Those who abide by the antiquated idea that you should not snack between meals likely assume that those additional calories come from sugary, fat-laden or processed nutrition bombs, but there’s definitely a smart way to snack. In fact, a well-timed and well-chosen snack can curb appetite, build muscle, boost energy and deliver necessary nutrients, and it can be a key player in fortifying a healthy diet and building a bikini-ready body.
Deciding what constitutes a wholesome snack can be frustrating, however, so to make life a little easier, we’ve designed this mix-and-match snack generator. Simply choose one item from each macronutrient category — Proteins (P), Carbs (C) and Fats (F), and maybe a Flavor Booster for good measure — and behold, the nutritious and delicious combos appear. You also can tailor-make a snack to fit your particular need. For instance, if your focus is on building muscle, choose two items from the protein column, one from the fat column and skip the carbs. Check out the Smart Snacking Suggestions chart for other combinations that deliver the perfect nutritious snack every time.
Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling. Use these as a template to create a winning mix of sweet and savory nibbles that will satisfy and fuel you as soon as hunger strikes, all clocking in at 250 calories or less.
1 rice cake + 2 tbsp hummus + 1 tbsp sunflower seeds + 4 apple slices
Spread hummus on rice cake and sprinkle on sunflower seeds.
Postworkout Muscle Builder
1 rye Wasa cracker + 2 tbsp guacamole + 1 slice roasted red pepper + 1 sliced hard-boiled egg
Spread guacamole on cracker and top with red pepper and egg slices.
¾ cup plain Greek yogurt + 1/3 cup blueberries + 2 tbsp muesli + 1 tbsp pistachios or walnuts
Place yogurt in bowl and top with blueberries, muesli and nuts.
Midmorning Hunger Tamer
1 celery stick + 1 tbsp almond butter + ¼ tsp cinnamon + 1 tbsp dried cherries
Slice celery stick into thirds and mix almond butter with cinnamon. Fill celery pieces with almond butter and top with dried cherries.
Outdoor Adventure Trail Mix
2 tbsp roasted chickpeas + ½ oz jerky + 2 tbsp sliced dried apricots + 2 tbsp almonds
Combine all ingredients in small zip-close bag.
Anytime Craving Killer
½ banana + 2 tsp cashew butter + 2 tsp cacao nibs
Slice banana into ½-inch chunks, slather on cashew butter and sprinkle on cacao nibs.
Savory Sunday Salmon Snack
4 (½-inch) slices cucumber + 1 oz sliced smoked salmon + 1 tsp sesame seeds + 1 tsp rice vinegar
Place salmon on cucumber slices and top with sesame seeds and a drizzle of rice vinegar.
Recovery Day Muscle Mender
½ cup ricotta cheese + 1/3 cup halved frozen grapes + 1 tbsp hemp seeds + ¼ tsp vanilla
Place ricotta in bowl and stir in vanilla. Top with frozen grapes and hemp seeds.
Perfect Picnic Snack
1/3 cup cherry tomatoes + ¼ cup mozzarella pearls + 2 chopped deli turkey breast slices + 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Thread tomatoes, mozzarella and turkey on bamboo skewers or toothpicks and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
½ cup cottage cheese + 2 tbsp chia seeds + 2 tsp cocoa powder + ¼ tsp cinnamon
In bowl, stir together cottage cheese, cocoa powder and cinnamon. Top with strawberries.
Plant Power Snack
½ cup frozen edamame + ¼ tsp smoked paprika + 1/8 tsp flaky salt + ½ cup baby carrots
Prepare edamame according to package directions, then toss with paprika and salt. Serve alongside baby carrots.
½ cup plain kefir + 1 scoop protein powder + ½ cup frozen strawberries + ½ tsp cinnamon
Blend together with ½ cup water until smooth.
Use these eight tips to make your snacks work harder for you.
1. Snack Sensibly
For many, snacking has morphed into an around-the-clock munchfest, a near-constant calorie flood that spirals into fat gain. But in reality, no more than 25 percent of your daily calories should hail from between-meal nibbles. To keep calorie intake in check, cap your snack frequency to once or twice a day if you’re moderately active and two to three times if you’re training intensely.
2. Munch Mindfully
Too many people snack on autopilot, eating when they are “scheduled” to do so, which often leads to overeating. Snacking should be a mindful endeavor and should take place only when you’re experiencing definite signs of hunger such as a rumbling stomach or brain fog.
3. Au Natural
Sodium stearoyl lactylate is delicious, said nobody ever. Less is more when it comes to ingredients. Stick to snacks that contain only recognizable items to stay on track.
4. Divide and Conquer
It’s easy to go overboard on denser and higher-calorie snack items like nuts, yogurt and dried fruit. Set boundaries by pre-portioning these beforehand and avoid eating your way to calorie overload.
5. Power Up the Protein
Higher-protein snacks have greater staying power for fewer calories and give you a greater chance to build metabolic muscle tissue. Greek yogurt, hard-boiled eggs and string cheeses are your snacking saviors.
6. Veg Out
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only one in 10 Americans are eating the recommended 2 to 3 cups of vegetables each day. To better nail your daily quota, incorporate veggies into your snack routine, such as dunking baby carrots or red pepper slices into hummus.
7. Sweet Nothings
Packaged snack foods are a big source of added sugar that can inflate your waistline. If you must go the packaged route, choose options that do not list sugar or other sweeteners predominately in their ingredient lists, and go for snacks like fruit that are only naturally sweet.
8. Avoid Salt Licks
Packaged foods also deliver a glut of sodium, causing bloating and dehydration. Beat the bloat by designing or buying snacks with no more than 400 milligrams of sodium per serving.
Six Prepackaged Snacks That Get the Thumbs Up
Most packaged snack foods are major diet derailers because they hit the pleasure centers of salty, sweet and crunchy. But these store-bought heroes will fuel you properly without torpedoing your clean-eating efforts.
Organic Valley Free Range Hard-Boiled Eggs $2 (2-pack), organicvalley.coop
Slice these ready-to-go nutrition staples in half and dip in smoked paprika.
Kind Bar: Pressed Pineapple Banana Kale Spinach $1.80, kindsnacks.com
Made with real fruit and veggies — and nothing else — these bars are the perfect way to tame a sweet tooth.
Alter Eco Dark Super Blackout $4, alterecofoods.com
A lofty 90 percent cocoa in this chocolate bar means more antioxidants and less sugar.
Chef’s Cut Original Smokehouse Beef & Pork Stick $30 (16-pack), chefscutrealjerky.com
Each savory meat stick delivers 8 grams of protein and just 100 calories.
Crunchies Freeze-Dried Mango $5, crunchiesfood.com
These unsweetened crunchy mango pieces make a great addition to trail mix.
Crunchmaster Protein Roasted Garlic Crackers $3.50, crunchmaster.com
Satisfy your crunch cravings with this nutritious mixture of whole-grain brown rice and chickpea flour and sesame seeds.