Even if you eat healthy meals, you can’t always pack in all the vitamins, minerals, fats, protein and produce that your body needs every day. Which is why your snacks (almost a quarter of your daily calories, FYI) have to work harder and fill in any nutritional holes. You should aim to eat healthy snacks every three to five hours, says Stephanie Middleberg, R.D.N., the founder of Middleberg Nutrition in New York City. “Noshing more often than that means you’re not really hungry or that your last meal wasn’t big enough. And if you wait too long, you’ll be ravenous.”
If you need a snack between breakfast and lunch, keep it at 100 to 150 calories. To bridge the much longer gap between lunch and dinner, which for many people is six hours or more, aim for 150 to 250 calories. And whenever you snack on fruits or vegetables, add some protein and a little healthy fat to keep you satiated and help you eat less later on.
Here are a few tasty nibbles for when you feel the urge for a snack coming on.
Make Japanese avocado “toast”
Top squares of nori with sliced avocado and a sprinkle of sesame seeds for a savory snack that’s chewy, creamy and crunchy, says Middleberg. Seaweed is rich in vitamins and minerals, and avocado is full of healthy fat.
Savory yogurt makes a great snack
Mix a pinch of sea salt into 6 ounces of plain yogurt and top with thinly sliced radishes and cucumbers. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with chopped dill and finish with a pinch more of sea salt.
Make sweet and savory celery sticks
Give the childhood favorite “ants on a log” a grown-up makeover. Fill celery sticks with tahini and dot them with dried cranberries for a crunchy treat with a nutty-sweet taste that’s high in protein, fiber and calcium.
Give dates a makeover
With their intense sweetness and hearty chewiness, just a few Medjool dates can satisfy a sugar craving. Amp up their flavor by stuffing them with a salty cheese like chevre or feta, Middleberg suggests.
Bake up a crunchy chickpea snack
Roast a batch of chickpeas for a crunchy, nutty, addictive snack that’s high in fiber and protein. Drizzle 2 cups drained chickpeas with 1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, and sprinkle with seasonings to taste. (For a tropical flavor, try ground ginger, coconut sugar and orange zest; for a ranch flavor, use garlic powder, dried dill, salt and pepper.) Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and roast at 375 F for about 20 minutes, stirring once or twice.
Get a boost from mango-chia pudding
Chia is perfect post-gym. In a blender, process the flesh of 2 mangoes, 1/2 cup light coconut milk and 1 tablespoon agave syrup until smooth. Add 3 tablespoons of chia seeds; pulse to incorporate. Pour into two small bowls. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to a week. Enjoy topped with coconut.
Enjoy pumpkin-pie nut-butter dip
Blend 1/2 cup nut butter with 1 cup pumpkin puree and 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. Enjoy the dip with chopped vegetables. Low-cal pumpkin adds a potent dose of vitamin A, which helps keep skin, teeth and muscles healthy.
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