There’s nothing wrong with noshing between main meals — as long as you pick nutritious, filling snacks that curb your appetite.
Each day, the average American eats 2.2 snacks per day and receive one-quarter of their total calories from these snacks, according to the USDA. Since snacks are such a big portion of our diets, it’s smart to make sure they provide the right nutrients and help our bodies fight fat and recover from exercise or injuries. If you are eating three meals throughout the day, many nutritionists recommend eating two healthy snacks — one midmorning and another between lunch and dinner.
Here are six healthy and delicious treats to put on your list:
1. Chia seed pudding with blueberries
Treat yourself to a delicious chia seed pudding, which is high in anti-inflammatory omega-3s and fills you up on fiber. Mix in ¼ cup of chia seeds, one cup of coconut milk yogurt, a tablespoon of honey or maple syrup and a bit of vanilla extract, and let it sit in the fridge until the pudding sets. Top with blueberries or other favorite fresh fruit for added vitamin C and antioxidant goodness.
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It only takes a half of a cup of edamame (a.k.a. boiled green soybeans) to really boost the fiber, protein and vitamin/mineral content of any diet. This appetizing legume has 10 percent of the daily value of vitamins C and A, and contains about nine grams of fiber — the same amount you can get from four cups of steamed zucchini. Plus, you won’t have to worry about gaining weight, since half a cup of the green veggie has less than 120 calories.
3. Prosciutto and melon
This high-protein, low-carb snack is perfect for those mid-afternoon hunger pangs. Cut a honeydew melon into bite-size pieces, wrap a piece of prosciutto around each slice and hold them together with a toothpick or a wooden skewer. The total carbs for 1/8 of honeydew melon and two ounces of prosciutto is only 2.4 grams and the calorie count for this satisfying snack is 132.
“I always recommend going with fruit and a good source of lean protein with every snack that you take in,” said Chelsea Marquez, MS, a registered bariatric dietician nutritionist at Keck Medicine of USC.
4. Cottage cheese and apples
Sweet, crispy Granny Smith or Fiji apples and low-fat cottage cheese are great flavor companions, and they also do wonders for your body. Apples are rich in antioxidants, flavonoids and dietary fiber, while cottage cheese is a great source of protein, B complex vitamins, calcium, magnesium, potassium and other vital minerals. When you combine the two ingredients, you get a snack that is both delicious and good for you.
“Apples are a great source of fiber,” Marquez confirmed. “They’re also a great source of Vitamin D, which is what we need in the fall to keep our immunity up.”
5. Fresh vegetables with dip
You can buy snack-sized carrots, celery sticks or cucumber slices at your favorite grocery store or you simply make your own. Carrots and celery are excellent sources of antioxidants and vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, folate, vitamin B6 and manganese. Carrots also have beta-carotene and excellent fiber content. For added health benefits, use hummus, the flavorful Middle Eastern dip made with chickpeas, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and tahini (a sesame seed paste), and you’ll get more protein and more essential vitamins and minerals for your body.
6. A handful of almonds
Eating almonds is a great way to fight those midday food cravings. According to a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who added 1.5 ounces of almonds to their diet daily ate less at other times of the day. Almonds are a rich source of fiber, protein, heart-healthy fat, antioxidants and vitamins and minerals. Just make sure you don’t eat too many of them. Just one serving (23 almonds, one handful or ¼ cup) has 162 calories, 14 grams of unsaturated fats and six grams of protein.
“Nuts are a good source of Vitamin E. They’re also a good source of antioxidants, which helps keep your heart and blood pressure healthy,” Marquez said. “Pairing nuts and apples together can create a complete snack and create a big difference in carrying you through to your next meal.”
If you’re ready to explore healthier nutritional options, consider meeting with a digestive expert to discuss a personalized plan.
By Ramin Zahed
The USC Digestive Health Center has some of the world’s top digestive specialists. If you are in the Los Angeles area, be sure to schedule an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting http://digestive.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment/.