Whether it’s mid-morning and breakfast has worn off, or the afternoon is dragging, our hungriest moments make us susceptible to less-than-wholesome snacks. Yet many classic healthy alternatives--think plain rice cakes--may be low in calories but are also lackluster in flavor. Here are some better ideas for what to reach for when cravings strike.
Suddenly you’re dying for potato chips. A handful of baked tortilla chips (whole grain!) to scoop up salsa (veggies!) is a great, if obvious, option. Ready to branch out? We have a few more fresh and tasty ideas:
- Jicama with chiles and lime. In Mexico, this crisp and juicy snack is sold roadside as a hot-weather refresher. Jicama, a bulbous root vegetable, is available in most supermarket produce sections. Peel, then julienne and sprinkle with cayenne or ground New Mexico chiles and drizzle with fresh lime juice; snack keeps refrigerated for up to 1 day.
- Toasted nori. Many brands of Japanese or Korean roasted nori strips?dried seaweed in crispy sheets that are lightly seasoned?are low in fat and sodium and have beneficial nutrients and minerals, as well as umami, the Japanese fifth flavor that satisfies savory cravings.
- Roasted plantain chips. Lightly salted, these crisps are a satisfying alternative to greasy potato chips and not as sweet as banana chips (plus they are roasted rather than fried).
If you feel like you just have to have some salty pretzels or cheese puffs, maybe it’s simply intense flavor you’re after. Try these lower sodium, flavor-packed options instead.
- Tamari almonds. Dry-roasted with tamari, a deeply flavored Japanese soy sauce, these nuts are addictive in a good way. They have much less salt than potato chips and the added benefit of lots of protein.
- Tangerine or grapefruit segments wake up you and your palate.
- Wedges of ripe watermelon or cantaloupe sprinkled every-so-lightly with salt. A few grains of salt will intensify the flavor of the melon without too much sodium.
- Cut an avocado in half and drizzle lightly with soy sauce. Eat with a spoon.
When you just need to munch, you can always pull out baby carrots and hummus, but that can get old fast.
- Popcorn with nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is a source of protein and amino acids, and popcorn is a whole grain. The yeast provides a flavor similar to popcorn tossed with butter and Parmesan, without the heavy dairy products. Just combine nutritional yeast with salt to season popcorn; about 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast is enough for a family-size bowl of popcorn.
- Wasabi peas. A little bit of these super-spicy Japanese snacks goes a long way, and a 1/3 cup serving has less than one third the fat of a 1-ounce serving of potato chips.
It’s hard to resist the bowl of candies on your co-worker’s desk. You could take a cue from mom and bring apple slices and peanut butter to work, or try these alternatives.
- Dried fruit. Keep a bag of dried blueberries, cranberries, mangoes or apricots in your workout bag. When paired with nuts, even unsalted ones, these fruit snacks are even more satisfying and can fill in for a pastry with coffee.
- Two squares of dark chocolate. Even a small serving of dark chocolate has enough flavor and silky texture to fulfill cravings for desserts, and has been shown to have health benefits.
- Mango coconut smoothie. Combine 1/2 cup frozen mangoes with 1/2 of a peeled banana, 1 tablespoon shredded coconut and 1/2 cup coconut milk in the bowl of a blender. Add ice and process until smooth. If needed, sweeten with honey or agave syrup.