Snack on This

The best and worst when it comes to snacks.

Snacking has the potential to either help or hurt your weight loss efforts. Nutrient-packed, high protein, fiber-rich snacks can help prevent cravings, provide long-lasting energy, and keep your calories in check. On the other hand, snacks high in sugar, sodium, empty calories, and saturated fats can wreck havoc on your diet. Sometimes a snack option may seem like a healthy choice: it contains fruit or is low in fat or calories. But do these qualities qualify a snack as diet-friendly?

Don’t be fooled by false advertising or let snacking be the downfall of your diet. Smart snacking starts with knowing what to look for on the nutrition label and making the right choices. When it comes to some of the most popular snacks, here are five not-so-good snacks and their healthier alternatives.
CAUTION!

Dried Fruit

Fruit’s good for you right? Yes. But what about eating 10 apricots between breakfast and lunch and three plums before bed? A dried fruit is still a whole piece of fruit, just without its moisture. So the sugar and calories still remain. A few pieces of dried fruit every once in a while are okay, but be wary of overeating them.

Muffins

They may be blueberry, banana, or apple-cinnamon, but store-bought muffins are filled with natural sugars or artificial flavoring, added sugars, and empty carbs. Though they may sound like a wholesome snack, they may not be. Unless they’re homemade with real fruit, whole-wheat flour, and healthy fat, steer clear.

Cheese-Filled Sandwich Crackers

What could be so bad about cheese and crackers? Well, most crackers are high in sodium and low in protein and fiber and the cheese is high in fat and calories. And since it’s hard to get full on just one serving, it’s easy to overeat.

Rice Cakes

Few foods have fewer calories than rice cakes, making them a popular snack for dieters. But the processed, empty carbs found in these cakes give you a quick burst of energy that’s short-lived. No sooner have you eaten one than you feel hungry and sluggish again.

Granola Bars

They may have nuts, dried fruit, and be organic, but granola bars are often filled with processed carbs, sugars, and calories. Unless you need quick energy before exercising, granola bars probably aren’t a good idea.

COME AND GET IT!

Greek Yogurt

If you’re craving something sweet but want something that fills you up, try Greek yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit. Greek yogurt contains more protein than regular yogurt and the fruit adds fiber. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon and a drop of vanilla for a new twist.

Nuts

Yes, nuts are higher in fat than other snack options, but they’re healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). Because they’re also high in protein, a small handful is all you need to fill you up. (Just choose nuts low in sodium and without added sugars).

Light Popcorn

Satisfy your craving for something crunchy and slightly salty with microwave or air-popped popcorn. Steer clear of the movie-theater butter, high-sodium varieties and choose a light or low-fat kind. Fill up on five cups for only around 120 calories.

Quesadilla

Made with low-fat cheese and a whole-wheat tortilla, quesadillas can be a tasty mid-afternoon snack. Protein from the cheese and fiber from the tortilla fill you up and provide the energy you need to make it until dinner. Add a few veggies or a tablespoon of salsa for more nutritional value and flavor.

Tuna on Crackers

Crack open a can of tuna (the kind packed in water) and spread some on a few whole-grain, low-sodium crackers. Tuna’s a great source of lean protein, while crackers provide a fiber boost.