With more time being spent at home and no daily routine to speak of, you’re probably snacking more. I know firsthand, as that’s been my life for nearly two months. After several weeks of being under a shelter in place mandate where I live in northern California, I’ve resorted to mindlessly munching on all of my favorite “C” foods: cheese and crackers, chips, chocolate and cookies.
After piling on about six pounds, I had to decide if my future was going to be feeling heavy and sluggish while living in “athleisure” — read: Lycra-infused fabrics — apparel. I decided to take back control of my eating and started with the major culprit: stress snacking.
After implementing smarter snacking strategies, I’m thankfully under my pre-quarantine weight. I feel better, my sleep is improved and my diet quality is higher, which helps bolster my immune system and keeps risk factors like Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome at bay.
[READ: How to Work From Home Without Gaining Weight.]
Here are my go-to snacks, which are planned — twice a day. They’re all designed to be satisfying and nutrient-rich. Plus, they taste great!
Broccoli Florets With Low-Fat Dip
While I’m far from being a broccoli lover, it’s become one of my new favorite slimming snacks. I buy two, 2-lb. bags of washed and cut florets, and they’re prominently placed in my fridge. The florets pack in nearly all of my daily vitamin C, 3 grams protein, 2 grams of fiber and just 30 calories per cup.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
While stress snacking may be my first vice, stress baking is a close second. My family are fans of my homemade chocolate chip cookies, so I had to tinker with my recipe to make them healthier. I’ve found a few great subs: I’ve been sweetening the cookies with a stevia-based, zero-calorie sugar substitute and use Lily’s Dark Chocolate Baking Chips as they’re antioxidant rich with 55% cocoa, sweetened with stevia and have no added sugar. I feel like I’ve trimmed the calories in half by making these better swaps. And they taste great too!
[See: 8 Tasty Keto Diet-Friendly Snacks.]
This naturally-sweet treat satisfies my sweet tooth but also is a real immune booster, thanks to the antioxidants it contains. The base is economical frozen fruit. I love wild blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. To that I add banana and plain Greek yogurt. I often toss in a handful of some greens like spinach or kale for an extra boost of nutrients and fiber.
I always make sure I have a container with hard-boiled eggs at the ready in my fridge. Eggs are packed with 13+ nutrients, including 6 grams of complete protein (per one large egg), vitamins A, D and E, B-vitamins, zinc, selenium, lutein and zeaxanthin. Research shows that the high-quality protein in eggs helps to reduce hunger and cravings. I’m sold!
[SEE: 5 Best Food Sources for Omega-3 Fatty Acids.]
Did you know that roasted pistachios have actually been shown to help relieve stress? It’s true. Eating a handful of in-shell pistachios is my moment of Zen. What’s more, new research from the University of Illinois reported that the 6 grams of protein per serving of roasted pistachios is considered complete protein, like eggs and other animal-based proteins.
This means they provide significant levels of all nine essential amino acids, the protein-building blocks our bodies don’t naturally produce and need from food. Pistachios are one of the lowest-calorie nuts, with a one-ounce serving (about 49 pistachios) providing 160 calories, and they also provide several other essential nutrients like fiber, zinc and B-vitamins.
Fruit and Nut Bars
For an on-the-go packaged, snack, I turn to bars that features real ingredients, like nuts, seeds and fruit and minimize added sugars. Today, my pantry has KIND’s Blueberry, Vanilla and Cashew bar that has 160 calories, 5 grams of protein and fiber and just 7 grams of sugar (less than 2 teaspoons sugar). That’s a fraction of what you get in other snack foods. Many would have about half the calories from added sugars or 7+ teaspoons of sugar
Look for packaged snack bars that contain a nutrient-rich blend of nuts, seeds and dried fruit — and no added sugars.
Choose snacks that more closely resemble real foods, for example, dried fruit slices look more like fruit than a fruit-flavored gummy candy. If the snack doesn’t resemble any food that you can find naturally, it’s probably ultra-processed and not the best choice.
Julie Upton, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and communications expert specializing in food, nutrition and health. She been writing for U.S. News since 2015. Her specialties include consumer health and nutrition trends, plant-based and vegetarian nutrition, weight loss, cardiovascular nutrition, healthy aging and physical fitness. She is also a certified CrossFit instructor.
Ms. Upton is a nationally recognized expert who has written thousands of articles for national newspapers, magazines and e-media including The New York Times, HuffPost, Prevention, Shape, Health, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health and Men’s Journal. She is a frequent on-air guest for local and national broadcast news programs on networks including CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. She is frequently quoted in national media articles in print and online publications including Daily Mail, HuffPost, Women’s Health, Reader’s Digest and Yahoo.com.
Ms. Upton is a leader in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ practice group for sports, cardiovascular and wellness nutritionists, as well as for the academy’s weight management practice group. She served as a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition in New York City, where she frequently appeared on national TV news programs including NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America and World News Tonight, and CNN’s Headline News.
She is co-author of “The Real Skinny: Appetite for Health’s 101 Fat Habits and Slim Solutions” (Penguin 2013) and “Energy to Burn: The Ultimate Food and Nutrition Guide to Fuel Your Active Life” (Wiley 2009). Ms. Upton co-founded Appetite for Health, where she blogs daily about nutrition, fitness and health. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.