Low-Sugar Snack Ideas to Satisfy Your Mid-Afternoon Hunger
The midafternoon slump is very real. But even if it's a little late for (another) coffee, you don't have to just tough it out. Strategic snacking can help. The key is to resist the urge to eat something that's basically all sugar. "When your energy's low, it's usually a result of low blood sugar, and when you have a higher-sugar snack, you'll get a boost in energy. But it's also followed by a pretty severe energy crash," says registered dietitian Jeanne Reilly. So, what's a girl to do when she wants to dig into something sweet but needs to keep her energy level steady? Try one of these healthy snack ideas.
With the right toppings, popcorn makes the perfect salty-sweet treat. "You can put plain popcorn kernels in a bag and pop them in the microwave, and then while it's hot you can top them with different things," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., creator of Better Than Dieting and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You From Label to Table
. “If you like sweetness, you can add dark chocolate chips or shavings.”
Protein One 90-Calorie Protein Bars
Since energy slumps often come as a surprise, it's helpful to keep a stash of protein bars at the ready. Plus, you should aim to include "some protein and/or fat" in snacks, says Taub-Dix. "You'll get a much smoother blood sugar level and it will just make you feel more satiated." Protein One bars have some healthy stats behind them: 90 calories, 10 grams of protein, and only 1 gram of sugar.
($5.68 for 10; walmart.com)
Greek Yogurt Parfait
Greek yogurt is the protein powerhouse when it comes to styles of yogurt, meaning it'll keep you full longer. Turn it into a parfait to sweeten the pot. "I would stick with plain Greek yogurt over sweetened flavors, which have a lot of added sugar," says Reilly. "But if you add things like cinnamon or even pieces of really dark chocolate, that can give it a really yummy sweet flavor."
Catalina Crunch Dark Chocolate Artisan Cereal
Cereal is a fun snack, but as you're probably aware, it tends to be pretty damn sugary. (Otherwise, cereal milk wouldn't be so slurpable.) But Catalina Crunch's new dark chocolate cereal contains no sugar, 24 grams of plant protein, and 21 grams of fiber. Try it with your choice of unsweetened milk or in a trail mix with nuts and cacao nibs.
($49 for 4; catalinacrunch.com)
A smoothie doesn't have to be a sugar bomb. The key is to fill it with more than just fruit and to avoid syrups. Try add-ins like cucumber, spinach, unsweetened chocolate almond milk, and nut butter, suggests Taub-Dix. (Related: Healthy Green Smoothie Recipes from Sweet to Super Green)
Biena Barbecue Chickpea Snacks
These barbecue chickpeas contain just 1 gram of sugar per serving. Bonus: They'll knock out both your sweet and crunchy cravings in one tasty snack. A single serving has 5 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber, compared to around 2 grams of protein and 1 gram of fiber in barbecue potato chips.
Reilly suggests homemade popsicles made with yogurt as an icy snack option you can make in advance. This creamy avocado popsicle recipe incorporates honey as an optional sweetener.
P.S. Snacks Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Nothing satisfies a sweet tooth like cookie dough, but obviously taking a spoon to a loaf of raw dough isn't exactly a healthy, low-sugar option. This healthified version clocks in at 3 grams of sugar per serving. It's gluten-free, vegan, and refined sugar-free with ingredients like chickpeas, almonds, and semisweet chocolate chips. You can use it as a dip or topping—or just eat it by the spoonful, since it doesn't contain raw eggs or flour.
($32 for a 12-pack; ps-snacks.com)
Cottage cheese is a favorite among nutritionists—and for good reason: It's packed with protein. (It made the approved list of pre- and post-workout snacks, healthy recipes using cottage cheese, and smart 5-minute meals). Both Taub-Dix and Reilly recommend topping cottage cheese with some fruit for a sweet snack that won't send you on a sugar roller coaster.
Noosh Birthday Cake Almond Butter + MCT Oil
Keto dieters, this one's for you. These cake-flavored almond butter packs are boosted with MCT oil, and each single-serve pack has just 1 gram of sugar. (In case you're wondering, here's why everyone's so obsessed with MCT oil.) Try it on carrots or celery or all by itself.
($18 for 15; nooshbrands.com)