Sometimes, people watching their weight think that they have to deprive themselves of tasty, satisfying treats. Those small desserts with artificial sweeteners and the ones that weight-loss programs want to sell you for a big price … you’d have to eat about three of them to hit the spot! Thus defeating the purpose. And there’s no telling what chemicals you just consumed.
But there is a better way — and that’s to toss together all-natural, super nutritious and easy-to-prepare snacks. Because these foods are natural, they’re much more readily absorbed by the body; because they’re nutrient-dense — but not high in calories — they satisfy hunger, without weighing you down. Whether you’re in the mood for a sweet or need something yummy to tide you over until mealtime.
The following are 15 tasty treats that you can eat without guilt, since they’re as good for you as they are satisfying!
1. Popcorn: Can you eat a whole bag? Most of us couldn’t! You can munch to your heart’s content on this fiber-rich, light snack that will nicely quell hunger. Instead of seasoning with butter, try lightly sprinkling some ground garlic or cayenne pepper, thereby boosting its antioxidant properties and adding a nice kick. Complement with a glass of your favorite juice diluted with water (to cut calories).
2. Whole-grain crackers and your favorite natural cheese: the fiber in the crackers and the protein in the cheese will fill you. To cut calories, try low-fat mozzarella or low-fat ricotta cheese.
3. Cheese quesadilla with pico de gallo: if you have access to a microwave or stove, sprinkle some shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese on a tortilla, fold tortilla in half and heat briefly (heat both sides, covered, if using stove). To nourish and delight even more, top with two spoonfuls of “pico de gallo” — a popular topping in Mexican cuisine made with fresh, chopped tomatoes, onions, hot green peppers (like serranos) and cilantro. It preserves nicely with a little lemon juice, so you can make a cup of it and store it in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. P.S.: look for tortillas with no preservatives or fillers.
4. Low-fat cottage cheese and apple slices or…? You can get creative with the fruits, since just about all go great with cottage cheese. Here, you get the fruit fiber, plus lean protein and calcium from the cheese.
5. Nuts and fruit juice: a small handful of nuts and a small glass of fruit juice — the protein and fiber from the nuts will take care of your hunger; the juice will add nutrition and make it all go down nicely. Nuts also offer heart-healthy fats, and studies have found that regular consumption of nuts helps people keep their weight down; and since they don’t spoil quickly, nuts are also convenient to carry around for emergencies!
6. Apple slices or banana with peanut butter or almond butter: the fiber from the fruit and the protein from the nut butter will calm your hunger. This tasty treat is another snack that can travel around with you, without spoiling.
7. Yogurt with chopped fruits and nuts: make it plain or vanilla low-fat yogurt, to cut calories. Drizzle with a little honey. This is a snack that will satisfy your sweet tooth, as well as fill you up for a bit.
8. Half a cup of slow-churned ice cream topped with nuts: this kind of ice cream has some of the fat removed, while retaining a creamy texture. Add nuts for more filling power and nutrition.
9. Fruit smoothies: throw some fruits, crushed ice and low-fat milk or vanilla yogurt in a blender, and enjoy the tasty, nutritious, light beverage that comes out! A smoothie can be the perfect way to get some quick energy and tide you over, without filling you too much.
10. Cheese-stuffed pita pocket: if you can’t warm up a cheese quesadilla, a cold pita pocket with cheese is a healthy, light way to satisfy hunger.
11. Cookies and milk: a couple of medium-sized cookies and a small glass of low-fat milk will do nicely in a pinch; but the only caveat is that most cookies sold in supermarkets are refined flour and sugar, and little else; also, they often have artificial fillers and preservatives. Look for all-natural cookies … or make your own at home, folding in nuts and dried fruits (like raisins or cranberries) to add nutrients and fiber.
12. Rice cakes with a light coat of peanut butter, preserves or both, and a small glass of milk: have one or two of these with milk, and you’ll satisfy your sweet tooth and get a boost of energy.
13. Celery sticks with peanut butter, hummus or cheese: combine the fiber of celery with the protein in the peanuts, hummus or cheese, and you have a healthy, nutritious light snack for in-between meals.
14. Baby carrots dipped in mustard, mayo or plain lemon juice: carrots are a fiber-rich vegetable high in vitamin A, which promotes eye health and the production and activity of white blood cells. Mustard and lemon juice are excellent dips because they’re low in calories and have powerful disease-fighting antioxidants of their own. (Lemon juice should be fresh-squeezed, and if you use mayonnaise, go easy on it, and look for a brand without disodium EDTA, a strong chemical preservative that your body doesn’t need and that most brands have.)
15. Hard-boiled eggs and plain potato chips or tortilla chips: eggs are storehouses of nutrients, in addition to being rich in protein and calcium. A couple of eggs and some chips, and you’ll be good to go for a while. This is another snack that you can carry with you and needs no immediate refrigeration (hard-boiled eggs can keep at room temperature for a few hours, but make sure you place them in a storage bag or container, since their shells are porous and can let in bacteria). Boil a number of eggs, and put the ones you don’t eat in the refrigerator, where they’ll be ready to go.
By Marc Courtiol