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For many women, dieting equals food restriction. Snacks? They usually get eliminated in the name of saving calories. But snacking when you're watching your weight is actually a good idea. "[When dieting,] people often wait too long in between meals, so by the time they eat, they're so hungry, their portions or choices are out of control," says Linda McLachlan, RD, CDN, a New Jersey dietitian with Nutrition Matters, LLC. "Snacking helps keep you satisfied and wards off cravings." Here, seven low-calorie snacks to help you with your diet goals:Homemade Trail Mix
"Diet-friendly snacking doesn't necessarily have to be low-fat," says McLachlan. What's more important: Portion size. A homemade trail mix of walnuts, mini chocolate chips, and raisins is a snack that's satisfying (thanks to the sweetness and fat) and healthy for a dieter if portion sizes are kept in check. "Mix a palm full of walnuts with a pinch of chocolate chips and a pinch of raisins -- it's not always realistic to measure," says McLachlan.
Recommended serving size: about 1 ounce of walnuts and about a teaspoon each of raisins and chocolate chips
Calories: about 250
Packed with fiber, water, and antioxidants, fruits and vegetables are great choices for diet-friendly snacking. But the standard banana or carrots and ranch dip can get old quick. Instead, try a sliced apple with a lowfat cheese wedge, like Laughing Cow Light. "Having a little extra fat is good in a snack because it sustains you longer," says McLachlan.
Recommended serving size: 1 medium apple with 1 Laughing Cow Light cheese wedge
Calories: about 105
Feeling in the mood for cookies? While one standard Oreo or Chips Ahoy won't likely derail your diet, it's tough to stop at one. That's where a good substitute comes in. McLachlan recommends 2 graham cracker squares spread with light peanut butter. You'll get a mix of sweet and salty flavors, plus a protein and fat boost from the peanut butter, which will keep you full till your next meal.
Recommended serving size: 2 graham cracker squares with 1 tablespoon light peanut butter
A mini-meal snack is a good idea when dinner is a long way off. The combo of tomato soup and baby carrots is not just filling; it also gives you lots of body-healthy nutrients, like potassium, cancer-fighting lycopene, and beta-carotene. Try a microwavable soup cup that you can stash in your car's cup holder. (Concerned about sodium? Pour about a quarter of the soup down the drain and dilute the rest with water, says McLachlan.)
Recommended serving size: 1 Campbell's Soup at Hand Tomato Soup and 1 cup baby carrots
Believe it or not, a calorie-controlled frozen meal can be a great afternoon snack! Amy's Mexican Tamale Pie, for example, is chock-full of great carbs (in the form of beans and polenta) to give you energy; protein, to keep you satisfied; and veggies, to contribute antioxidants and vitamins. What's more, it's low-fat and filling!
Recommended serving size: 1 Amy's Mexican Tamale Pie
If you need your snack to have real staying power, go for a combo of good protein and a little bit of fat. A homemade egg salad is a great choice. Chop up one whole egg and one egg white, then mix with a tablespoon of reduced fat mayonnaise. The high-quality protein in the eggs will fuel your body for hours, while the fat helps slow digestion, so you'll feel full and energized longer.
Recommended serving size: 1 whole egg and one white plus 1 tablespoon reduced-fat mayonnaise
For a sweet fix, try mixing mandarin oranges canned in their own juice with a couple tablespoons of light whipped topping. The oranges give a great hit of vitamin C and other antioxidants, and the light whipped topping gives the snack an indulgent feel (a feeling you often miss when you're watching what you eat). "This is a good substitute for ice cream when you're dieting," adds McLachlan.
Recommended serving size: 1/2 cup canned mandarin oranges with 2 tablespoons light whipped topping
Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, January 2006.