Homemade Trail Mix
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
Apple Slices with Lowfat Cheese
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
Graham Crackers with Peanut Butter
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
Tomato Soup with Baby Carrots
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
Frozen Tamale Pie
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
Canned Mandarin Oranges with Light Whipped Topping
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