The science is clear: eating small amounts of healthy foods throughout the day is the best way to curb cravings, limit hunger, and avoid overeating come meal time.
There’s no perfect formula, but many experts are now saying that in addition to three healthy meals, each of us should enjoy a snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon as well. After dinner, either a small dessert or late-evening snack also makes sense to round out the day’s menu. The goal is to never go three waking hours without having a small bite to eat.
The key rule: Keep each snack 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!
We’ve asked the food experts and did some research on our own, and came up with 30 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.
1. Hard-boiled egg. Packed with protein, this favorite will stave off even the worst hunger pangs and give you energy to get through to dinner. Yet one boiled egg is just 78 calories! If you need a little more to nosh, supplement with cut-up vegetables.
2.Peanut butter. Spread 1 tablespoon on a regular-sized rice cake for a texture combination that satisfies.
3.English muffin pizza. Nope, we’re not kidding. Spread half a muffin with a tablespoon of pasta sauce, 2 tablespoons of low-fat grated cheese and bake at 350°F until bubbly.
4. Potato chips. Okay, we admit it. Even we’re suckers for this old favorite. Twelve average-sized chips will come in at roughly 100 calories, which means that yes, you can still enjoy that fulfilling crunch.
5. Air-popped popcorn. Have 3 cupfuls of this healthy snack, and you’ll be good to go for hours.
6. 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.
7. Jelly beans. These favorites aren’t just for Easter anymore. A handful (about 25) comes in under the wire.
8. Microwave popcorn. Choose light or low-fat versions, you can eat up to 3 cups. Eat the full-fat buttery version, have no more than 1 cup. You decide.
9. Tangerines. Two of these luscious fruits are 20 fewer calories than an 8 ounce glass of orange juice! Plus their high fiber content makes you feel fuller.
10. Raisins. They’re sweet, healthy, and packed with vitamins and nutrients, and about 3 tablespoons (roughly 75 raisins) will help you get through the day even better.
11. Brownie. One 2-inch square fills the bill, believe it or not!
12. M&Ms. That fistful of M&Ms you always feel guilty about having? Don’t feel so bad. A portion of 30 of them falls into our 125 calorie range…assuming you don’t go back for another handful.
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13. Sorbet. One half cup of a fruity sorbet on a steamy, hot afternoon will cool you down…and at just 120 calories, will keep you nicely satisfied until dinner.
14. Pistachios. Reach into that bowl and grab 30 of these delectable nuts. Make them unsalted if you possibly can.
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15. Fig bars. Everyone loves fig newtons, and why not? They’re delicious, filling snacks packed with nutrients. Two of them count as a full snack.
16. Fresh avocado. Spread one-half of a small avocado on a rice cake, and watch your hunger pangs disappear.
17. Small baked potato…with half a cup of salsa and 2 tablespoons of fat-free sour cream. Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? It’s not. Salsa is very low in calories, and if you stick to a small potato, you’ll be eating a filling snack that you’ll truly love.
18. Chocolate chip cookie. Have two, regular-sized cookies and remember your after-school days.
19. Frozen yogurt. If you have a sweet tooth, this snack is for you. Serving should be ½ cup. Add a small clementine for extra flavor and fiber.
20. Baked apple. Top it with 1 tablespoon low fat yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon, and you’ll be surprised at how delicious calorie counting can be.
21. Seven-grain Belgian waffle. Forget about a piece of bread. Just pop one into the toaster and enjoy it with a small piece of fruit.
22. Chestnuts. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire are a sure way to quell hunger pangs before dinner. Peel and eat five whole chestnuts for roughly 120 calories worth of pleasure.
23. Lean roast beef. If you love meat, there’s no reason why you can’t have it as a snack, in smaller portions. Roll 2 ounces worth around cucumber slices dipped in fat-free sour cream.
24. Cherry tomatoes. These babies are so low in calories that you can eat as many as you want. Go ahead: Put a pint on your desk and nosh away!
25. Cornflakes. Have one cup of cereal with a quarter cup of low-fat milk, and enjoy this breakfast treat as a snack anytime.
26. Grilled tomato slices. Place two slices on aluminum foil, sprinkle with a tablespoon each of Parmesan cheese, and run them under the broiler. Yummy!
27. Dill pickle. In truth, the average dill pickle is only 34 calories. Stick to one, though, because even though they’re delicious, they’re sodium count is super high.
28. Edamame. These delicious soybeans are packed to the brim with flavor, protein, and tons of fiber. Eat about ½ cup of beans for a 120-calorie snack (that’s a little over a full cup of pods, if you prefer to buy them unshelled).
29. Fresh fruit salad. Take advantage of beautiful, seasonal fresh fruit, and gobble two to three cups of a blend of cut-up pieces and berries to your heart’s delight.
30. Rye wafer. Spread one with a tablespoon of hummus and top with sliced, raw red bell pepper.