Snacking is a big problem in Western culture. Some diets call for four to five meals per day, while others only call for two to three. The diets that favor more meals, generally say to go smaller, making two meals a “snack.”
The problem is our perception of what a snack actually is. Let’s take an example from one of my favorite snacks: the soft pretzel (I’m a Philly guy, what can I say?). This doughy delight averages close to 400 calories for a full-sized serving. If I am trying to lose weight, and I’ve determined that I can only consume 1200 calories per day for the first leg of my diet, my snack has already taken up 1/3 of my daily consumption. That means my next two meals can only be approximately 400 calories each.
Indulging in that “snack” basically just replaced a meal. We have to start rethinking what a snack is. If you are hungry and another glass of water just didn’t cut it (watch my free video to learn why water is so crucial to your fat loss goals), opt for a healthy snack that will only cost you 60-100 calories at most. That should generally tide you over until your next meal.
The best way to snack is to do so on low-calorie, high-fiber fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that leave a sense of fullness. Here are the top five low-calorie, high-fiber snack options in each category:
- Raspberries – 8 grams of fiber, 64 calories per 1-cup serving
- Pears – 5.1 grams of fiber, 51 calories per medium-sized item
- Apples – 4.4 grams of fiber, 55 calories per small-sized item
- Blueberries – 3.5 grams of fiber, 40 calories per 50 berries
- Strawberries – 3.3 grams of fiber, 2 calories per strawberry
- Carrots (raw) – 3.6 grams of fiber, 52 calories per 1-cup serving
- Red bell peppers (raw) – 3.1 grams of fiber, 46 calories per 1-cup serving
- Tomatoes (raw) – 2.2 grams of fiber, 32 calories per 1-cup serving
- Brussels sprouts (cooked) – 2 grams of fiber, 28 calories per ½-cup serving
- Cucumber (raw) – 1.5 grams of fiber, 45 calories per small-sized item (unpeeled)
- Ready-to-eat, whole-grain cereal – 5.9 grams of fiber, 168 calories per 1-cup serving
- Air-popped popcorn – 3.5 grams of fiber, 93 calories per 3-cup serving
- Whole-wheat crackers – 2.8 grams of fiber, 87 calories per 5 crackers
- 100% whole-wheat bread – 1.9 grams of fiber, 81 calories per 1 slice
- Brown rice – 1.8 grams of fiber, 108 calories per ½-cup serving
I know what you’re thinking – some of this stuff may seem bland. So, here are some tips that won’t sacrifice your waistline for taste.
The fruits – any of the above fruits can be dipped (or mixed) into a 6-ounce mixture of nonfat plain Greek yogurt and one packet of stevia (or Truvia; but don’t use the “in the raw” stuff). If your new “parfait” isn’t cutting it, you won’t miss the granola if you substitute some slivered almonds (5 tablespoons should suffice as a serving).
Carrots, peppers and cukes, Oh My! – these staple vegetables are good on their own as their flavors are strong enough to suffice for some, but for the person that needs her dip-fix, I recommend a Yogurt Cheese Dip, which appears in my favorite 17-Day Diet, but can also be found here. It’s so simple, you’ll be making it every week!
But Mom… I don’t wanna eat my Brussels sprouts! – oh yes you will when you try roasting them. You may want to save this diet hack for your weekend afternoons at home, as reheating them won’t be as satisfying. The scent may also be a deterrent at the office for those with sensitive nostrils. Here’s a simple recipe:
1. Spray a cooking/baking sheet with an olive oil-based spray and preheat the oven to 350-400 degrees.
2. Wash the brussels sprouts, peel the outer leaves, cut off the bottoms, and half them.
3. Mix with olive oil (1 tablespoon per serving), salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste.
4. Bake for 15-25 minutes (until browned and crispy, but not burnt of course).
This is how I enjoy them, but I read recently at The Fitnessista’s blog to add grated Manchego (a Spanish cheese and a personal favorite of mine), along with lemon juice and red pepper flakes. Do as you wish.
Tom-ate-O/Tom-ott-O – This may be the easiest one of the lot. Grab a cutting board and cut the tomato into 8 pieces. Throw it in a container that will withstand the cold of a refrigerator and pour a liberal amount of organic, fat-free Italian salad dressing (or make your own) over the tomato. Let this sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and enjoy (with a fork). If you’re from Jersey and can grab a local tomato in the summer, you’re in for a real treat!
Cereal – so you’ve heard all the hype against High Fructose Corn Syrup, right? And you want to stay away from it? Well, if you grab the type of cereal above, and mix it with unsweetened almond milk and a packet of stevia, you should be in the clear.
Rice – easy solution here: low-sodium soy sauce. A tablespoon will suffice as a serving. Don’t go higher than that, as the sodium content is still very high, even if you get the low-sodium kind.
Share your favorite snack-hacks from the above list or from your own recipe stash in the comments below.