“When it comes to snacks, you need to decipher if you are really hungry and not just bored or stressed,” says Amy S. Margulies, R.D. “Physical hunger tends to come on gradually. May make your stomach growl. You are usually feeling more open to food options, with the goal of feeling satisfied with your snack.”
Meanwhile, “head hunger” often comes on quickly, usually with no signs from your stomach but instead signs from a commercial, advertisement, stress, or boredom. You may get stuck on having one specific food—and it’s probably one that will leave you feeling unsatisfied or guilty after.
Margulies says the key to managing your hunger cravings is (believe it or not) eating. Consuming balanced meals is the key to keeping both your mind and your body satisfied. “When you are satisfied, you are not looking for more,” she says.
So what snacks supply your body with the nutrients it needs while still being satisfying? Produce and protein are a winning combination. They provide you with energy throughout your day—vital for tackling your to-do list, exercising, and feeling healthy and strong. “Produce is low in calories but rich in filling fiber and fluid. And high-protein foods help you feel satisfied for longer,” Margulies says.
Ahead, Margulies and Kim Yawitz, R.D., a gym owner in St. Louis, share the healthiest low-calorie snacks to munch and crunch on at home or on-the-go.
Apple and Almond Butter
“A medium apple with 2 tablespoons of almond butter has a whopping 8 grams of belly-filling fiber, plus 7 grams of plant protein,” says Yawitz.
Nutrition for 1 apple and 2 Tbsp almond butter: 272 calories, 7g protein, 28g carbs (0g added sugar, 8g fiber), 18g fat
Cottage Cheese and Tomatoes
Yawitz notes that cottage cheese contains casein, which is “a slow-digesting dairy protein that promotes fullness.”
She says she loves to mix the nutrient-dense dairy product with a bit of low-sodium taco seasoning for flavor and top it with some cherry tomatoes to up the fiber quotient. (If you’re in the mood for something sweet, scoop out a cantaloupe and put cottage cheese in there, perhaps with some Grape Nuts cereal as a satiating topping.)
1 cup 2% cottage cheese and 15 cherry tomatoes: 229 calories, 26g protein, 21 grams carbohydrate (0 g added sugar, 3 g fiber), 6g fat
High-Protein Yogurt, Berries, and Walnuts
“Ratio Protein Yogurt tastes like pie filling and has 25 grams of protein per serving,” says Yawitz, who suggests topping it with one tablespoon of crushed walnuts and one cup of blueberries.
1 container of vanilla yogurt, 1 Tbsp walnuts, and 1 cup blueberries: 302 calories, 27g protein, 31g carbs, (0g added sugar, 4g fiber), 9g fat
Hard-Boiled Eggs on Toast
“Eggs are a great source of vitamins and minerals like choline, which helps lower LDL—or 'bad'—cholesterol,” says Yawitz. “I like them hard-boiled on toast after a mid-morning workout.”
1 slice toast and 2 hard-boiled eggs: 260 calories, 17g protein, 22g carbs (5g added sugar, 5g fiber), 12g fat
Whey Protein and Banana
“Whey protein powder is a convenient on-the-go snack that’s much healthier than most gas station options,” says Yawitz. “Keep a scoop in a shaker bottle in your car, and grab a banana or your fruit of choice on your way out the door to add balance to your snack.” (If you’re plant-based, try one of these muscle-building vegan protein powders.)
1 scoop whey protein mixed in water and 1 medium banana: 229 calories, 25g protein, 31g carbs (0g added sugar, 3g fiber) 1g fat
Turkey Half-Sandwich on Whole Wheat Bread
“Turkey breast is a lean protein that keeps you full without adding a bunch of calories from fat. Throw some on a slice of bread for a quick and easy snack-wich,” says Yawitz. For some extra fiber, feel free to add avocado, lettuce, and/or tomato.
1 slice of bread with 3 oz white-meat turkey: 213 calories, 23g protein, 23g carbs (5g added sugar, 5g fiber), 3g fat
Shrimp Cocktail with Crudité
“Shrimp cocktail is a refreshing, high-protein snack,” says Yawitz. “Add one cup of veggies for some fiber (and crunch!) but take it easy on the cocktail sauce, which can be high in sugar.”
3 oz shrimp with 2 Tbsp cocktail sauce and 1 cup carrots: 182 calories, 17g protein, 23g carbs (4g added sugar, 5g fiber), 1g fat
Watermelon and Feta Salad
Sweet and salty come together in this interesting combination. Margulies adds some kick to it by adding in some spices, like cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes. "You can quickly prepare this when cleaning up for dinner the night before, and portion into single-serving containers for a delicious snack over the next few days,” Margulies says.
Mix together watermelon and feta, and in a small bowl whisk canola oil, honey, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, and salt together. Pour on top of watermelon and feta cheese and combine. Top with fresh basil and any additional herbs and spices of choice.
1/2 cup watermelon, 1/4 cup crumbled feta, 1 Tbsp honey, 1 Tbsp canola oil: 120 calories, 4g protein, 11g carbs, 10g sugar, 1g fiber, 8g total fat
Not only is this snack super quick to make, but it’s still an excellent source of nutrients, fiber, and protein. You’ll need wooden skewers to eat this recipe the fancy way, but you can also just eat it in a bowl.
To make one serving, slice one mozzarella string cheese into five short pieces. Slide one piece onto a skewer and follow with one small cherry tomato and a piece of fresh basil. Repeat four times and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
1 mozzarella cheese stick, 5 cherry tomatoes: 105 calories, 8g protein, 6g carbohydrates, (2g sugars, 1g fiber), 6g fat
Your Favorite Bar and Piece of Fruit
Sometimes you just don't have the energy to put that much thought or effort into your healthy snack, especially if you're on-the-go. Maybe all you need is something you can toss from the cabinet into your bag to take to work with you—sticking with the classics has its benefits.
Grab your favorite protein bar, jerky bar, or fiber bar, and pair it with your favorite piece of fruit. The bar will get you the protein or fiber you need to stay full—just make sure you're picking the right kind. Not all bars are created equal. Aim for at least 3 g fiber or 15 g protein, and are made of mostly whole foods— think Kind bars. The fruit will hydrate you and provide some extra vitamins and minerals. It'll put you just around 300 calories too—just around 200 calories for the bar, and about 50 to 70 calories for a medium sized apple or peach.
Perri is a New York City-born and -based writer; she holds a bachelor’s in psychology from Columbia University and is also a culinary school graduate of the plant-based Natural Gourmet Institute, which is now the Natural Gourmet Center at the Institute of Culinary Education. Her work has appeared in the New York Post, Men's Journal, Rolling Stone, Oprah Daily, Insider.com, Architectural Digest, Southern Living, and more. She's probably seen Dave Matthews Band in your hometown, and she'll never turn down a bloody mary. Learn more at VeganWhenSober.com.