These smart snacks are sure to keep you happy, energized, satisfied—and away from the vending machine.
Sure, you pay attention to every morsel your kid eats, but during a jam-packed day of work or running around, it's all too easy to forget about nourishing yourself. The result? A frenzied trip to the drive-thru or vending machine after you suddenly realize you're starvation central. "The worst thing you can do is go too long without eating," says Keri Glassman, RD, a NYC-based dietitian (and mom to a 5-year-old and 17-month-old). "Then not only do you overeat, but you binge on unhealthy foods full of sugar and empty calories."
As a general rule, try to eat something every two to four hours. Selecting snacks at about 150 calories or less per serving will keep your hunger at bay without widening your waistline. Since you're so swamped, we tapped experts for picks that multitask accordingly: Most are kid-friendly and nonperishable, so you can tuck them away in your diaper bag, car, or desk and not think about restocking every morning. Here, 12 satisfying snacks you can feel good about munching on.
Divvy up a serving of your favorite flakes into little baggies for a stand-alone crunchy snack. Most cereals are fortified with essential nutrients like folic acid and other vitamins and minerals; your healthiest bets are also low in added sugar, high in fiber, and made with heart-healthy whole grains, like MultiGrain Cheerios, Product 19, Kashi GoLean, Fiber One Honey Clusters, Raisin Bran, and Quaker Oatmeal Squares. Pack your snack with a yummier nutritional punch by tossing in a few nuts for extra flavor (the protein will help stave off hunger longer).
If you can't eat just one, consider switching from potato or tortilla chips to soy crisps. A huge 140-calorie-ish portion generally packs only 2 grams of fat and as much as 10 grams of healthy soy protein, depending on the brand. So you can munch away and feel like you're eating a ton without any guilt about the grease factor.
Yogurt smoothies from brands like Dannon Light & Fit and Yoplait Light provide crucial calcium and protein for less than 100 calories and zero fat. Stash a few single-serving bottles in your office fridge or grab a shake to sip during a short round of errands.
Can't shake a chocolate craving? No need to deny it. "You're better off addressing it or else you'll end up overindulging later on," says Felicia Stoler, DCN, MS, RD, a nutritionist and exercise physiologist with a New Jersey-based private practice. The key here is to make sure the portion size is small. Consider CocoaVia's 80- to 150-calorie chocolate bars, which also contain heart-healthy plant extracts and antioxidants. Hershey's also offers 100-calorie chocolate bars -- we love the dark chocolate version.
More than just a sushi joint staple, these yummy pods provide soy protein and fiber with little sugar or carbs -- a healthy swap when you're jonesing for something crunchy or salty, like chips. Store them in the freezer and defrost what you need in the morning, or check out Seapoint Farms' mini single-portion packets at just 38 calories each (a standard half-cup serving is about 100 calories). Packaged in kid-friendly Dora and SpongeBob pouches, they're also a brilliant way to entice picky eaters to try your snack.
Your kids love this fun-to-peel snack, but it's also a healthy choice for you. String cheese can stay out of the fridge a couple of hours, making it an ideal mid-morning nibble. A part-skim stick contains about 50 to 70 calories and 4 to 5 grams of fat, along with calcium for healthy bones and muscles and hunger-quenching protein. Pair it with a few whole-grain crackers to fulfill a crunch craving.
Pretty much a no-brainer, fruit like apples, pears and oranges are a busy-mom snack staple. These don't spoil easily, so you can toss in your bag or leave at your desk for a few days at least. Medium-sized apples and pears pack about 100 calories each (about 65 for a medium orange) with lots of fiber and essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Whole-Grain Snack Bars
Whole-Grain Snack Bars
When you're in rush-rush-rush mode (and don't even have the time to, say, dunk carrots in hummus), snack bars are the perfect grab-and-go choice. "I leave six different bars in my car, so I know there's something there to stop me from running into a convenience store when I'm out and hungry," says Stoler. (And stashing them in the diaper bag is a great way to head off a hungry-toddler tantrum.)
But with hundreds of options out there -- many loaded with a surprising amount of calories, sugar, and fat -- looking at labels is key to making a healthy choice. Go for brands with less than 15 grams of sugar, at least 4 grams of fiber, and about 150 calories, like Kashi's TLC Chewy Granola Bars, those from Gnu Foods and those Glassman creates for her clients (now available for sale on her Web site).
Almonds & Walnuts
Almonds & Walnuts
Pack pre-portioned baggies of this super-healthy snack in your desk, bag, or car for easy munching. Almonds are rich in healthy fats that keep you feeling full; plus, they're packed with heart-healthy minerals like potassium and magnesium and bone boosters like phosphorus and calcium. Walnuts contain omega-3s, fatty acids known to reduce inflammation, boost "good" cholesterol levels, and even make your complexion more glowy.
Serving size is key, though -- or else you risk overdoing it on calories and fat. A 1-ounce handful of almonds (about 23 nuts) is about 160 calories and 14 grams of fat. A scoop of 14 walnut halves packs about 185 calories and 18 grams of fat. And be on the lookout to avoid labels like "roasted" or "salted" -- both are less healthy than regular raw varieties.
While you should keep nuts away from kids 4 and younger (they can pose a choking hazard), they're a great snack for older ones -- so you can feel good about sharing.
It's nourishing (thanks to fiber and protein), even babies can eat it, and you can whip it up just about anywhere that has a plastic cup and hot water. For about 100 to 160 calories per serving (depending on brand), oatmeal is a primo source of heart-healthy whole grains that'll keep you feeling full.
Dried Fruits & Veggies
Dried Fruits & Veggies
We hate when we stock up on pricey fresh produce with the best of healthy-eating intentions, only to have it spoil before we can finish it. While some dried fruits and vegetables are loaded down with extra sugar, salt, or preservatives -- rendering them about as healthy as candy -- we love the lines from Just Tomatoes and Bare Fruit. Both use special processes to dry out their products so you're left with plenty of authentic real-fruit-and-veggie nutrients, like fiber and vitamins and minerals, without any of the unhealthy added stuff. Dried fruits like bananas, cherries, mangoes, pineapple, and pomegranates and veggies like peppers, carrots, peas, corn and, of course, tomatoes, are a perfect way to reach the recommended 5-9 daily servings of fruits and veggies, all in the form of an easy-to-stash, spoil-proof snack.
Movie popcorn gets a deservedly terrible nutritional rap, but low-fat microwave versions are actually a terrific snack for you (and kids older than 4; younger than that, it can be a choking hazard). Look for individual 100-calorie bags or brands that are at least 94 percent fat-free, which amounts to a huge portion of healthy whole grains for only 100-120 calories. Got an office microwave? Keep a box at your desk for a fresh post-lunch snack; if not, pop and pack it at home in the morning.