Tag Archives: Fiber

5 Common Breakfast Mistakes – And How to Avoid Them

If you find yourself in line for another iced coffee or nibbling on leftover office donuts at 10 AM, don’t blame your lack of willpower–blame your breakfast. With a little help from a balanced and wholesome mid-morning snack, breakfast should give you the energy to reach lunchtime; but many Americans feel famished and fatigued far before then. Take a look at your breakfast and make sure you’re not making these mistakes:

1. Not eating breakfast at all

According to a report from the USDA, 93% of American believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day–but only 44% of Americans actually eat it! Breakfast jump starts your metabolism; without it, you’re fasting for 15-20 hours, which hinders the production of fat-metabolizing enzymes. But it does more than that: breakfast-eaters have lower cholesterol levels, feel more energized, perform better on cognition and memory tests, and have better blood sugar levels. And if you’re skipping breakfast to cut calories (or “save” them for later), heed this: people who skip breakfast are 4.5 times more likely than their breakfast-eating peers to be overweight. According to the National Weight Control Registry, which tracks people who have lost and maintained a 30 pound-or-more weight loss for over a year, 80% of their members eat breakfast every single day. If that’s not enough to convince you to start eating breakfast, consider this: according to a study from the Dairy Research Institute, those who skip breakfast consume 40% more sweets, 55% more soft drinks, 45% fewer vegetables, and 30% less fruit than those who ate their morning meal.

2. Not eating enough protein

Typical breakfast foods are made of refined carbohydrates: processed breakfast cereal, a bagel with jam, a muffin, a breakfast bar. But the convenience of these grab-and-go carbs is overshadowed by their lack of quality protein; at most, you’re likely getting 2-5 grams of incomplete protein. Adding just a little high-quality protein to your breakfast–a handful of nuts or a hardboiled egg, for example–might be the key to boosting your breakfast: research from the University of Missouri found that eating a high protein breakfast increases satiety and reduces cravings throughout the day. And even if you’re increasing the overall calorie content of your breakfast overall, it likely won’t hinder your diet efforts, either: people who eat a high-protein breakfast reportedly eat 200 fewer calories throughout the day. Look beyond eggs: add an ounce of smoked salmon to your English muffin (5.2 grams of protein), serve your cereal over one cup of cottage cheese (28 grams), or add some Canadian bacon to a breakfast sandwich (12 grams per two ounces).

High Protein Breakfasts

3. Not eating enough fiber

Another nutrient that most of those cereals, bagels, and muffins are missing? Fiber. The three most commonly eaten breakfast cereals in America (Cheerios, Special K, and Honey Bunches of Oats) each have less than three grams of fiber per serving (Special K has zero grams!); bagels and muffins have even less. But fiber is just as important as protein in a healthy breakfast: it reduces hunger and boosts satiety by slowing the rate of digestion and maintaining steady blood sugar levels. Fiber has a myriad of other health benefits, too: it helps lower cholesterol levels, boosts digestive and cardiovascular health, and may reduce the risk of diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers. If your heart is set on cereal, look for brands with at least five grams of fiber. Keeping that in mind, look for naturally occurring or intact fibers, like those found in whole grains or oats. Avoid “isolated” or “functional” fibers, like polydextrose, inulin, oat fibers, or soy fibers, which have been extracted from plants or manufactured in a lab and may not carry the same health benefits. To get extra fiber outside of the cereal box, look to fruits, vegetables, whole oats and other grains, nuts, and seeds.

Fiber Boosters

4. Not eating enough (or any) fat

You might be noticing a pattern at this point: that a healthy breakfast should include all three macronutrients (protein, high-fiber carbohydrates, and fat). Besides being absolutely necessary for everyday functioning (it’s a component of myelin, the material that sheaths nerve cells, as well as brain tissue, Healthy Fats to Add to your Breakfasthormones and other biochemicals, and it helps protect our organs), fat is required for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. But adding a little healthy fat to your diet boosts satiety: in addition to adding craving-crushing flavors and texture (you can thank fat for the creaminess of an egg yolk), it increases the amount of GLP-1, a gut hormone that increases fullness and suppresses appetite, in your blood. In a 2008 study published in the journal Appetite, overweight and obese volunteers who supplemented their diet with 1300 mg of omega-3 fatty acids experienced fewer hunger sensations immediately following and two hours after test meals. If you’re eating skim milk or nonfat yogurt now, switch over to 1 or 2%; the difference in calories is negligible, especially when you factor in the added satiety. Or simply add a handful of nuts or seeds (try flaxseed and chia seeds) to your favorite breakfast.

5. Not eating the right breakfast for you

According to a 2008 study, individuals who ate a 610-calorie breakfast shed more weight–and kept that weight off for longer–than individuals who ate a breakfast with 290 calories. But according to a 2011 study, all participants ate the same amount of calories later in the day, regardless of the amount of calories they had consumed at breakfast–meaning that those who ate a large breakfast consumed more calories overall. Either way, it seems like eating the right breakfast for your body is what’s key: just because a study says that a huge breakfast of bacon and eggs–or a light breakfast of blueberries and almonds–will aid in weight loss doesn’t meant that it’s the right breakfast for your lifestyle and body. So if it takes a 600-calorie breakfast to feel energized, go for it: just go for whole, unprocessed foods with a balance of protein, fiber, and fat, and think about downsizing your other meals. If you prefer light breakfasts, just make sure to eat enough to prevent cravings and overeating later in the day. And if you can’t stomach a big enough breakfast to keep you going until lunch, try eating two small breakfasts.

Breakfast

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10 Healthy Quinoa Salad Recipes

By now, most everyone knows about the virtues of quinoa: a seed known to the Incas as “the mother of all grains,” it’s high in muscle-building protein and hunger-quashing fiber. And containing all essential amino acids, including lysine and isoleucine, it’s a smart addition to vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets alike. Vitamin E, which plays a role in keeping inflammation at bay, as well as calcium, the phytonutrient betacyanin and antioxidants ferulic and coumaric acids, quercetin and kaempferol round out its nutritional profile. It’s even been recognized by the UN as a potential key player in worldwide nutrition: it has named 2013 the “International Year of Quinoa,” calling for foodies and non-foodies alike to “focus world attention on the role that quinoa biodiversity can play, owing to the the nutritional value of quinoa, in providing food security and nutrition in the eradication of poverty.”

On its own, quinoa has a nutty taste and chewy texture — but it can be somewhat boring. But dressing it up with vegetables, herbs, spices and dressings makes it not only tasty and filling, but a satisfying and complete meal. These ten recipes have different flavor profiles; but they have in common clean, whole ingredients offering plenty of nutrients. To add more bulk to your meal, double the vegetables in the recipe.

Quinoa Salad with Kale, Grapefruit and Mint

Quinoa Salad with Kale, Grapefruit and Mint

Ingredients
Half a bunch of kale, rinsed and finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water or vegetable stock
1 package mint, finely chopped (about ½ cup packed)
2 grapefruits
¼ cup toasted coconut
Salt and pepper

Method
Cook quinoa: bring to a boil with two cups water or vegetable stock; cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Massage kale with olive oil; let sit.

Add quinoa, chopped mint, grapefruit segments and their juice, and toasted coconut; toss. Add salt and pepper to taste.

9 Healthy Quinoa Recipes

Quinoa Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Dressing from Two Peas and Their Pod

Roasted Veggie Quinoa Salad from The Talking Kitchen

Layered Quinoa Salad with Beet Vinaigrette from Family Fresh Cooking

Mexican Quinoa Salad from Recipe Girl

Quinoa, Fennel and Pomegranate Salad from Bon Appetit

Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Black Beans, Red Pepper, and Cilantro from Kalyn’s Kitchen

Red Quinoa with Butternut Squash, Cranberries and Pecans from Gluten Free Goddess

Spicy Carrot and Quinoa Salad with Coconut Lime Dressing from The Year in Food

Tomato Basil Quinoa Salad from The Diva-Dish

Pick the Perfect Pasta

It used to be that you just had to pick between spaghetti or fettuccine, penne or cavatappi. But now, the pasta aisle is crammed with so many varieties of pasta — quinoa! corn! spelt! — that it’s become more of a library (reading all those stats…). So instead of letting smart marketing get the best of you, consult this guide to find the best pasta for you.

Regular pasta

Nutrition (2 oz, 1 cup cooked): 200 calories, 1 g fat, 2 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 7 g protein

Good for: Believe it or not, regular pasta can have a place in a healthy diet. But it’s refined! you say. True; and it is best to eat most of your grains in their whole form. But when a recipe you’re making calls for other fiber-rich ingredients, like white beans, chickpeas, or lots of vegetables, it’s okay to use regular pasta every now and then. The taste of real, semolina pasta is hard to emulate with a whole grain version, and sometimes you just need that chewy, not-grainy texture. The other time to use regular pasta: when you want that perfect, unadulterated bowl of spaghetti, olive oil, and a pinch of pepper.

Pairs well with: high-fiber foods; olive oil and pepper; tomatoes and basil

Whole wheat pasta

Nutrition (2 oz, 1 cup cooked): 200 calories, 1.5 g fat, 6 g fiber, 2 g sugars, 7 g protein

Good for: Whole wheat pasta brings a healthy serving of fiber to the table, a nutrient that most Americans are lacking in. Fiber boosts satiety, which is especially important in a pasta, as it’s all too easy to down a bowl with three times the appropriate serving size. But it also helps maintain steady blood sugar levels, boosts digestive health, and improves cardiovascular health.

Pairs well with: Hearty, flavorful sauces like pesto; robust tomato sauces like arrabiatta; pasta salads

Spinach Pasta (or other flavored varieties)

Nutrition (2 oz, 1 cup cooked): 200 calories, 1.5 g fat, 2 g fiber, 2 g sugars, 7 g protein

Good for: Flavored varieties of pasta, be it spinach, tomato, or carrot, are good for one thing: presentation. Unfortunately, these vegetable-hued pastas won’t count towards your daily serving of vegetables. If you look on the ingredients list, you’ll see spinach, tomato, or another vegetable listed as one of the last ingredients; that’s because only a few grams of the freeze-dried produce is actually in the pasta. If you’re looking for vegetables, just add a handful of spinach!

Pairs well with: Thin or clear sauces, so that the color shines through. And serve it with a big salad!

Quinoa Pasta

Nutrition (2 oz, 1 cup cooked): 229 calories, 3.7 g fat, 4 g fiber, 4 g sugars, 8 g protein

Good for: Because it’s made from a seed, quinoa pasta hits the trifecta of satiety-boosting nutrients: fiber, protein and omega-3 fatty acids (don’t let the higher fat content scare you; those are healthy fats!). Quinoa is also gluten free, making this a good option for those with a gluten sensitivity or Celiac Disease.

Pairs well with: Anything: quinoa pasta has a mild flavor, so it won’t overpower delicate sauces. Since it offers fiber, you don’t necessarily have to pair it with fiber-rich sides (but vegetables are always a good idea!)

Brown Rice Pasta

Nutrition (2 oz): 190 calories, 3 g fat, 4 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 4 g protein

Good for: Another good gluten free option, brown rice pasta offers both fiber and protein. But since it’s lower in protein than other varieties, it’s a good idea to pair it with protein-rich fare like chicken, shrimp, or beans.

Pairs well with: Brown rice pasta can be stickier and chewier in texture than other varieties, so pair it with thick and chunky sauces.

Shirataki Noodles

Nutrition (4 oz): 20 calories, 0.5 g fat, 1 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 1 g protein

Good for: These Asian noodles are made from the flour of the Konjac yam and are extremely low in calories. They contain a type of fiber called glucomannan, which may help with cholesterol control; because they’re made with little else, they take on the taste of whatever sauce or ingredients they’re paired with (although some people think their smell is off-putting). These noodles are a good choice for those nights when you want to lose yourself in a big bowl of pasta, or if you have trouble with portion control when it comes with pasta.

Pairs well with: Flavorful sauces likes pesto and marinara. And because Shirataki noodles offer very little in the way of nutrition, pair them with lean protein and fiber-rich vegetables. Or, try Asian flavors: use them as the base in a stir-fry with teriyaki sauce or soy sauce.

Spaghetti squash

Nutrition (1 cup, or about 5.5 oz): 42 calories, 0 g fat, 2 g fiber, 4 g sugars, 1 g protein

Good for: Low in calories, spaghetti squash is a good vehicle for hearty, flavorful, chunky sauces — the kind where you really only want to taste the sauce and toppings anyway! It’s packed with fiber, vitamin A, beta-carotene, and other antioxidants. Spaghetti squash also works well in recipes that call for higher calorie toppings, like pesto, alfredo, or meatballs; the extra 200 calories from regular pasta won’t put your dinner over the calorie edge.

Pairs well with: Chunky vegetables sauces; sauces with meatballs; alfredo; pesto

Eat Your Breakfast: No Excuses!

Breakfast is far too important — and delicious! — to skip. Yet around 25% of Americans regularly skip what most nutritionists call the most important meal of the day! Breakfast is vital for providing energy at the beginning of the day, boosting cognitive performance and jumpstarting the metabolism, but also plays a huge role in weight loss and control: a study from the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that people who regularly skip breakfast are 450% more likely to become obese than those who regularly eat breakfast. In addition, skipping breakfast may lead to unhealthy eating behaviors later in the day: studies have found that breakfast-skippers consume 40% more sweets, 55% more soda, 45% fewer vegetables, and 30% less fruit than breakfast-eaters.

So now matter what situation you’re in — you’re not hungry in the morning, you don’t have time — there’s a breakfast for you. No excuses!

I don’t have enough time.


If time is always an issue in the morning, make sure you have a stash of healthy bars to grab on your way out the door. Look for bars with at least 3 grams of protein and fiber, as well as healthy fats from nuts and seeds, which have been shown to reduce the glycemic index of a meal and stabilize blood sugar. Because most healthy bars clock in around 200 calories, it’s a good idea to supplement the bar with a fiber- and nutrient-rich serving of fruit or a protein-rich latte. Some good options are KIND bars, which have at least 5-7 grams of protein and fiber, Regeneration USA bars, and Zing bars. If you still want a homemade meal, take some time on Sunday to whip up freezable burritos (made with a whole wheat tortilla, eggs, beans, and salsa) or frittatas, and grab one on the way out the door.

I’m not hungry in the morning.

Many adults complain that they have no appetite in the morning; for some, even the thought of breakfast can bring on nausea. Since breakfast literally “breaks your nightly fast,” it’s important to get something into your system. Try a smoothie: since you’re drinking it — not eating it — it may be easier to hold down. Break away from the typical sugar-laden smoothies, though; add ingredients like Greek yogurt for protein, oatmeal for fiber, and ground flaxseed or chia seeds for omega-3 fatty acids. Try these smoothie recipes from Women’s Health Magazine (including “The Hunger Killer,” made with strawberries, mango, flax seed oil, and tofu) and Shape Magazine.

Also, try to start training your body to be hungry in the morning. If you eat dinner late (say, after 8 o’clock), move it up a few hours. If you like to treat yourself to a midnight snack, start scaling back that habit. It’s okay to go to bed a little bit hungry!

I work out in the morning.

Since you need fuel before a workout and muscle-repairing protein after one, it’s best to split breakfast into two parts. Since most of the energy from dinner the night before has already been used up, your blood sugar is likely low. Pick a mini breakfast with carbohydrates, which will top off glycogen (the fuel you use for exercise) stores, as well as some protein or fat, which will both enhance the lasting power of those carbs. Try whole wheat toast with almond or peanut butter, a banana with almond or peanut butter, a small bowl of oatmeal, or Greek yogurt with whole grain cereal. After your workout, pick another mini breakfast with a balance of carbohydrates and protein. Carbs will provide energy, and protein will help repair muscles. Make sure to eat within 30 minutes after your workout; the small window is when protein is maximally absorbed. Some post-workout mini breakfasts: two scrambled eggs on whole wheat toast; Greek yogurt with berries or whole wheat cereal; chocolate milk and whole wheat toast; or a peanut butter sandwich.

I need something to last me until lunch.


For lasting power through lunch, pick protein-rich eggs and high-fiber oatmeal. According to a study from Louisiana State University, the specific proteins found in eggs help keep us full more than other common breakfast foods. In the study, those who ate eggs instead of a breakfast of cereal (with equal amounts of protein) had lower levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and higher levels of PYY, a hormone that boosts satiety. Oatmeal, which is loaded with fiber, provides energy and keeps blood sugar levels stable. Add some nuts as the final punch to your hunger: the monounsaturated fats reduce feelings of hunger and also boast cardioprotective benefits.

I eat breakfast with my kids and don’t want to make two breakfasts.

Don’t settle for sugary kids’ cereal — for you or your children. Many brands pack more sugar than a cookie, says the Environmental Working Group. For a breakfast that takes just as little time to prepare, but is much more nutritious, whip up some wafflewiches: toast a whole grain waffle, smear it with almond butter and sliced apples, and fold. With far less sugar, more fiber and healthy fats, it’s a better breakfast whether you’re headed to elementary school or the corporate office.

I don’t like breakfast foods.

If you’re not a fan of typical breakfast foods — eggs, yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies — but you’re still hungry, just treat breakfast like you would a healthy lunch. It’s not convention to have a turkey sandwich or stir-fry for dinner, but if it works for you, go full speed ahead! Just keep it between 350 and 400 calories of high quality protein and belly-filling fiber, and throw in some nuts, seeds, or avocado for healthy fats.

I want to lose weight.

First, say goodbye to the much-believed but mythical mantra that skipping breakfast will help you lose weight. Members who belong to the National Weight Control Registry, who have successfully kept off 30 or more pounds for over a year, regularly eat breakfast. And because breakfast-eaters are satiated early on in the day, they tend to consume fewer calories throughout the rest of the day. Pick eggs: since they keep you satiated for longer, you’re less likely to binge or snack on high-calorie treats. According to a study published in the Journal of Obesity, participants who ate eggs lost 65% more weight than those who consumed the same number of calories from bagels. Add a slice of whole wheat toast for sticking power, and sip on green tea; compounds in the brew have been shown to rev metabolism.

I love breakfast and my appetite is in full force in the morning!

As long as you stick to a reasonably sized breakfast, you’re in the clear. Even if you love breakfast foods, it’s important to keep portion sizes in check: a study published in Nutrition Journal found that participants who ate large breakfasts — around 600 calories — did not reduce their calorie consumption for the rest of day, leading them to eat around 400 calories more overall than those who ate a small breakfast. Choose a breakfast with around 350-400 calories (or split it into two smaller 200-calorie portions), and make sure it contains protein and fiber.

The Healthiest Snack Bars

My friends joke that I could probably live out of my purse for at least two days. But it’s probably true…in there you will find at least one apple; my own “trail mix” made of high fiber cereal, almonds, pistachios, and pumpkin seeds; Justin’s Nut Butter packets; a slice of my favorite yeast whole wheat pumpkin bread; a ziplock bag of sugar snap peas and carrots; and around three snack bars. I don’t necessarily eat all of this every day, but I like to be prepared. Once I exhaust all of my “whole food” resources (i.e., the fruit, vegetables, nuts, and whole wheat bread) and I’m hungry, I often resort to one of the bars. I don’t really like to eat snack/meal/protein bars, because they’re processed and often contain too many ingredients and sugar; but I will eat one to tide me over until I can reach my refrigerator.

The market for energy bars is a multi-billion dollar industry. Hundreds of brands cater to individual niches, including those for professional and elite athletes, cyclists, children, women, body builders, the gluten-free (or vegan, no-sugar, or soy-free) crowd, and even those wanting to support alternative causes (check out Two Degrees bars). Some are no more nutritious than a candy bar, with vast amounts of sugar and other unhealthy ingredients, while others pack decent amounts of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. I’ve been on the lookout for years for healthier bars: those that contain under 200 calories, minimal added sugar, and at least 3 grams each of fiber and protein.

NuGo Slim Raspberry Truffle (170 calories, 6 g fat, 9 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 15 g protein)
Taste: Rich, dark chocolate with bits of raspberry. These are for chocolate-lovers!
Nutrition: The NuGo Slim bars, which also come in Roasted Peanut and Brownie Crunch, are made with real dark chocolate but only contain 2 grams of sugar – and even better, they don’t contain artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols. With 15 grams of protein and 9 grams of fiber, these bars have staying power without a sugar crash.
Tags: Low Glycemic, Diabetic-friendly, Gluten-free, Kosher

Regeneration USA Anti-Aging Whole Food Bar Original Goji Flavor (210 calories, 8 g fat, 9 g fiber, 15 g sugar, 9 g protein)
Taste: Berry, nutty flavor; crunchy-meets-soft texture
Nutrition: In the energy bar world, these would be considered the “superbar.” They contain a smattering of superfoods with flavanoids, anti-inflammatory nutrients, and antioxidants: sprouted flax, almond butter, cashews, chia seeds, quinoa, sprouted buckwheat, blueberries, and cocoa nibs (all of which are organic). The bars also contain resVida™ trans-Resveratrol, which gives them the resveratrol equivalent of 30 bottles of red wine and a certified antioxidant capacity of 7,800. While the sugar content seems high, most of it is from dried fruits and raw honey.
Tags: 100% Organic, Raw, Sprouted, Vegan, Kosher, Gluten-free, Low Glycemic

Smart For Life Green Tea Protein Bar (180 calories, 4 g fat, 2 g fiber, 10 g sugar, 18 g protein)
Taste: Like a slightly denser rice crispy treat. Bonus: unlike other protein bars, these aren’t chalky and hard to chew.
Nutrition: These bars, with a “balanced amino acid blend,” pack a lot of protein without going over the 200-calorie mark. This bar cuts hunger and cravings, but it also increases your metabolic rate: studies show that a high-protein meal can elevate your metabolism by 35% for the following 12 hours. The Green Tea Protein Bar has further metabolism-boosting powers: it is supplemented with green tea extract. Green tea extract has also been shown to help decrease LDL cholesterol levels, improve blood sugar metabolism, and, according to a recent study, enhance protein metabolism (in other words: green tea extract enhances an enzyme that helps break down protein, helping you to feel fuller after a high-protein meal and allowing your body to efficiently utilize protein).
Tags: Gluten-Free, No Artificial Ingredients or Preservatives, No HFCS or Sugar Alcohols, Contains Omega-3 Fatty Acids

KIND Fruit & Nut (180 calories, 11 g fat, 4 g fiber, 12 g sugar, 5 g protein)
Taste: Like melted trail mix with a fruity tang
Nutrition: KIND bars have won all sorts of awards since the launch of their first bar, including “Healthiest Packaged Foods of 2011” from Prevention Magazine, “Best Snack for Women” from Women’s Health Magazine, and “Best Snack Bar” from Health Magazine. These bars, which come in 11 flavors and highlight different nutritional benefits on the bars (+ protein, + omega-3, + antioxidants, + calcium) are nutritionally dense with ingredients you “can see and pronounce.” If you’re worried about snacking and weight gain, KIND bars won’t pack on the pounds: a 2010 study found that participants who added two KIND bars to their daily diet maintained weight, BMI, and waist size. These results indicate that nutritious snacking can be a part of a healthy diet.
Tags: Gluten-Free, Low Glycemic, Whole Foods

Thanks to Smart For Life, Regeneration USA, and NuGo for sending samples!

Learn How To Snack With A Purpose

Today, Americans snack their way through an average of 580 calories a day, eating an average of 4.9 meals and snacks a day – a 29% increase from 3.8 in 1977. Snacking itself isn’t the problem; a study published by the Nutrition Journal found that scheduled snacking actually led to fat loss. The problem is what people are snacking on: data from Progressive Grocer shows that 94.7% of American households purchase cookies, 89.9% potato chips, 75.2% tortilla chips, and 89.4% chocolate. And everywhere we go, these unhealthy foods are staring us down, from the candy jar at your cube mate’s desk to the bakery samples at grocery stores. Adding insult to injury, Americans tend to eat on the go; such mindless eating has been linked with weight gain. Secondary eating (eating while performing another activity) increased from 15 minutes in 2006 to 30 minutes in 2008; secondary drinking nearly doubled from 45 to 85 minutes.

Snacking, if done right, is healthy – it can lead to weight loss, it adds more nutrients to your diet, it provides energy (physical and mental) between meals, and it contributes to a healthy metabolism. The key is to snack, with purpose, on functional foods – foods that are high in nutrients and that will quash hunger.

1. Choose whole foods over processed foods.
Whole foods – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein – have high nutrient density and low caloric density, meaning they provide lots of nutrients for minimal calories. Processed foods, however, are essentially empty calories. Snack foods like chips, pretzels, soft drinks, and cookies have almost no beneficial nutrients, but still add another 200-300 calories to your diet. Depending on your snacks, you can easily add to your daily recommended intakes for vitamins and minerals and beef up your “five-a-day” for vegetables and fruits.

2. Choose snacks with either protein or fiber, plus unsaturated fats.
The purpose of your snack is to provide energy and curb hunger until your next meal. Fiber slows the rate of digestion, making you feel fuller longer. Studies show that protein may affect leptin, an appetite-suppressing hormone, to improve satiety, also making you feel fuller after a snack. And a 2008 study from University of California at Irvine found that unsaturated fats, like those found in avocados and nuts, triggers the production of oleoylethanolamide, a compound that decreases appetite.

3. Choose low glycemic index foods.
Foods with high glycemic indexes are broken down fast, resulting in a swift rise and fall in blood sugar. Such foods – like white bread, chips, and candy – often lead to cravings soon after consumption.  Foods with low glycemic indexes are the opposite: they are broken down slowly, leaving you with stable blood sugar levels and sustainable energy. Low glycemic index (low is considered to be below 55) foods include whole grains, vegetables, certain fruits (grapefruit, strawberries, grapes, apples, cherries), yogurt, beans and legumes, meat and fish, and nuts (notice that all of these foods are also high in fiber, protein, or unsaturated fats).

4. Choose a snack with 150-200 calories.
A snack should tide you over until your next meal; it should not fill you up like a meal would (If you work out a few hours after a meal, you may need two snacks). Pair energy-boosting carbohydrates (like an apple) with protein or fats (like almond butter or cheese) for lasting satiety.

5. Prepare snacks in advance.
If you know you’re going to be away from your kitchen for a few hours, pack yourself a healthy, homemade snack. You’ll be able to control the ingredients, and since you’re not famished, you can make informed decisions regarding what to snack on. And when you find yourself passing the office vending machine or mall-court Cinnabon, you won’t be tempted to give in to high-fat, high-sugar snack choices.

6. Avoid the “NEEDNT” snacks.
In February, researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand identified 49 “NEEDNT” foods – non-essential foods that should be avoided. These foods are either calorie-dense and nutrient-devoid, contain added sugars, or are prepared using a high-fat method (like frying). The foods may also be “trigger foods,” which are those foods you simply cannot eat enough of and encourage you to binge. Some items on the list include cake, cookies, energy drinks, fruit juice, muffins, and fries. To see the whole list, click here.

7. Be mindful.
Treat a snack like a meal: sit down and savor each bite. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, individuals ate lunch while either playing solitaire or without distraction; 30 minutes later, they were allowed to eat as many cookies as they wanted. The group who played solitaire ate 250 calories worth of cookies (compared to about 125) and had more difficulty recalling the nine items in their lunch. Being mindful while eating helps us remember what we eat, making us less inclined to eat more at a later time.

Try these functional snacks to replace any mid-day cravings you have.

If you’re craving something CREAMY (sweet)
Instead of: Ice Cream
Try: 6 oz Greek yogurt (98 calories) with 2 Tbs slivered almonds (80 calories) + 1 tsp maple syrup (15 calories ) = 193 calories

If you’re craving something CREAMY (savory)
Instead of: Chips and dip
Try: 1 cup cucumber slices (16 calories) with 1 oz soft herbed goat cheese (100 calories) = 116 calories

If you’re craving something CRUNCHY
Instead of: Tortilla chips
Try: ½ large red bell pepper (25 calories) + ½ cup carrots (20 calories) with ¼ cup hummus (100 calories) = 145 calories

If you’re craving something SWEET
Instead of: Snickers bar
Try: 12 medium strawberries (70 calories) dipped in 1 Tbs chocolate chips (70 calories) + 7 almonds (50 calories) = 190 calories

If you’re craving something SALTY
Instead of: Pretzels
Try: ½ cup edamame (100 calories) + 25 pistachios (85 calories)

If you’re craving something CHEESY
Instead of: Mozzarella Sticks
Try: 2 Whole Wheat Wasa Crispbread (100 calories) + 1 wedge The Laughing Cow Light Garlic and Herb (35 calories) = 135 calories

Other snacks to try:

Sliced apple with almond or peanut butter
Berries and almonds/pistachios (if berries aren’t in season, buy them frozen and thaw)
Yogurt and whole grain cereal, sprinkled with cinnamon, ground flaxseed, and chia seeds
Sliced carrots, bell pepper strips, and cucumbers dipped in hummus
A cup of high-fiber soup
A mini-sandwich
Black beans with green onions and garlic
A serving of a grain- or bean-based salad