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It's a familiar story: You're out for what seems like hours, running errands, shopping at the mall, or driving all day, when suddenly you feel that growl in your belly. You're hungry, and you didn't pack a snack. You could succumb to the Cinnabon stand or grab some fries at the drive-through, but there are better options! "A nutrient-dense snack will give you that quick fix you need until you get home to prepare a real meal," says Linda McLachlan, RD, CDN, a New Jersey dietitian with Nutrition Matters, LLC. Here, six emergency snacks that are healthy and filling:Fruit and Yogurt Parfait
When fast food restaurants are all you have access to -- say, when you're on a daylong driving trip -- it's best to know your healthy choices. A McDonald's Fruit and Yogurt Parfait will fill you up thanks to the fruit's fiber, and sustain your hunger, thanks to the yogurt's protein. Whatever you do, avoid the fries. "They're nothing but junk!" says McLachlan.
Recommended serving size: 1 small McDonald's fruit and yogurt parfait (hold the granola)
Calories: 130Wheat Thins and String Cheese
A single-serve bag of crackers and a string cheese are easy to find at a mini-mart or 7-11. What's more, they're a great combo to help curb your hunger and add some nutrients to your day. The Wheat Thins offer fiber and good, whole-grain carbs, while the string cheese adds hunger-zapping protein.
Recommended serving size: 1 single-serve bag of Wheat Thins and 1 string cheese
Calories: 240Yogurt Smoothie and a Banana
"Fresh fruit is always a great choice," says McLachlan. And when you combine it with dairy, you have a filling mini-meal. Look for a bottled yogurt smoothie with about 100 calories. "Check the label and avoid smoothies with fructose or high fructose corn syrup listed as one of the first ingredients," says McLachlan. This type of refined sugar will cause your blood sugar to peak, then crash -- making you hungry again before too long.
Recommended serving size: 1 bottled low-fat smoothie and one banana
Calories: about 170A Fresh Apple and Skim Milk
Sure, it may take you back to grade school, but a simple apple and carton of skim milk from the convenience store make for a top-notch snack. "Apples fill you up with fiber, and skim milk is a great addition to any snack for its calcium, riboflavin, and vitamin D," says McLachlan.
Recommended serving size: 1 medium apple and 1 8-ounce carton of skim milk
Calories: 170Bag of Chocolate-Covered Pretzels
"Usually when we're on the go, we're also stressed out," says McLachlan. "And many of us want comfort food when we're stressed." That why McLachlan suggests chocolate-covered pretzels for those days when you're in a comfort-food mood. Chocolate-covered pretzels are not nutrient-dense, so they're not a good choice for a daily or even weekly emergency snack. But the do offer enough calories with little enough fat to fill you up and give you a feel-good-food fix once in a while.
Recommended serving size: 1 single-serve bag of chocolate-covered pretzels
Calories: 130Half a Wheat Bagel with Cream Cheese
If you're looking for a more substantial snack, try hitting the bagel shop for a whole-grain bagel. Packed with fiber, it'll fill your tummy for several hours (stick to one half); smear on some reduced-fat cream cheese, and the little bit of fat will give this snack even more staying power.
Recommended serving size: half a bagel and 1 tbsp. reduced-fat cream cheese
Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, January 2006.