Snacking is an important part of a healthy diet because it helps prevent hunger between meals and lowers the chance that you will binge eat. The trick is to choose a snack that is low in calories, fat, sodium and cholesterol, which maintains weight and protects you from health concerns, such as heart disease and high blood pressure. Many snack choices fit the bill and have the added benefit of being nutrient-dense, which protects your health.
Fruit is one the best snack choices if you are watching your fat, sodium and cholesterol intake. It will fill you up for minimal calories and help keep you from reaching for junk food. Fruit is naturally sweet, making it an ideal snack if you find yourself craving a sugary treat. Try apples, oranges, pineapple, mangoes, kiwi, berries or bananas. Combine several fruits to create a salad or nibble on a piece of fruit at your desk or in the car. Fruit is portable and keeps well, which makes it a good choice for a lunchbox snack or a post-workout snack.
Like fruit, vegetables are very low in salt, cholesterol and fat and are easy to prepare. Try carrots, celery, bell peppers, broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes and zucchini. If you don't like vegetables plain, dip them in hummus, which is made from chickpeas and is low in salt, cholesterol and fat. Mix chopped vegetables with leafy greens to create a healthy salad for a between-meal snack. An added incentive to eating vegetables for a snack is that they contain a good amount of fiber, a nutrient that bulks up in your stomach, making you feel full for longer periods of time. Be careful with canned vegetables because they often have added salt.
Low-Fat Dairy Foods
Low-fat dairy foods are good sources of protein, a nutrient that plays a role in satiety. However, whole milk foods are high in fat and cholesterol; you should avoid these if you are watching your intake. Choose low-fat cheese, yogurt and cottage cheese. Serve these items with fruit or whole-grain crackers to increase the fiber content of your snack, which will help fill you without increasing the amount of cholesterol, fat and salt you consume.
Popcorn is considered a whole grain, which means it contains a good dose of fiber, making it a filling snack choice. Choose air-popped popcorn without butter or salt, which keeps the amount of cholesterol, sodium and fat low. To add flavor, try sprinkling your popcorn with chili powder or garlic powder. Popcorn is a good alternative to chips or pretzels if you like a crunchy snack. Avoid movie theater style popcorn, which is doused in butter and salt and is not a healthy choice if you are watching your fat, cholesterol and sodium intake.