All snacks are not created equal. Those with similar calories might have vast differences nutritionally. And nutrient-dense snacks can keep you satisfied longer than snacks that are high in sugar and fats. That can help you eat less between meals.
Roseann Doran, educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Fulton and Montgomery counties, likes to refer to the MyPlate guidelines when talking about snacking.
“You want to look at the MyPlate food guidance system and choose, just like you’re planning a meal,” she said. “Snacks are just mini meals throughout the day. If it’s all balanced out, you should feel satisfied.”
The balance comes from the right mix of foods, which include quality proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
When Capital District Weight Watchers leader and ambassador Vicky Verrelli snacks, she makes sure to pair one of the so-called “power foods” — fruits, vegetables, whole grains and non-fat or low-fat dairy — with some kind of protein. For example, she might mix a half cup of fat-free Greek yogurt with a half cup of blueberries and one teaspoon of pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
Another pairing is an ounce of low-fat cheese or low-fat string cheese and a serving of whole grain crackers. She also makes apple and peanut butter sandwiches by combining slices from one apple with one tablespoon of peanut butter in between.
“Between the fiber and the fruit and the peanut butter, it will keep you full for a longer period of time,” she said.
Doran suggested pairing black bean hummus (the beans provide a healthy dose of fiber plus protein) with vegetables or a whole grain cracker. Another is rice cakes with banana and peanut butter. “That would give you some carbohydrate and protein with a little bit of fat,” she said.
Even though the food industry has inundated the market with fat free products, people shouldn’t be afraid of having “good” fats in measured amounts. “Fat free isn’t always the right way to go because it’s fewer calories and you might get hungry sooner, but if you have a little protein with your snack, it’s going to help stay with you,” Doran said.
Verrelli would agree. “Fat is what helps keep you full,” she said, noting that people should focus on the “good” or “healthy” fats such as olive oil, canola oil and nut butters.
Watching serving size, though, when it comes to fat, is important. While nuts are an excellent way of getting protein, they are high in fat, so you have to watch your portion size, Doran said.
If you’re looking to stay satiated longer, avoid foods that have a lot of added fat and sugar, Doran said.
Thinking ahead can help with smart snacking and meals, too. Verrelli makes sure she carries her healthy snacks with her so she avoids the bad choices that come when she lets herself get too hungry.
Turkey and Roasted-Pepper Lettuce Rolls
8 leaves lettuce, romaine variety, with the tough part of stalks removed
8 slices ounces turkey breast (1-ounce each)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
12 ounces roasted red peppers (packed in water, not oil), drained and sliced
1⁄4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Place the lettuce leaves cupped-side up, with the root ends toward you. Place one slice of the turkey on each leaf. Spread each slice with mustard. Divide the red peppers, basil and pepper among the leaves. Fold in the sides of each filled leaf one at a time. Then, starting at the root end, roll up and secure with a toothpick, if needed.
For variety, add chopped, drained capers; drained, sliced hearts of palm; or fresh alfalfa or radish sprouts.
A low-fat alternative to cocktail nuts, these spicy beans also taste great tossed into salads. Store in an airtight container to maintain freshness.
2 cups canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1⁄4 teaspoon garlic powder
1⁄8 teaspoon pepper, red or cayenne
Olive oil cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Spread chickpeas on baking sheet and sprinkle with garlic powder and red pepper; toss to coat. Roast on bottom rack of oven, shaking pan about every 15 minutes, until browned and slightly crunchy, about 45 to 50 minutes. (The chickpeas will still be somewhat soft. Cook longer for desired texture.) Cool before serving. Yields about 1⁄2 cup per serving.
Black Bean Dip
This crowd-pleasing dip is a snap to make. Add some diced jalapeno peppers or hot sauce if you want it extra spicy.
15 ounces canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
1⁄2 cup fat-free salsa
1⁄2 cup fat-free plain yogurt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
Put all ingredients in a food processor or blender; blend until desired consistency — either chunky or smooth. Spoon dip into a serving bowl.