It's 10 a.m., just a few hours past your early-morning workout and breakfast, and you're beginning to feel your energy take a nosedive. What do you need right now? No, not another cup of coffee — you need a snack!
"Snacking keeps your metabolism revved up and is a great way to boost your energy," says Tara Gidus, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. But not just any old snack will do. You need a snack that's full of nutrients to power you through your between-meal stretch. Here, Gidus recommends her favorite energy-boosting snacks.
Fresh Bananas and Apples
Loaded with vitamin C, antioxidants, and fiber, fruit is great for times when you need a little energy boost. "It's got vitamins, minerals, and good carbs, which give you quick energy," says Gidus. Choose any fruit you like — bananas, apples, and oranges are easy to tote along with you since they don't need refrigeration. Berries, while not as portable, are also a great option, and are considered lower sugar fruits.
Recommended serving size: 1 piece of fresh fruit or 1 cup of chopped fruit or berries
Calories: 80-120, depending on the fruit
Yogurt and Cereal
When you need a bigger energy boost — say, before a workout or when dinner is hours away — yogurt is a great choice. Gidus recommends sprinkling some crunchy cereal on top. "You'll have the carbs in the yogurt and cereal for energy, and the protein from the yogurt, which makes you feel full longer," she says.
Recommended serving size: 1 6-ounce container of yogurt
Calories: 100-200, depending on whether you choose a fat-free or lowfat yogurt
"Popcorn is a great snack because you get a lot of volume and fiber (which makes you feel full), and it's a whole grain, so it's healthier than a snack like pretzels," says Gidus. What's more, the low-fat microwave kind is easy to prepare and low in calories. These days you can buy single-serve popcorn, which means you can eat a whole bag without feeling guilty!
Recommended serving size: 1 single-serve package, low-fat microwave popcorn
Half of a Turkey Sandwich
Nope, sandwiches aren't just for lunchtime anymore. "Lots of people think that snacks have to be snack food, but you can eat real food as a snack, too," says Gidus. A half of a lean turkey or chicken sandwich on whole wheat bread with mustard gives you energy-boosting carbs, plus the satiety-boosting protein you need for a good snack.
Recommended serving size: Half of a sandwich, made with 2 ounces of lean turkey meat and 1 slice of whole wheat bread
Calories: About 200
Red Peppers and Hummus
Forget the baby carrots and fat-free ranch dip! Instead, get creative with your veggies and add a source of protein like hummus for a satisfying snack. Vegetables offer good carbs and fiber, plus loads of nutrients and vitamins, which help fill you up and add nutrition to your diet. And hummus adds some protein to up the snack's staying power. Gidus loves red peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, sugar snap peas, and raw asparagus with her hummus.
Recommended serving size: unlimited veggies and 1/4 cup hummus
Calories: About 100
Almonds and Walnuts
Believe it or not, these salty morsels make for a wonderful snack. They're packed with good fats, which help you stay full; fiber, and nutrients like selenium, vitamin E, and omega-3s. Because nuts are notoriously easy to overeat, Gidus recommends this trick: Fill an empty Altoids tin with nuts for the perfect serving size (about an ounce).
Recommended serving size: 1 ounce of almonds or walnuts
Sometimes you just want a snack-food type of snack. Soy crisps to the rescue! Made of puffed soy protein, they're "the salty, crunchy, snacky thing many of us want in a snack." And with about five grams of protein per serving, they have more staying power than a bag of regular chips or pretzels.
Recommended serving size: 1 2-serving bag (eat the whole thing!)