It happens: That midday (or midnight) craving makes you reach for a quick snack that may end up skyrocketing your calorie count for the day.
Rather than thwarting your weight-loss efforts, reach for one of these healthy, low-calorie snacks that clock in under 100 cals when your stomach rumbles. Bonus: They're all easy to prepare, pack and travel with.
1. Berries and Yogurt
A light treat with a boost of immune-strengthening antioxidants may be just what you need to satisfy your hunger. Simply combine 1/3 cup blueberries or raspberries with 1/2 cup low-fat Greek yogurt (with no added sugar) for an any-time indulgence.
The combination of high-fiber carbohydrates from the berries and protein from the yogurt make it a winning combination to help with satiety. "Berries are packed with vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that may help strengthen our immune system — and Greek yogurt is a great source of probiotics that scientific studies have positively associated with digestive health," Keri Gans, RD, a New York-based registered dietitian, nutrition expert and author of The Small Change Diet, tells us.
2. Tomato and Feta
One medium-sized tomato (approximately the size of a tennis ball) mixed with one tablespoon of feta cheese and a squeeze of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar offers a nutritious snack under 100 calories.
Gans says this savory little nosh is a combination that will leave you feeling satiated because feta provides all three macronutrients — carbs, fat and protein — and the tomato's high water content can help with hydration.
"Tomatoes are also a good source of vitamin C and lycopene, a phytochemical that's tied to helping reduce the risk of some cancers. And adding feta cheese to this snack provides protein that can help to build and repair our muscles," she explains.
"Additionally, feta cheese is often derived from sheep, thus improving tolerance for those who are unable to tolerate cow's milk. One-quarter cup of crumbled feta has 14 percent of the RDI for calcium," according to Kylene Bogden, RDN and Wellness Advisor for Love Wellness.
3. Raw Veggies and Hummus
It's no secret that veggies offer plenty of vitamins, but they're also a great source of dietary fiber.
One cup of raw veggies and 2 tablespoons of hummus provides the perfect combination of nutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat) that keeps you feeling fuller longer. "Chickpeas provide protein, fiber, potassium, B vitamins and iron," says Gans. "Potassium helps regulate our blood pressure and B vitamins are important for the breakdown of carbohydrates in our body."
Hummus is a great blend of protein, fat and fiber, adds Bogden. "What most people don't know is that it's a rich source of manganese, a mineral that supports bone density — and manganese is a part of the powerful antioxidant known as superoxide dismutase (SOD), which is linked to preventing disease," she says.
4. Chips and Salsa
Add some spice to your snacking habits with a dose of chips and salsa. A serving of approximately seven baked whole-grain pita chips with 1/4 cup of chunky salsa keeps your snack to around 100 calories, says Gans. Tomato-based salsa offers antioxidants from the tomato and spices, and the fiber-rich whole-grain chips let you dip and chomp on something crunchy.
The power of tomatoes was further touted when researchers confirmed tomatoes are an important source of bioactive compounds including vitamins, antioxidants and anti-cancer compounds, according to March 2014 research the journal Mediators of Inflammation.
Read more: 9 Better-for-You Potato Chip Swaps
5. Veggie Soup
Drink up to help keep your appetite down. Sometimes it's hard to decipher between hunger and thirst, so opting for a delicious, hydrating broth might help keep hunger at bay. "Many times people think they are hungry, when in actuality they are simply dehydrated," says Gans.
Whip up a batch of vegetable soup for a snack that rings under 100 calories per cup. From carrots, tomatoes and green beans to peppers, broccoli, peas and potatoes, this nutritious nosh can help boost your energy and fill you up.
"Veggie soup is one of the best ways to help achieve your daily fiber goal for the day. A colorful bowl of veggies is rich in antioxidants, which can help reverse damage on a cellular level with every bite," says Bogden. One thing to keep in mind: "Veggie soup may be a great way to add some additional veggies to your diet — however, you should be sure to choose a low-sodium option," says Gans.
6. Hard-Boiled Eggs
When hunger strikes, a hard-boiled egg can satisfy your cravings. "Hard-boiled eggs are an easy, convenient and healthy snack," says Kim Hoban, RDN, a New York-based registered dietitian nutritionist.
"Eggs are cheap, easy to cook and full of nutrition," Hoban says. "Eggs come in at about 75 calories each with the yolks and provide high-quality proteins, B vitamins and choline — making them a great food for our muscles, eyes and brains."
7. Whole-Grain Bread With Almond Butter
Instead of reaching for a loaf of white bread, opt for a healthier base. "100-percent whole-grain bread may help with weight loss compared to refined breads because of its higher fiber content," says Gans.
Additionally, almond butter is high in protein and healthy fats. "Almonds are a good source of monounsaturated fats, vitamin E and fiber — and research has shown they might help decrease the risk for heart disease, maintain blood sugar control and help with weight management," she adds.
8. Dark Chocolate
Go ahead and indulge in some sweet chocolate for under 100 calories. A square or two of dark chocolate that contains about 70 percent or more cacao may be a great way to crush your sugar cravings because it's naturally high in fiber and plant-based fat, says Bogden.
"Dark chocolate is one of the most antioxidant-rich foods on the planet," she says. Cocoa is rich in plant chemicals called flavanols that may help to protect the heart — and dark chocolate contains up to two to three times more flavanol-rich cocoa solids than milk chocolate, according to the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health. So when that sweet craving kicks in, make sure you reach for dark chocolate with 70 percent cacao or higher.
Unfortunately, nuts often get a bad rap since most are typically high in calories. However, you can enjoy 12 whole almonds as a nutritious, 85-calorie snack. Prepare in advance by portioning out your almonds for daily snacks, lunches and nighttime meals.
"Almonds are a good source of vitamin E, protein, fiber and monounsaturated fats," says Gans. "Research suggests that people who consume nuts on a regular basis are less likely to become overweight than those who avoid them."
When your hunger is making you a bit nutty, reach for a healthy dose of protein. Opt for 30 in-shell pistachios; opening the shells will help slow you down. "Pistachios have fewer calories per nut than some other varieties, making them a great calorie-conscious snack," says Gans.
In fact, pistachios also provide you with more potassium and vitamin K per serving than most other nuts and are a great source of vitamin B6, thiamine and phosphorus. You'll stock up on your vitamins when opting for this crunchy, filling and convenient snack. Plus, at 3 grams of fiber for every ounce, they will keep you full for longer, says Bogden.
11. Bite-Sized Salmon on Cucumber Slices
Last night's dinner can make for a healthy, bite-sized snack during the day. When you need some energy, protein can help fill you up and give you the boost you need to make it through a busy workday. Two ounces of baked or broiled wild salmon topped on cucumber slices may just do the trick.
"Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which due to its anti-inflammatory properties may reduce risk factors for heart disease and joint pain," says Gans. "Plus, an entire cup of sliced cumber is roughly 15 calories — so the high-volume, high-fiber and low-calorie crunch will keep your brain and stomach equally happy. Cucumber is also a nice source of vitamin K and magnesium," says Bogden.
To further maximize the nutrition of your cucumbers, be sure to eat them with the skin on.
12. Green, Leafy Vegetables
If variety in a snack is what you are craving, look no further than fresh greens. In any variety, they offer a great source of nutrients.
Simply combine cooked spinach, kale, Swiss chard or collard greens together and add a bit of seasoning and vegetable broth for a dose of goodness at 90 calories. Add your choice of veggies, like onions, as well as light olive oil to spruce up the taste of this concoction.
Enjoy a fresh bag of greens or shredded kale salad while on-the-go, or slurp up a mixture of greens with broth in a thermos during the day while at school or work. According to Bogden, these nutritious greens are a great source of the vitamins and minerals needed for optimal health. "Leafy greens are an awesome source of B vitamins, vitamins A and C, iron and fiber — making them the perfect natural source for energy and detoxification," she says.
13. Protein Smoothies
Create your own taste of paradise with a healthy green smoothie. Combine 1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk, 1/4 of a small banana, 1/4 cup of spinach, 1/4 scoop of protein powder and ice for a daily boost of energy. Despite its rich green color, this smoothie is a sweet and creamy treat. It's great for post-workout, too.
The nutritional benefits include a host of nutrients, such as vitamins K, C and A, along with iron, magnesium, folate and manganese. The carbs and fiber from the banana and the protein from the protein powder help to keep this nutritious beverage balanced.
Read more: 10 Ultimate Smoothies for Any Time of Day
It doesn't have to be movie night to break out the popcorn. As long as it's not drenched in butter and salt, Hoban says that popcorn can be a great low-calorie treat. Opt for the mini 100-calorie microwaveable bags of popcorn — or air-pop it for less than 50 calories per cup.
"Popcorn is low in calories and fat and high in fiber, making it an ideal snack," says Hoban. Spruce up this family-friendly treat by adding your favorite spices and seasonings to a bowl of freshly popped popcorn.
15. Avocado With Balsamic Vinegar
For a snack with an appetizing kick, opt for 1/4 of an avocado drizzled with balsamic vinegar, all for under 100 calories. This delicious fruit is also a heart-friendly health food with a myriad of positive benefits.
According to Gans, avocados are high in fiber and healthy fat, which will help moderate blood sugar and make you feel full longer. Avocados are also an excellent source of potassium, says Bogden. And balsamic vinegar is known for its high antioxidant content, so dig in and enjoy.
Fresh fruit is a low-calorie choice for the health-conscious snacker. "Fruits like pears and apples are high in heart-healthy fiber, which may help you feel full. Additionally, berries are packed with vitamin C, which may help to strengthen your immune system and may help decrease your risk for certain cancers," Gans says.
“Eating fruit can elevate blood sugar, so pairing fruit with a teaspoon of almond or cashew butter is a delicious way to feel full while preventing a blood sugar spike,” Bogden says.
17. Sunflower Seeds
Just 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds are a heart-healthy snack that may help ease inflammation and strengthen your bones. Sunflower seeds, a convenient on-the-go treat, contain a good source of selenium, magnesium and copper to keep your bones strong, and antioxidants linked to reduced inflammation.
"Sunflower seeds make for a great snack rich in vitamin E," says Gans. To keep this snack at 100 calories, portion out around 2 tablespoons of seeds.
Read more: Can Sunflower Seeds Help You Lose Weight?
- My Food Data: “Tomatoes”
- My Food Data: “Plain Feta Cheese”
- T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies: “Why Vegetable Mineral Broth Is Healthier Than Bone Broth”
- Mediators of Inflammation: “Enhancing the Health-Promoting Effects of Tomato Fruit for Biofortified Food”
- Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health: “Dark Chocolate”