The USDA reports that American adults get a substantial 24 percent of total calories from snacks. The right snacks not only help you meet your nutrient needs, but can also reduce hunger and help you control your weight. Sugary beverages, chips, candy and baked goods are among the most common snack foods, but think twice before reaching for these choices. Low-glycemic, high-protein snacks can help prevent blood sugar swings and reduce hunger.
About the Glycemic Index
The glycemic index of a food with carbohydrates is an indicator of your blood sugar's response to eating a certain amount of that food. The Linus Pauling Institute explains that consuming higher-glycemic foods leads to sharper and larger spikes in blood sugar than consuming lower-glycemic foods. Processed foods tend to have higher glycemic indices than unprocessed counterparts. For example, cooked and canned carrots, refined pasta, raisins, and fruit juice, are higher glycemic, respectively, than raw carrots, whole-wheat pasta, fresh grapes, and whole fruit. Whole grains, many vegetables, legumes, nuts, and some fruits are low-glycemic.
Potential Benefits of Low-Glycemic, High-Protein Snacks
The body digests low-glycemic, high-protein snacks more slowly than high-glycemic ones. The slow digestion and release into the bloodstream helps prevent unhealthy blood sugar spikes and subsequent hypoglycemia, or sudden drops in blood sugar levels. Protein in your snack further slows digestion and delays the onset of hunger before the next meal. Stable blood sugar and suppressed hunger can help you control your weight and maintain energy levels between meals. Foods rich in high-quality protein include eggs, tofu, dairy products, meat, poultry and fish.
Low-Glycemic, High-Protein Snack Ideas
Hard-boiled eggs, low-fat cheese sticks, yogurt, roasted edamame or green soybeans, bean or lentil soup, and roasted nuts or peanuts are simple low-glycemic, high-protein snacks. Pair raw vegetables, such as celery, carrots, cucumbers, and red peppers, with a high-protein dip or spread, such as hummus, bean dip, or Greek yogurt. Other ideas include canned tuna or low-fat cheese on whole-wheat crackers, sliced turkey or chicken breast on whole-grain wheat bread, peanut butter with apple slices, and whole-grain cereal with skim milk.
Some low-glycemic and high-protein snacks are unhealthy. Cheese and crackers, sausage sticks and deviled eggs are high in saturated fat, which raises unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels in your blood. Candy bars with peanuts, trail mix with candy pieces and some varieties of flavored yogurt are high in sugar and calories. You can lower the glycemic index of high-glycemic foods, such as popcorn, white crackers, and white bread, by eating them with a source of protein, such as peanut butter, canned salmon or yogurt.