If you’re a frequent snacker, choosing smart, low-calorie snacks and making some low-calorie swaps during meals can actually make snacking a net benefit to your healthy eating plan. The truth is that some of us like to snack … and the rest of us love to snack! Problems appear when we choose the wrong snacks and don’t compensate in other areas. In fact, healthy snacking can often help keep you from overindulging on high-calorie options during meals
You can still maintain or lose weight while enjoying frequent snacks, especially if you’re into calorie-burning fitness walks. We’re bringing you surprising low cal snack secrets, a variety of low-cal drinks, plus a simple swap that snackers can use to save you a ton of calories during meals!
3 full meals a day works for some people, but not everyone! Some people are able to go long periods without eating, but other people see their blood sugar levels fall which can increase cravings for carb-rich foods. It’s important to snack smart, however, as many people overestimate the number of calories they burn while walking and tend to treat themselves with more calories than they burned.
The best snacks, and the ones we gravitate to most often, are convenient. They’re easy to grab and easy to take with us to work or wherever we happen to be. You can think of your calories the same way you think of your finances – you can spend your money in big chunks or make smaller purchases over time. Either can work, as long as you’re making good choices.
A tasty, surprisingly low-cal snack like popcorn, an egg dish or fruit-infused seltzer water, plus some easy meal swaps, can help you eat healthily even if you love to snack.
Popcorn – The Low-Cal Way
You may not think of popcorn as a healthy snack, but air-popped popcorn is actually fairly low in calories and can keep you feeling full. Popcorn is a whole grain containing B vitamins and vitamin E. It is also high in fiber and can help fight bad cholesterol. Popcorn itself is just a corn kernel – it’s the oil, butter and other toppings that really pile on the calories. The healthiest popcorn is air-popped, as it isn’t saturated with fatty oils. As a go-to snack though, plain air-popped popcorn can have all the appeal of styrofoam packing peanuts. Instead, add some flavor to your popcorn to keep it fresh and give yourself a variety of tastes to choose from.
The easiest way to flavor popcorn is to use a large bowl, add in your salt, pepper or other flavorings and simply toss to coat. If you find your flavors aren’t sticking, you can try spraying your popcorn with just a little olive oil or butter spray before you season it. This prevents the flavors from hiding on the bottom of the bowl. Just don’t overdo the spray, because oil is oil!
Sweet Popcorn – Indulge Your Sweet Tooth
- Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon and sugar
- Salt your popcorn and drizzle it with a tablespoon of melted dark chocolate
- Mix popcorn with your favorite dry cereal
Savory Popcorn – For a Fancy Snack
- Top with garlic powder and parmesan cheese
- Make it sizzle with chili powder and cayenne pepper
- Try black pepper with celery salt and garlic
The Humble Egg
We’ve covered how eggs are high in protein, carb-free and are fairly filling. Coming in at about 70 calories per egg, they’re low in calories as well. You may think of eggs as a breakfast food, but you can enjoy eggs as a snack throughout the day. Since eggs cook so quickly, prep is easy and they’re very versatile to cook with.
Hard-boiled eggs are an easy, convenient snack that comes in at only the 72-78 calories per egg. You can simply pop one in your mouth when you’re feeling hungry without the sugar crash of a candy bar.
Hard-boiled eggs are easy to make ahead in batches as well. Here’s a guide from SimplyRecipes, but there are tons of resources on how to make the perfect hard-boiled egg. You generally just need to boil eggs for 10-15 minutes, then cool them in a cold water bath to stop cooking.
Hard-boiled eggs can keep for up to a week in the fridge. For easier snacking, peel them after boiling (after they cool of course) so you don’t have to take the time and effort to peel them when you want a snack.
Eggs can form the basis for a tasty baked muffin that’s lower in calories (and much lower in carbs) than a traditional flour-based snack. This guide from Delish can get you started, but all you really need are a muffin tray, eggs, a little milk and veggies or other mix-ins. Add your fillings to the muffin cups, then pour in your beaten egg mixture and bake in the oven.
Depending on what you add into your egg muffins, you might be only looking at 100-150 calories or less per muffin. They heat up very quickly in the microwave, and they’re perfect to store in small containers to grab and go. By changing up your mix-ins, you can have a different egg muffin every day – from bacon and cheese to spinach and veggies to more exotic options like curry or hot sauce.
Avacado & egg
Egg pairs great with avocadoes – it’s often the basis for the famous avocado toast. 1/3 of an avocado is about 80 calories, so pair that with a hard-boiled or poached egg and you have about 160 calories of filling, tasty snack.
If you want a true avocado toast, add in a slice of whole wheat bread (80 calories) and you have a delicious ~240 calorie mini-meal that’s packed with protein, healthy fats and whole grains. While 240-calories does add up, a healthy egg and avocado toast is going to be way more filling than a candy bar, donut, or flavored latte while giving you more nutrients and leaving you full longer.
If you’re a constant snacker, staying hydrated with zero-cal drinks can often quench your snacking habit as well as your thirst. We often snack because we’re bored, thirsty, or simply need a quick boost that plain water can provide just as well as a small snack.
Often the greatest source of empty calories that snackers take in are from sugary drinks like soda, juices and bottled coffee. Keeping hydrated with water (or other zero-calorie drinks) helps you avoid reaching for those sugary liquid snacks. By swapping just one soda or juice for water, you’ve also freed up 100 calories or more for a tasty, filling, low-cal snack.
Drink More Water
The best thing you can do for your body and your waistline is to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. Water has no calories and helps you feel full, which means you’ll be less tempted to snack. Often, we think we’re hungry but we’re actually craving hydration. Try drinking a glass of water when you feel the urge to snack, then wait 5-10 minutes. You may find that your snack urge has already disappeared.
Drinking plenty of water also helps you avoid reaching for sugary, high-calorie drinks as well. When you’re tempted to reach for soda, you’re often simply thirsty. If you’re feeling the urge to grab a soda from the store, try drinking a glass of water first and waiting a minute or two.
To add some flavor to your water, try infusing your water with some fruit slices. Berries work great – try slicing them to ensure that the berry flavor permeates the water. You can also try apple slices or other veggies that are more solid and hold together better in water.
You can also try seltzer or sparkling water to give yourself a soda-like treat without the calories and sugar. Sparkling fruit infusions also make great party drinks, or treats for guests when you’re hosting a dinner.
Tea – all kinds of varieties
Tea is naturally calorie-free, and there are many varieties to choose from. Darker teas, like black tea, have more caffeine and a stronger flavor, while on the other end you can find naturally caffeine-free herbal teas that are great any time of the day. Green tea is in the middle, but contains much less caffeine than coffee.
You don’t need to stop at plain tea to avoid a zero-cal treat. Your local supermarket is probably filled with more varieties of flavored teas, herbal teas, and exotic spiced teas than you could drink in a year. There’s surely one that you’ll enjoy on a cold winter day, or even a cool summer night.
Remember that adding sugar or milk to your tea will add additional calories, so use these sparingly, if at all. Natural infusions like lemon slices or cinnamon sticks can give you some calorie-free flavor.
Coffee – the right way
We’ve covered how coffee is naturally calorie-free, but the milk, sugar and syrup that many people add can turn a zero-cal drink into a ticking calorie bomb. If you’re not used to drinking black coffee, add any milk or sugar yourself (instead of trusting the barista not to add too much) and gradually decrease it over time. Coffee can be an acquired taste, but once you get used to it you’ll notice the subtle flavors of different coffee types.
If you really can’t stomach black coffee, natural zero-calorie sweeteners can give you a bit of sweetness, or a simple cinnamon stick can give a natural zero-cal sweet flavor.
While most people can tolerate caffeine, relying on coffee for your hydration needs can be problematic. It’s often good to work in other beverages like tea (which contains generally less caffeine) and water instead of constantly chugging coffee all day. You’ll often find that after a glass or two of water, you won’t need to grab anything else.
Pasta Replacements – For When You Snack Too Much!
You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Even a 100-cal snack is still 100 calories, and adding them to your day without cutting back anywhere else will leave you eating a lot more calories than before. Make room in your calorie “budget” for your snacks by choosing healthier options for your other meals. Making substitutions for pasta and rice is actually easy and tasty. The textures and appearance will be similar, but the calorie counts are not even close.
If you have a food processor, you can have cauliflower “rice” prepped and cooked even faster than a bowl of instant rice. Just pulse raw cauliflower florets a few times. Place the faux rice in a covered bowl and microwave for two minutes. If you do not have a food processor, you can use a grater. A cup of white rice can have up to 250 calories, while riced cauliflower can come in at as little as 25 calories per cup!
If you are fortunate enough to have a spiralizer, zucchini is an excellent substitute for pasta. Use it in place of spaghetti with your meatballs and sauce, or use it to replace egg noodles in your favorite soup recipe. If you don’t have a spiralizer for your zucchini, you can make pasta-like ribbons of zucchini with a vegetable peeler. 1 cup of pasta runs about 220 calories, while plain zucchini is about 20 calories.
While you may still love your white rice and white pasta, isn’t it worth it to make some small changes (at least part of the time) if it means you can indulge a great snack for the same amount of calories?
Sometimes, just taking a walk can make a difference! It can help relieve stress and boost your mood, which can reduce cravings. Many times, taking our mind off of a snack craving can make us forget we were even hungry in the first place. If you’re thinking of grabbing that donut off of the snack plate, taking the time to go for a walk can often do the trick. You’ll feel happier from walking, and you’ll feel happier that you’re sticking with your healthy eating plan!
Studies have also found that walking can give you the same energy boost as an espresso, so if you’re thinking of reaching for a coffee why not walk instead!
Keep Healthy Snacks Easily Accessible
We all know vegetables can be healthy snacks, but if plan celery doesn’t seem appetizing to you then you’re more likely to grab something less healthy instead. By putting in a little work ahead of time, you won’t be tempted to reach for the easy, tempting, high-calorie options.
Set aside some time during your week to clean and prep veggies and healthy snacks so they’re pre-made and ready to go. Pack them in individual bags or containers if possible so you can just grab them whenever you need to. If you’re going to mindlessly eat something while watching TV, why not a bag of carrots and bell peppers? If you like your veggies with dip, try hummus or low-cal salad dressing.
Fresh fruit also makes great snacks. Eating the actual fruit is even better than drinking 100% juice, as the fruit contains fiber which keeps you feeling full longer. A banana is a great snack before your walk, and only contains about 100 calories! Fresh fruit takes longer to eat than juice and has no added sugar unlike many juices (though fruit does contain sugar naturally).
A lot of us love to snack, and that’s ok! With a few healthy tweaks and a little preparation, you can still enjoy tasty snacks without exploding your calorie count and your waistline!
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