Fresh is best, but . . .

While fresh fruits and vegetables are the best choices for between-meal snacks, frozen fruits and vegetables are a good alternative. And canned fruit packed in its own juices or water — not in syrup — is a reasonable choice even though the processing does somewhat lower the nutrient value.

Other snack options

Other snacks that are healthy and low in calories include the following:

  • Popcorn. Two cups of air-popped popcorn has 62 calories and is a good source of nutrients, such as magnesium and potassium.
  • Whole-grain crispbreads. Toasted whole-grain bread crackers, such as rye Melba toast, are good sources of fiber and complex carbohydrates. Five pieces of Melba toast have about 97 calories.
  • Hummus. Hummus is made primarily from chickpeas, a small amount of ground sesame seeds and olive oil. It's a good source of protein. Although it contains fats, they are mostly healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Two tablespoons of hummus — a good dip for a low-calorie vegetable snack — has 50 calories and 2.8 grams of fat.
  • Nuts. While nuts may have a bad reputation, research studies have shown that they don't generally contribute to increased calorie intake or weight gain when eaten in moderation, in part because you feel satisfied after eating them. Nuts also have been associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and overall mortality. Thirteen almonds provide a 100-calorie snack with 7.8 grams of healthy fats.

Making snack time work for you

Healthy snacking requires planning. Here are some tips to snack sensibly:

  • Keep your house stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables. Buy a variety so that you don't get bored with your selection.
  • Keep a supply of frozen or canned fruits at home and work for backup.
  • Don't keep conventional snacks, such as candy or chips, in the house.
  • Have a small amount of mixed nuts when hungry, which will go a long way toward decreasing hunger sensations.
  • Experiment with herbs or spices to make fruits and vegetables more interesting.
  • Prepare snacks in the evening for the next day. For example, before bedtime slice up a red pepper, wash an apple or count out a snack-size serving of grapes. Put the snack in a container so that it's ready to go in the morning.

Planning ahead by having healthy choices on hand can help make your weight-loss or weight-maintenance plan a success.

March 28, 2015 See more In-depth