Do you ignore those mid-morning and -afternoon hunger pangs for fear that eating will add unneccesary calories to your diet? Do you then find an extra helping at your next meal impossible to resist? Research shows that strategically snacking on small portions of healthy foods between meals can keep your calorie consumption under control and stop the urge to overeat. Next time your tummy grumbles and your next meal seems an eon away, reach for one of the following healthy snacks. They will satisfy your immediate hunger without wrecking your diet.
Keep snacktime interesting
If a piece of fruit or handful of nuts has you yawning at snacktime, consider out-of-the-ordinary options. Though it’s easy to reach for junk food when even the thought of another container of yogurt is a bore, you can give your snacktime culinary intrigue by being creative and using your cravings as a launchpad for healthy, interesting snacks.
Apple Pita Pizza
If a slice of apple pie is calling your name, avert the temptation with an apple pita pizza. A healthier alternative to a sugar-, fat- and calorie-laden dessert, this slimmed-down treat will satisfy your sweet tooth while healthfully refueling your tank.
Quick fix: Lightly saute half an apple with a little butter, a sprinkling of brown sugar and a dash of cinnamon. Arrange on a small, toasted whole-grain pita and sprinkle with a bit of cheddar cheese. Place under the broiler until the cheese gets bubbly. Cut in half and enjoy.
Traditionally a high-fat dessert composed of ice cream, whipped cream, sweet syrups and fruit, parfaits can be revamped into a super-healthy snack. Layering high-antioxidant fruit with rich and creamy Greek yogurt and crushed cereal turns a once diet-deadly indulgence into a healthy snack.
Quick fix: In a short, clear glass, layer a mix of blueberries, blackberries and diced mango with spoonfuls of nonfat Greek yogurt and crushed whole-grain cereal. Mix up the fruit, depending on the season, and try different flavors of yogurt for a tasty change.
Hard-Cooked Egg and Tomato
Packed with protein, a hard-boiled egg is a convenient, nutritious snack by itself. It can seem dull, though, without a colorful or flavorful accompaniment. Pairing an egg with a juicy, ripe tomato and honey mustard dressing makes for an out-of-the-ordinary savory nibble.
Quick fix: Slice a hard-cooked egg crosswise into five thick slices. Cut five slices into a tomato without slicing all the way through to the bottom, leaving the tomato essentially intact. Place an egg slice into each cut in the tomato. Drizzle with a low-fat honey mustard dressing.
Pumpkin Coconut Smoothie
Considered a superior fruit (yes, pumpkins are fruit), pureed pumpkin is packed with the antioxidant beta-carotene and other powerful phytonutrients while being lusciously low in calories (about 40 per cup). Pureed into a smoothie with coconut and vanilla soymilk, this super squash becomes a lavishly sweet treat.
Quick fix: In a blender or food processor, puree 3/4 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree (canned or fresh), 1/4 cup vanilla soymilk, 2 tablespoons toasted coconut flakes, and 1 tablespoon agave nectar. For extra flavor, add a dash of ground cinnamon and a drizzle of sugar-free coconut syrup, or subsitute chocolate soymilk for vanilla soymilk. To thicken, add a handful of ice cubes before blending.
Red-Bean Hummus with Baked Whole-Grain Pita Chips
Full of fiber, protein and naturally sweet flavor, kidney beans make a unique and healthy hummus. Partnered with baked pita chips, this snack is a nutritious change from the usual chips and dip. Instead of offering a high-fat, high-calorie nosh that leaves you hungry for more, hummus and baked whole-grain chips deliver the same great texture along with fiber and protein, which will keep your hunger at bay.
Quick fix: In a food processor, puree 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans (rinsed and drained) with a squeeze of lemon juice, pinch of garlic salt and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Cut a whole-grain pita or two into wedges, spray with nonstick cooking spray, and bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven until crisp. A snack serving is 1/4 cup hummus with half a pita.
Roasted Asparagus with Yogurt Dip
Lightly salted crisp-tender asparagus spears paired with a tangy herbed yogurt dip is a tasty between-meal snack that tantalizes your tastebuds for a fraction of the calories in typical snack foods. Eight asparagus spears ring in at under 30 calories, yet deliver 3 grams of fiber. Unlike mayonnaise, yogurt and other dairy products, yogurt is associated with healthy weight maintenance.
Quick fix: Spray 6 to 8 asparagus spears with olive oil and toss with salt and black pepper. Roast on a baking sheet in a preheated 400 degree F oven until tender. In a mini food processor, puree 1 cup plain yogurt, 2 tablespoons chopped mint and a generous squeeze of lime juice.
Tropical Pineapple Pudding
Decadent in taste, yet easy on the waistline, this island-inspired treat features fresh pineapple flavor and a dreamy, creamy texture. Pineapple is packed with vitamins and minerals, but you can substitute any fresh 100 percent juice.
Quick fix: Whisk 1/4 cup pineapple juice and 1/4 cup cornstarch in a bowl. Bring 4 cups of 100 percent pineapple juice and 3 tablespoons honey to a boil in a large saucepan, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir in cornstarch mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pudding coats the back of a spoon. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and divide into six ramekins. Refrigerate until chilled. Garnish with fresh diced pineapple and a sprinkling of minced macadamia nuts.