Healthy eating isn’t all about calorie counting. Nutritious foods are key, but sometimes it’s nice to know you can grab a quick snack that doesn't deliver an entire meal's worth of calories. The next time hunger creeps up when it’s least convenient (like 30 minutes before a dinner reservation), turn to this list for a small and satisfying bites that won’t ruin a healthy day.
1. Cheesy Popcorn Toss 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese and a dash of cayenne pepper with 2 cups of freshly popped popcorn. Choose a low-fat, low-sodium pre-packaged variety or pop kernels in a small paper bag in the microwave. Grated parm can have a lot of salt, but one tablespoon has only three percent of the daily recommended value, and only 22 calories for a whole lot of added flavor.
2. Cottage Cheese and Cantaloupe Top ½ cup of low-fat cottage cheese with ½ cup of diced cantaloupe. That ½ cup of cantaloupe delivers 50 percent of the daily recommended values of vitamins A and C, two vitamins that may help promote clear skin.
3. 14 Almonds Almonds don’t need any extras to be a satisfying snack. Added bonus: They’re the most nutritionally dense nut (which means they have the highest concentration of nutrients per calorie). Try 8 of our cocoa dusted almonds for a sweeter version.
4. Baked Apple Baked apples can get all dressed up and filled with oats, nuts, and other tasty stuff. But for a simple low-cal version, core a tennis-ball sized apple, dust with cinnamon, and bake at 350 for 20 minutes (or until tender but not mushy).
5. Jicama and Honey Mustard Dip Hicka-what? Jicama (pronounced, hic-kuh-muh) is a root veggie that touts 6 grams of fiber per cup. Peel and slice up 1 ½ cups, and dip into a mixture of 1 tablespoon of Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon of mustard, and 1 teaspoon of honey.
6. Mexican Potato There’s always the option to bake a potato, but for a quick snack version turn to the microwave. Pierce a medium potato (about the size of a computer mouse) a few times with a fork, and microwave on high for about five minutes or until soft (you should be able to pierece with a knife and remove without any resistance). Top ½ of the potato with 1 tablespoon of salsa and 1 tablespoon of plain Greek yogurt (a great stand in for sour cream). Save the other half in the fridge for another snack!
7. Kettle Corn Toss 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of stevia with 2 cups of freshly popped popcorn. Try shaking it all up in a paper bag or a container with a lid on it for even topping distribution. Not a fan of stevia? Swap it for 1 teaspoon of honey plus 1 teaspoon of water microwaved for 20 seconds to thin it out.
8. 22 pistachios These little guys are the biggest bang for your calorie buck. Pistachios rank high in protein and lower in saturated fat compared to many other kinds of nuts. Pick the in-shell variety (not the pre-shelled ones) — they’re less expensive and one study found people consume up to 41 percent more calories from pistachios when they don’t have to crack the shell to work for it In-shell pistachio nuts reduce caloric intake compared to shelled nuts. Honselman, C.S., Painter, J.E., Kennedy-Hagan, K.J., et al. Family and Consumer Sciences, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL. Appetite. 2011 Oct;57(2):414-7..
9. Apples and Cheese Pair a Laughing Cow Mini Babybel Light cheese wheel with half of a baseball-sized apple, sliced. The cheese has 6 grams of protein and 20 percent of the daily recommended value of calcium.
10. Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Slice up one medium red pepper and enjoy with 2 tablespoons of soft goat cheese. Goat cheese is tangy and flavorful, and has about ⅓ fewer calories, and ⅓ the fat per ounce compared to cow’s milk cheese.
11. Chili-Lime Shrimp Toss ten large boiled shrimp in 1 tablespoon of limejuice. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of chili powder. Here’s the kicker: this little snack has over 10 grams of protein! Shrimp also have a high concentration of the antioxidant astaxanthin, known to reduce inflammation Astaxanthin decreased oxidative stress and inflammation and enhanced immune response in humans. Park, J.S., Chyun, J.H., Kim, Y.K. School of Food Science, Washington State University. Nutrition and Metabolism, 2010 Mar 5;7:18..
12. Carrots n’ Hummus Chow down on 10 baby carrots with 2 tablespoons of hummus. Jazz it up with fresh herbs like dill or parsley.
13. White Bean Salad Combine ⅓ cup of white beans with 1 tablespoon of sliced scallions, a squeeze of lemon juice, and ¼ cup of diced tomatoes. White beans are a good source of dietary fiber, protein, and iron.
14. Hard Boiled Egg Whites and Mustard Boil four eggs for 12–15 minutes. Let them cool, de-shell them, slice them in half, and remove the yolks with a spoon. Sprinkle with pepper and dip in 1 tablespoon of mustard. The really yellow kinds of mustard get their color from turmeric, an anti-inflammatory spice. Pro tip: If you add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to the water, the eggs will be a cinch to peel!
15. Frozen Grapes Grapes make a great snack fresh or frozen, but if you opt for the chilly state, they last way longer. Nosh on 1 cup (about 28 grapes). Feeling fancy? Use them as fruity ice cubes in a tall glass of water to stay hydrated while snacking.
16. Egg Whites and Toast Toast one slice of whole-wheat bread and top with 2 scrambled egg whites. Sprinkle with a dash of pepper and paprika.
17. Pumpkin Yogurt Combine ½ cup of nonfat plain Greek Yogurt with ¼ cup of pumpkin puree. Sweeten with stevia, ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract, and a pumpkin pie spice blend (or cinnamon). Pumpkin is a low fat way to increase this snack’s fiber and flavor profile.
18. DIY Chunky Apple Sauce Dice up ½ of a tennis-ball sized apple and add it to ½ cup of unsweetened apple sauce. So much apple! You’ll get the spoonability of apple sauce, but with an added fresh crunch (not like that store-bought mushy chunk). Sprinkle with some cinnamon for an extra flavor kick.
19. Watermelon Salad Top 1 cup of raw spinach with 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and ¾ cup of diced watermelon. Spinach has a ton of vitamin K (which helps blood to clot properly when you get cuts) and vitamin A (which is good for the eyes).
20. Open Faced Turkey Sammie Toast 1 slice of whole-wheat bread and spread with 1 teaspoon of honey mustard. Top with 2 slices of deli turkey.
21. Avocado Rice Cake Top a rice cake (we like the unsalted brown rice variety) with 1/4 of an avocado, mashed. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper and paprika. Avocados are a good source of monounsaturated fat, the kind of fat that can help improve cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of heart disease Reducing saturated fat intake is associated with increased LDL receptors on mononuclear cells in healthy men and women. Mustad, V.A., Etherton, T.D., Cooper, A.D. Graduate Program in Nutrition, Pennsylvania State University. Journal of Lipid Research, 1997 Mar;38(3):459-68. Dietary fat and heart failure: moving from lipotoxicity to lipoprotection. Stanley, WC, Dabkowski, ER, Ribeiro, RF JR., et al. Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, University of Maryland. Circulation Research, 2012 Mar 2;110(5):764-76..
22. Strawberries and Goat Cheese Pair 10 large strawberries with 1 tablespoon of soft goat cheese. This serving of strawberries has over 100 percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin C.
23. Rice Cake and Almond Butter Top a rice cake with 2 teaspoons of almond butter. While it’s not nearly as popular as peanut butter, almond butter is a better choice when it comes to fiber, iron and especially Vitamin E.
24. Enlightened Bars These healthier ice cream bars aren’t just low in calories — they actually have some impressive nutritional stats: Eight grams of protein, no artificial sweeteners, only three grams of sugar, and five grams of fiber per bar. They come in coffee, fudge, and orange cream flavors. (We’re partial to the coffee flavor at Greatist HQ — surprise, surprise.)
25. Kiwi and Coconut Slice 1 large kiwi and top with 1 tablespoon of unsweetened shredded coconut. One kiwi has all the vitamin C to meet the daily recommended value.
26. Cukes and Cream Cheese Cut one medium cucumber into long strips. Combine 2 tablespoons of diced roasted red pepper, 2 tablespoons of low-fat cream cheese, and ¼ teaspoon of cracked pepper. Spread the cream cheese mixture onto the strips. Cucumbers are made up mostly of water, which makes them a healthy low-calorie dipper.
27. Broccoli and Tzatziki Sauce Whip up a quick tzatziki-like sauce by combining 2 tablespoons plain nonfat Greek yogurt, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of minced cucumber. Dip six florets into the sauce. The healthy bonus here is that eating broccoli raw may help maintain the green veggie’s cancer-fighting nutrients.
28. Baby Corn and Soy Sauce For a super quick snack, dip 20 baby corns into low-sodium soy sauce. Baby corn is high in folate, a B-vitamin that helps produce and maintain new cells.
29. Dark Chocolate This snack doesn’t need any friends — it’s tasty by itself. Enjoy three squares or five dark chocolate kisses. A bit of the dark stuff can help regulate levels of the stress hormone cortisol Differential effect of polyphenol-rich dark chocolate on biomarkers of glucose metabolism and cardiovascular risk factors in healthy, overweight and obese subjects: a randomized clinical trial. Almoosawi, S., Tsang, C., Ostertag, L.M. MRC Human Nutrition Research, Elsie Widdowson Laboratory. Food & Function, 2012 Oct;3(10):1035-43..
30. English Muffin and Fruit Butter Toast ½ of a whole-wheat English muffin. Top with 2 teaspoons of pumpkin butter or apple butter for about 30 calories. Choosing these spreads over conventional jams can save about 20 calories per serving.
31. Protein Shake Shake up 1 scoop of vanilla whey protein with 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk. This one’s perfect for post-workout snacking, too — whey protein has been shown to help rebuild muscles after exercise.
What are your favorite low-cal snacks? What did we miss? Share with us in the comments below or tweet the author @nicmcdermott.