We're all familiar with that mid-afternoon stomach rumble that has us reaching for the snack cupboard. A good snack should hold off hunger until the next meal and, ideally, it's also nutritious, and enjoyable. Finding a low-calorie snack that ticks all the boxes isn’t always easy, but having a few simple ideas to turn to when hunger strikes can make all the difference.
It may feel like an appetizer from a retro dinner party, but it’s a classic for a reason. Fresh vegetables are a great low-cal snack because they are packed full of essential vitamins and fiber. Colorful vegetables like carrots, cucumber, and bell peppers contain the most beneficial nutrients, and protein-packed hummus keeps hunger away for longer.
As a rough guide, one sliced carrot with 2 tablespoons of hummus contains about 100 calories.
Apples are an ideal choice because they satisfy a sweet craving without causing a spike in blood sugar. They are full of fiber, which is beneficial for gut health and increases the feeling of fullness, and packed with beneficial compounds that could have protective effects against obesity, cancer, and heart disease.
Peanut butter is high in protein, but look for one without sugar to keep the calories down. One small apple eaten with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter has around 270 calories. A tasty alternative with about the same number of calories is a small banana topped with 2 tablespoons of almond butter.
Another great way to satisfy a craving for something sweet is to top Greek yogurt with fresh blueberries. Yogurt is packed full of calcium and protein, while blueberries are one of the most nutritious fruits around, boasting high levels of vitamins C and K, fiber, and manganese. They're also full of anthocyanins that fight inflammation and protect the body from oxidative stress.
Two hundred grams of plain Greek yogurt with 70 grams of blueberries comes in at about 180 calories. Switch things up with a variety of toppings, including different fruits, nuts, and seeds.
Berries are extremely nutritious, largely due to their high levels of polyphenols. These bioactive compounds help fight inflammation, protect against cancer, and have a positive impact on gut microbiota.
One cup of mixed berries blended with a cup of unsweetened almond milk makes for a satisfying drink and only contains about 100 calories. Smoothies are easy to make and incredibly versatile, so try experimenting with different combinations of fruit, milk, and juices.
Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which the body needs to support hormone production, circulation, and genetic function, and to manage inflammation. Omega-3 fats help prevent heart disease and stroke, help manage eczema and rheumatoid arthritis, and may help protect against cancer.
One tablespoon of low-fat cream cheese spread onto two slices of smoked salmon makes a tasty snack with around 100 calories. Add cucumber for freshness and extra fiber without adding many calories.
Bananas are loaded with soluble fiber, which is vital for a healthy gut, helps regulate blood sugar levels, and could help prevent heart disease. Dark chocolate is a proven mood booster and satisfies that chocolate craving in the healthiest way possible.
One banana dipped in a tablespoon of dark chocolate contains about 170 calories. The frozen version of this simple snack makes a refreshing treat on a hot day.
Most people don’t realize that popcorn is actually a whole grain, a food group known to help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Homemade popcorn with the right toppings—that is, without a heap of butter and sugar—makes a healthy and nutritious snack.
One cup of air-popped corn contains a mere 30 calories and makes a great base for a host of delicious flavors. Low-calorie topping ideas include lime zest, chili powder, cinnamon, and cocoa powder. Get even more great popcorn inspo in our article: Butter-Free Popcorn Seasoning Ideas.
Nuts are an excellent choice for a healthy snack because they are high in fiber, healthy fats, and plant-based protein. Each variety of nut has its own unique health benefits; for example, almonds can reduce bad cholesterol which is a risk factor for heart disease.
For reference, 28 grams of almonds contain about 160 calories—other nuts have slightly more or less. Nuts are delicious straight from the packet but taste even better toasted. Try adding seasonings such as cinnamon or chili for even more of a flavor boost.
Pumpkin seeds make a simple, tasty, and nutritious snack. They are a good source of valuable minerals including copper, zinc, iron, and magnesium. Magnesium is essential for several bodily functions including DNA synthesis, blood pressure regulation, and nerve transmission. Low magnesium levels are associated with Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. A handful of 32 grams of pumpkin seeds contain about 150 calories.
Edamame beans—sometimes called soybeans—are a popular bar snack in Japan. They're slightly sweet and satisfying to eat, but they’re also incredibly nutritious and low in calories. Seventy-five grams of cooked edamame beans contain about 100 calories, but are high in protein and fiber, helping keep hunger at bay for longer. They are also high in omega-3 fatty acids. Try seasoning them with a pinch of salt or spicing things up with a little chili.
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