Snacks with refined carbs and sugar are everywhere, but high-protein, low-carb snacks are a much better choice. When you eat potato chips, baked goods, or other foods with low nutritional value, you may feel energized immediately after eating, but you will probably feel hungry in an hour or two.
Benefits of Snacking
Is snacking good or bad for you? The question is hotly debated. Let's break down what the research shows. Researchers have examined how snacking impacts:
- Appetite: for some, snacking may not reduce their desire to eat and lead to excess calorie consumption.
- Hunger: multiple studies have demonstrated that snacking reduces hunger.
- Weight: research is mixed, leading some researchers to conclude that the impact of snacking on weight gain varies by individual and time of snack consumption.
- Blood sugar: Snacking is not necessary to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, but research shows high-protein or high-fiber snacks are preferable to high-carb ones.
- Metabolism: many studies indicate that meal frequency does not impact metabolism.
Snacking can be useful for preventing people from becoming ravenously hungry. If you get too hungry between meals, you may overconsume calories at your next meal. The healthiness of the foods you eat and your total calorie consumption have more of an impact on your health than whether you snack. If snacking is a significant source of your daily calories, it is even more important to choose nutritious snacks. Here are some tips to ensure that you are snacking in a way that is beneficial for your health:
- Stick to snacks around 200 calories that contain at least 10 grams of protein.
- Avoid highly processed snacks with added sugar.
- Pack nutritious, portable snacks whenever you may not have access to food (running errands, work, etc.).
What's the Big Deal About Protein?
Gym goers have always focused on eating high-protein foods, but lately, high-protein diets have become the latest trend in healthy eating. Research demonstrates that protein can:
- Reduce hunger
- Promote weight loss
- Increase muscle mass
- Benefit bone health
- Boost metabolism
- Lower blood pressure
- Help maintain weight loss
- Promote recovery
- Limit age-related muscle deterioration
Let's examine a few of protein's health benefits in more detail. The foods we eat contain protein, fat, and carbohydrates, and protein is the most filling of the three, reducing the hunger hormone ghrelin. Research also indicates that this macronutrient also boosts levels of another hormone associated with satiety, peptide YY. If you're looking to limit your caloric intake and lose weight, protein's ability to help you feel full for longer can benefit you. Additionally, protein can boost your metabolism and help you increase the number of calories you burn, around 80-100 more calories per day.
What Is Low Carb?
There are many variations on low-carb diets, ranging from diets that severely limit carb intake to diets that allow complex carbs like sweet potatoes and whole grains but exclude refined carbohydrates. What counts as low carb for one person may not seem low to another. Many factors can impact the optimal carb intake for a person: age, activity level, body composition, individual preferences, metabolic health, and food culture.
20-50 Grams Per Day
The most restrictive low-carb diets limit carbohydrates to this low range, and it is popular with anyone who wants to lose weight quickly. When you eat in this range, try to work in low-carb vegetables, berries, nuts, and seeds to ensure that you get enough fiber. Some low-carb diets allow you to subtract the fiber from your daily carb count.
50-100 Grams Per Day
If you want to lose weight but are put off by more extreme low-carb diets, this may be a good range for you. You can even enjoy most vegetables in this range, though you may need to limit your intake of certain fruits and starchy vegetables.
100-150 Grams Per Day
This range is a moderate carb intake and allows you to enjoy all vegetables, providing that the total grams do not exceed 150. You can eat several fruits per day and moderate amounts of foods like potatoes and rice.
Whatever low-carb diet you choose, make sure it is sustainable for you over a long period. A restrictive low-carb diet will not work for you if you cannot stick to it, and consequently, it may lead to dangerous yo-yo dieting.
What Are Some Healthy Snack Ideas?
Cottage cheese is a high-protein and portable snack that can be a filling addition to your snacking routine. With 14 grams of protein in a half-cup serving, this snack is a highly nutritious choice. A versatile food, you can enjoy it with some tomato slices, roasted pine nuts, and Italian seasoning, or add some berries and your favorite sugar-free sweetener for a sweet treat. You can purchase individual pre-portioned cottage cheese servings in cartons for added convenience, portion control, and portability.
High Protein Bites
High protein bites are a keto-friendly convenience food that you can purchase for a quick and affordable snack. With whey protein, healthy fats from nut butters and coconut oil, and no added sugars, these bites are perfect for keto and low-carb dieters who want tasty snacking options. Best of all, no meal or snack prepping is required.
You may not think about edamame until you're at your favorite sushi spot, but this tasty food is the perfect high-protein, low-carb snack. You can purchase edamame in the frozen section of your grocery store and then quickly heat them in the microwave. They are tasty when you sprinkle them with salt, or for added flavor, drizzle them with sesame oil.
There are many versions of this popular, low-carb snack. In a pinch, you can simply take a deli slice of turkey and a slice of cheese and roll them together into a cigar shape. For a fancier turkey roll-up, spread some of your favorite savory flavored cream cheese across a piece of turkey. Top the slice with broccoli sprouts and thin slices of cucumber and red bell pepper, and then roll it up.
Celery and Peanut Butter
Remember this timeless snack that your parents used to make for you? It's a classic for a reason. You can still enjoy this kid-favorite as an adult. For low-carb diets, use a nut butter that contains nuts and a little salt with no added sugar.
Yogurt Dip with Low-Carb Veggies
You may have a favorite French onion or vegetable dip that you make with a store-bought seasoning mix. Next time you make it, try substituting high-protein Greek yogurt for the sour cream or mayonnaise. If the texture is too thick, thin it out with some water and a dash of lemon juice.
You can also purchase yogurt-based dips at the grocery store, but you may want to check the label to ensure that the product is in line with your dietary goals. Serve your dip with slices of low-carb vegetables, such as cucumber, bell pepper, celery, radish, and broccoli.
Cheese and Olives
Pair your favorite cheese and olives for an afternoon cheese plate for one. You can buy cheese cubes to make olive and cheese skewers for an on-the-go snack, or if you're ravenous, build out your cheese plate with some extras like nuts, additional cheeses, or pickled vegetables. You can even add sliced meats for a keto-friendly charcuterie board.
Flax Crackers, Mozzarella Slices, and Pepperoni
Low-carb dieters often miss the crunch they get with crackers. You may think crackers are not an option, but thanks to flax seed crackers, even keto dieters can enjoy a crunchy cracker. The crackers are also high in fiber, a nutrient that most Americans do not get enough of. You can pair these crackers with any meat or cheese, but try it with mozzarella and pepperoni slices for a tasty, pizza-inspired snack. The crackers are also great with guacamole or a yogurt-based dip.
Cucumber and Salami Slices
Crisp and refreshing cucumber slices paired with salty salami will delight your tastebuds and curb your cravings. Sliced cucumber and salami are about the same shape, and when stacked together and sprinkled with black pepper, they make a delightful snack. Hothouse cucumbers are ideal in this recipe.
High Protein Drinks
High protein drinks are the ultimate in convenient and portable snack foods. Gym goers love that they can toss one in their gym bag for a pre- or post-workout snack. This highly digestible method of consuming protein ensures that your body absorbs every gram of protein as quickly as possible. Look for shakes that offer 20 grams of protein per serving and contain no added sugars or artificial ingredients.
Next time you get that 3 pm snack craving, reach for these high-protein, low-carb snacks for a tasty break from your daily grind.