eat all the time, look those up. For example, while cheddar has about 50 calories per ounce, brie is almost double at 95 calories.
This is a great, high-protein low calorie option, though usually high in sodium (if you need to watch that).
Veggies with Guac or Hummus
Raw vegetables are pretty tough for our bodies to breakdown, which means they’re low in calories. Carrot, bell peppers, and celery all work great with hummus or guacamole. Like cheese, hummus and guacamole are high in fat and we usually eat two or three times the portion size, so make sure to portion them.
Nuts and seeds are nutritional powerhouses, they’re full of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. But you know the saying that too much of a good thing is a bad thing? Well, that applies here.
A third of a ⅓ of almonds, which is roughly a small handful if you just scooped them up, has 273 calories. While there is about 9 grams of protein in that ⅓ cup, there is also 22 grams of fat. Healthy fats have the same number of calories as “bad” fats and will do the exact same to your waistline.
So the few handfuls of nuts or the bag of them you eat in the car when you run into a convenience store could easily be over 700 extra calories you’re not accounting for.
Usually you need to count the number of nuts you’re going to eat, but let’s be real here, you might do that for two weeks and then do some accurate guesstimating for your 12 almonds. So if you’re not counting, use ¼ cup. For seeds, like sunflower and pumpkin, use ⅛ cup.
A few coaches I follow have said things like “nobody ever got fat eating apples,” and, for the most part, they’re right. Fruit is, usually, high in fiber and relatively low in calories. When paired with a source of protein and fat, it can be a filling snack.
Now, remember that fruit is low in calories, but not no calorie, so only have one or two servings of fruit a day (usually a medium size piece of fruit, but all of them are a little different). And no, they can’t replace vegetables in your diet.
These are a great way to increase your protein intake while only consuming about 120 calories. Protein is filling, and the water helps not only keep you hydrated but also helps you feel full. When you pair this with a high fiber fruit, like apples and pears, the water and fiber expand in your stomach and really make you feel full.
You can also cook with protein powder, check out ProteinPOW.com for recipes on high-protein, low-calorie options.
So, there are your snack options. There are other options out there, but snacks should be used to tide you over to the next meal. Usually people go way overboard and overeat during their snacks because they didn’t eat enough at their last meal.
If snacking is a big issue, and your lifestyle/work allows it, instead of an afternoon snack, try doing another small meal. There is also something about saying you’re going to have a meal over a snack that helps you make better choices.