Are you trying to lose weight? It’s not easy! Diet restrictions are hard to stick with, which is why so many people fail.
What’s the number one reason people fail their diets? Cravings!
It doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to go vegan, keto, Atkins, or a smoothie diet; if you can’t manage your cravings, your diet won’t work.
Most people try to ignore their cravings, assuming that they’ll go away. Sometimes they do. Often, though, they just come back with a vengeance until you break and eat that ice cream, pull open that bag of chips, or scarf down a candy bar. Then you feel shame, you spiral, and before you know it, you’ve lost all your weight loss progress.
Why fight the cravings? If it’s just a losing battle, why bother?
Instead, give in. Indulge a little. Eat that snack at 2 p.m. to carry you through to dinner time or that midnight junk food to soothe your stomach before you sleep.
There’s a trick, though. You can’t snack on chips, donuts, candy, or whatever other junk you’re craving.
What you should do is keep some healthy snacks on hand. You can eat many different healthy foods to satisfy your cravings (and give your body the nutrients it’s craving) without ruining your diet.
How a Diet Helps
Diets help you lose weight in two ways.
1. First, they help you control what you’re eating, so you can ditch the disastrous junk food. Fried foods, heavily processed foods, foods full of preservatives, foods full of sugar; these are all terrible for you. They throw off your hormonal system, they mess with your insulin production, and they encourage your body to pack on fat.
2. Second, diets help you reduce the overall quantity of food you eat. The less you eat in terms of pure calories, the faster you can lose weight.
Figure out your maintenance level (the number of calories you burn throughout the day) and eat less than that, and you’ll lose weight. It’s pretty easy to calculate, too.
When you replace junk snacks with healthy snacks, two things happen.
1. First, you replace those junk ingredients (the sugar, the preservatives, the salt, the processed ingredients) with healthier proteins, fibers, and nutrients.
2. Second, healthy snacks tend to be more filling while having fewer calories. A 20 oz bottle of soda is 230+ calories. A full cup of cottage cheese (with additions like flax seeds and cinnamon) is 220! You’re probably not going to eat a full cup of cottage cheese at once, too. The difference is even more dramatic when you eat vegetables instead.
So, with all of that in mind, I’ve put together this list of 20 healthy snacks you can eat. They help satisfy your cravings, they replace junk you’d otherwise eat, and they help you stay on track with your weight loss.
20. Mixed Nuts
Mixed nuts (typically peanuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts, and others) are an excellent powerhouse snack to eat. They’re filling, they have plenty of healthy nutrients, and they have just enough calories to satisfy your cravings.
Pick up some roasted nuts – they are a great healthy option to snack on when you crave something savory. Plus, mixed nights might even be able to reduce the risk of heart disease! Just make sure you don’t go overboard with eating nuts and avoid nuts with oil and salt. Despite being healthy, nuts are also high in calories, so make sure you measure and limit your portions. An ideal serving size is 1/4 cup.
19. Bell Peppers
Take a bell pepper, slice it open, remove the seeds, cut it into “fries,” and serve. You can eat them with a sprinkle of salt or get a bit of homemade veggie dip or guacamole. As long as you don’t go overboard with the dip, you’ll stay low-calorie while getting plenty of antioxidants and vitamins from your veggies. Bell peppers also have more Vitamin C than an orange!
Red bell peppers are generally the go-to choice due to their higher levels of antioxidants. If you want something a little sweeter, though, go with the yellow or orange bell peppers instead.
Popcorn might not sound like a healthy snack, but it can be in the right situation. The trick is, you should avoid buying popcorn from a snack store or buying the microwaved bag stuff. Instead, pop your own, and make sure you get popcorn that doesn’t have any artificial butter or extra coatings on it.
What you’re trying to do is avoid all of the oils, salts, and whatever else ends up in the flavoring of the popcorn. Sure, chocolate-covered caramel corn is delicious, but it’s not a healthy snack.
Take fresh popcorn and sprinkle on a bit of sea salt or a low-calorie popcorn topping to give it a bit of ranch, cheese, or other flavorings. Go light on the toppings! This snack can satisfy your cravings for chips and other salty snacks.
17. Dark Chocolate
Yup, that’s right. You can have chocolate as a snack without breaking your diet! Well, that’s not entirely true. You can have specific kinds of chocolate. Specifically, you can have dark chocolate.
A general rule of thumb is that the lighter the chocolate, the worse it is for you. Milk chocolate is dark chocolate that has been watered down with dairy proteins and sugar. White chocolate is more sugar than chocolate.
Dark chocolate, meanwhile, is rich, sweet, and fruity when it’s well-made. Skip the Hershey’s bars and go for a small batch, ethically produced dark chocolate bars. Limit yourself to about an ounce at a time, and aim for at least 70% cocoa content, and you’re in the clear.
Full-fat Greek yogurt is, well, full of fat. The thing is, fat isn’t bad for you. Certain kinds of fats, like those found in deep-fried foods, are. Others, like the fat found in Greek yogurt, are good for you in moderation.
A cup of Greek yogurt is a very flexible snack. You can mix in some spices like cinnamon for a chai-like taste. You can stir in some fruit for a fruity snack. You can mix in some granola to give it texture. You can do whatever you want! A small cup of Greek yogurt with half a cup of berries is still under 150 calories.
15. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is an excellent snack because it’s filling, it’s rich, and it’s full of healthy fats that benefit your cholesterol and overall heart health. I recommend getting fresh-ground all natural peanut butter if you can, rather than the stuff from the grocery store since it will have no preservatives or added ingredients. You should also look for “no sugar added” peanut butter. As an alternative, you can make your own nut butter at home.
Of course, just eating a spoonful of peanut butter isn’t interesting, so you can add something healthy to eat with it or use for dipping. Apple slices are great for fiber, sweetness, and antioxidants. Celery sticks are great for crunch and a neutral, low-calorie option.
Hummus is a delicious and healthy dip that goes great with a bit of pita, crackers, or vegetables. One of my favorite ways to serve it is with cucumber slices. Make them thick enough to hold up, and you’ll get a nice clean crunch with every bite.
Hummus is healthy and easy. You can even make it yourself at home! All you need is chickpeas, olive oil, and garlic. You can also add in an additional flavoring, like some lemon juice or a bit of za’atar. Blitz them in a food processor until smooth. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make.
13. Green Deviled Eggs
Eggs are a great snack, and if you want to chow down on some hard-boiled egg, that’s fine. If you want something with a little more flavor, why not give green deviled eggs a try?
Traditional deviled eggs remove the yolk and mix it with mustard, mayo, vinegar, and spices.
While it’s delicious, mayo isn’t a very healthy ingredient. You can use avocado in place of mayo; it’s equally delicious and healthier for you, and the avocado’s color is what gives these green deviled eggs their name.
Avocado is a great, healthy source of fat. Mash up some of that green goodness in place of the mayo (and leave out the mustard if you don’t like the combo). They’re a great little snack, though it can be a bit difficult to transport, and you’ll want to eat them when they’re still fresh.
Fruit is like the candy of nature. It’s has some sugar, sure, but natural fructose is much better for you than processed sugars you get in corn syrup or table sugar. Plus, whole fruits give you a ton of vitamins, minerals, and natural fibers, all of which are beneficial to the body.
A few handfuls of berries, some stone fruit, or a citrus-based fruit of your choice are all excellent options. You can also go for dehydrated fruit options or fruit crisps, like apple chips or banana chips, if you want something that doesn’t risk getting juice everywhere.
While pistachios could fall under the banner of mixed nuts up above, it’s worth singling them out. Pistachios are very healthy and full of good fats and nutrients. Plus, the serving size is much larger than other tree nuts; you can eat 49 of them in one sitting!
On top of all of that, if you get them still in the shell, it requires a little bit of effort to open them, which slows you down and helps your body recognize when you’re satisfied.
Alright, so it’s not necessarily a “snack” in the traditional sense, but soup can be a good choice for a between-meals food. I’m not saying to bust out a can of Campbell’s here, though. Soup is healthiest if you can make it on your own.
It would help if you also stuck to broth-based soups, so a simple vegetable, lentil, or chicken soup is ideal. You can also make soup from bone broth, which has the added benefit of having high collagen content for skin and joint health.
Pack away a cup of soup in a thermos or a microwave-safe container for later in the day. It’s even better on cold days!
9. Frozen Grapes
Grapes are one of the few fruits that you can freeze without tearing them apart or making a mess when they thaw.
Frozen grapes are perfect as a cold snack food. Cold, sweet, flavorful grapes are an excellent way to slow down how quickly you eat, too, for more mindfulness in your snacking habits.
8. Tomatoes and Cheese
Did you think cheese would be on this list? Okay, well, I already mentioned cottage cheese, but this is a different kind of cheese. One good snack option is diced-up cubes of mozzarella – the fresher, the better – and cherry tomatoes.
By keeping the tomato whole, you avoid making a mess. A cup of tomatoes and a couple of ounces of mozzarella make for a great snack that’s still under 200 calories.
Meat jerky is just dried meat, which makes for a great snack that is both portable and rich. The trick is, you need to get a good brand.
Many of the “meat stick” snacks you find out there are packed with salt, sugar, sodium, and preservatives, all of which can be terrible for you in large amounts. Instead, find something using grass-fed beef, no preservatives, and low sodium.
No, I’m not saying you need to fry up some fish in your office break room. Both salmon and tuna are good, healthy fish you can eat, and you can snack on them cold.
You can find both of them in snack packs, too. Serve on some healthy crackers, or eat it by itself. You can also try smoked salmon on cucumber slices. It’s filling, low in calories, and delicious.
5. Deli Meat Roll-Ups
Want a good snack that covers all the bases? Try this.
Take a slice of your favorite deli meat (turkey and ham both work well). Then take a veggie of some kind – pickle, green onion, bell pepper, or cucumber strips all work well – and put it on one edge. Spread a thin layer of cream cheese over the top of it. Roll up the meat around the veggie. You’ll end up with a cheesy, savory treat. Some deli meats can have high sodium content, like cured ham, and it would be best if you stuck with low sodium meats.
4. Energy Bites
There are a million recipes for energy bites, but they’re all similar. They mix up oats, a nut butter like peanut butter, additives like flax seeds or hemp seeds, a sweetener like dates or honey, and other bits you might like, such as diced fruit or chocolate chips.
Rolled into balls and chilled, they turn into simple, bite-sized treats. Give them a try!
Believe it or not, whole olives make an excellent little snack. Kalamatas, black olives, green olives; there are a lot more varieties than you might think. One serving is under 200 calories, and it still has over 25 olives.
Even just 5-10 of them can make a decent snack, especially if you’re craving something salty.
2. Homemade Granola
Granola that you buy from the store tends to be loaded with sugar and preservatives. It’s meant to encourage you to keep eating granola, rather than to sate a simple craving. Luckily, it’s simple to make your own.
Oats, nuts, fruit, seeds, a bit of salt, some spices like cinnamon, a dash of honey, and you’re done.
No article on healthy snacks would be complete without mentioning smoothies. Smoothies are the ultimate healthy snack because they can be customizable to the size, flavor profile, and composition you want. No matter what you’re craving, there’s a smoothie out there for you.
Check out our 21 Day Smoothie Challenge for some delicious recipes!