The science is clear:
Eating small amounts of healthy foods throughout the day is a helpful way to curb cravings, limit hunger, and avoid overeating come meal time. The key is to try to keep snacks to 125 calories or less. As you’ll see, we’re not banning chocolate or potato chips. But you’ll find that the healthier the food, the more you can eat. For example, an entire cucumber is a mere 45 calories. It takes just five potato chips to get you to that threshold! After asking the food experts and doing some research on our own, we came up with the 30 best healthy snacks that are yummy, easily available, and deliver just the right number of calories (125 or under) and nutrients to keep hunger away until your next meal. If you recognize any of your trigger foods in the list, skip them and go for one of the other alternatives. You know yourself best.
1. Hard-Boiled Egg
Packed with protein, one boiled egg is about 78 calories! If you need a little more to nosh, supplement with cut-up vegetables or another source of lean protein. “The combination of texture and protein can make this feel like a far more substantial snack than many other options and for fewer calories,” says Lisa Garcia, RDN, of Food Coach For Me in Laconia, NH. Just be mindful of how frequently you are consuming eggs, meat, and cheese during the day as it’s easy to consume too much saturated fat in a day.
2. Peanut Butter
“Oh, how I love peanut butter!” says registered dietitian nutritionist Amy Gorin, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area. “You not only get filling protein and fiber from the nut butter, you also get healthy fat. This combo helps to keep you fuller for longer.” However, be mindful of what kind you purchase. She says it’s best to buy natural peanut butter which ideally, has only peanuts, oil, and perhaps a little salt. And be aware of reduced-fat kinds, too. “Reduced-fat peanut butters end up compensating for the reduction in fat with adding sugar and other filler ingredients,” she warns. “Try dipping carrot and celery sticks into a tablespoon of peanut butter, which is just 90 calories.”
3. English Muffin Pizza
Nope, we’re not kidding. Spread half a muffin with a tablespoon of pasta sauce and 2 tablespoons of low-fat grated cheese and bake at 350°F until bubbly. “Opt for a whole-grain English muffin for additional fiber, which is not only good for helping to keep you full but can also help your cholesterol levels,” says Gorin. “For additional low-calorie nutrition, top your cooked ‘pizza’ with fresh arugula.”
4. Air-Popped Popcorn
Have 3 cupfuls of this healthy snack, and you’ll be good to go for hours. It’s ideal if you don’t want to microwave popcorn; some people are concerned over chemicals in both artificial microwave popcorn flavoring as well as the bags they’re popped in. Consider this option for a fiber-rich snack.
5. Hummus and Pita
Low in fat and calories, hummus provides a wallop of protein, flavor, and fiber. Spread 2 tablespoons on half a pita and call it a lifesaver. “Hummus is one of my favorite snacks because it provides satiating protein and fiber,” says Gorin. “In just two tablespoons, you get about 2 grams each of protein and fiber.”
6. Jelly Beans
These favorites aren’t just for Easter anymore. A handful (about 25) comes in at around 125 calories. Just as you should with other candies, be mindful of their high sugar content though. Try not to eat candy snacks like jelly beans too often. When you do have them, eat slowly to savor the flavor and don’t let distractions get the best of you. Otherwise, you may be inclined to eat more.
7. Microwave Popcorn
Choose light or low-fat versions, and you can eat up to 3 cups. Eat the full-fat buttery version, and have no more than 1 cup. You decide which healthy snacks for weight loss are worth it. A review of studies published in a 2016 issue of Advances in Nutrition notes that fiber-rich snack foods like popcorn play a role in increasing feelings of fullness. If you feel full longer, you’ll be more likely to not give in to other tempting foods.
8. Chocolate Chip Cookie
Have two regular-sized cookies and remember your after-school days. Just be aware of these “healthy” snacks that are secretly destroying your body. Too much may be too much. Give yourself permission to indulge in your favorite treats—in small doses and only on occasion—being sure to savor the taste and texture.
They’re sweet, healthy, and packed with vitamins and nutrients. Enjoy about 3 tablespoons (roughly 75 raisins) to stay within the 125 calorie range. While Garcia says she doesn’t recommend these by themselves because of their higher sugar content (which increases the likelihood of overeating them), she does suggest making a better snack by pairing them with some nuts.
One 2-inch square fills the bill, believe it or not! Of course, resist the urge to overeat. This way you can stay on track; you can enjoy the chocolaty taste without feeling as though you’ve sabotaged your weight loss efforts. Just make sure that 2-inch square really is a 2-inch square.
Craving M&Ms but feel guilty at the thought of having some? Don’t fret. A portion of 30 of them falls into our 125 calorie range, assuming you don’t go back for another handful. “If you’re craving chocolate, M&Ms can be a good treat to encourage mindful eating,” says Gorin. “Eat one at a time, really savoring the crunchy taste of the shell as well as how the chocolate melts in your mouth. And don’t multi-task so that you can fully enjoy that chocolate taste!” Garcia, who typically doesn’t recommend candy as a snack because it can be challenging to stay within a small portion limit and also because of its higher sugar content, says that if you do opt for candy, make sure it is something that will truly satisfy your hunger. In other words, be sure you don’t snack on candy out of habit or emotional needs like boredom. She too, says to eat tiny pieces at a time and focus on taste and texture while eating.