Low-Calorie Snacks: Our Healthiest Picks

Advice

Reach for a tasty pick-me-up between meals without sabotaging all your hard-won gains

Sam Rider
10 May 2016
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You can’t always get the nutrition you need from breakfast, lunch and dinner. Maybe you’re on a muscle-gain plan that demands a ton of calories – or maybe you’re eating on the go and need to avoid a blood sugar crash that’ll send you scurrying to Krispy Kreme.

The good news is, there are plenty of snack options that will help, rather than hinder your fitness – and you can keep them handy at all times. Here’s our pick of the best, as well as a list of healthy (and some unhealthy) foods and their quantities that weigh in under 100 calories.

Stock your desk drawer with the non-perishable and pick up some of the fresh ingredients on your way to the office to reduce your chances of cookie-chomping through your nine-to-five.

Go Nuts

People who eat nuts tend to have longer lives and be at a lower risk of cancer and heart disease, Harvard scientists found when they analysed the results of a huge number of studies into nut consumption. They also concluded that although nuts are high in calories and fat, eating them didn’t correlate with any significant gain in body fat.

A handful of almonds every day can make your diet significantly healthier, according to University of Florida research that measured food intake among adults and children. The subjects increased their protein intake and reduced their empty calories.

Snacking on peanuts or peanut butter up to four times a week helps you lower your BMI. That’s what a University of Houston study into the eating habits of children found, the conclusion being that they reduce the likelihood of reaching for less filling foods.

100 Calories and Under Snacks

Counting calories? Here's a list of tasty snacks – some good, some not so – that clock in at under 100 calories. Choose wisely:

Health hit

1 large apple and 5 almonds - 97 calories
1 small banana - 90 calories
2 medium peaches - 76 calories
Punnet of blueberries and 1tbsp fat-free Greek yogurt - 90 calories
14 almonds - 98 calories
6 figs - 96 calories
200g fruit salad - 82 calories
1 pot of strawberry fromage frais and 6 cherries - 99 calories
5 dried apricots - 95 calories
4 dates - 96 calories
1 small sweet potato - 100 calories
280g Brussels sprouts - 100 calories

Office friendly

1 small banana - 90 calories
1 mini pitta bread with reduced-fat cottage cheese - 97 calories
1 oatcake with 1tsp low-fat smooth peanut butter - 96 calories
1tsp cream cheese on 1 plain Ryvita with 1 medium tomato - 100 calories
1 slice of brown toast and Marmite - 100 calories
1 large apple and 5 almonds - 97 calories
14 almonds - 98 calories
5 dried apricots - 95 calories
Punnet of blueberries and 1tbsp fat-free Greek yoghurt - 90 calories

Instant boost

1 Kellogg’s Fruit ’n Fibre cereal bar - 95 calories
1 mini pitta bread with reduced-fat cottage cheese - 97 calories
1 slice of breaded ham and 1tsp English mustard - 71 calories
1 oatcake with 1tsp low-fat smooth peanut butter - 96 calories
1 toasted crumpet and 1tsp low-fat grated cheese - 92 calories
1 fishfinger with 4tbsp reduced-sugar and salt baked beans - 91 calories
1 Asda tortilla wrap - 97 calories
33 frozen grapes - 99 calories
30g low-fat Edam cheese and 5 sticks of celery - 99 calories
1tsp cream cheese on 1 plain Ryvita with 1 medium tomato - 100 calories
25g natural cottage cheese and 1 medium peach - 91 calories

Easy to make

1 rasher of grilled bacon and a dollop of ketchup - 87 calories
1 slice of brown toast and Marmite - 100 calories
28g serving of porridge oats - 100 calories
1 hard-boiled egg - 78 calories
5 roasted chestnuts - 100 calories
1 Dairylea slice and 1 rice cake - 99 calories
2 cream crackers with 1tbsp reduced-fat coleslaw - 100 calories
2 multigrain Ryvitas with Marmite - 83 calories
1 carrot with 28g tzatziki - 97 calories
1 sliced boiled potato with 1tbsp fresh salsa - 91 calories
4 breadsticks with tzatziki - 100 calories
28g Solgar Whey To Go protein shake - 100 calories
2 slices of Parma ham with 6 thin slices of melon - 80 calories
Heinz Weight Watchers Chicken Soup - 88 calories
1 Müller Light cherry yoghurt - 96 calories

Naughty list

1 McVitie’s chocolate digestive - 83 calories
2 jaffa cakes - 90 calories
1 iced fairy cake - 94 calories
2 Cadbury’s Roses - 100 calories
2 squares of 85% cocoa dark chocolate - 88 calories
1 bag of ready salted French Fries - 97 calories
10 Pringles - 100 calories
1 meringue nest with 6 strawberries - 100 calories
1 mini gingerbread man - 80 calories
1 Bendicks Bittermint - 80 calories
25 Jelly Belly jelly beans - 100 calories
Half a pint of lager and 7 peanuts - 99 calories

5 Low-Calorie Snack Ideas

1. Homemade trail mix

Combine (50g of each) pumpkin seeds, flaked almonds, dried cranberries, raisins, walnut pieces and goji berries. Practice zen-like portion discipline by weighing out 30g bags to take into work each day.

2. Sliced pear and cashew nut butter

High fibre pears make a delicious mid-afternoon snack with 1 tbsp of cashew nut butter.

3. High protein yogurt and fresh cherries

Greek, Greek-style or Quark-based pots offer three times more protein than standard yoghurts – keeping you full and nourished throughout the day. Combine with cherries to sweeten.

4. Oatcakes with home-made edamame hummus

Keep your spreads interesting by changing up your bean to make a wholesome desk snack.

5. Banana and tahini balls

Combine 2 bananas, 1 cup of oats, 3 tbsp tahini and 1 tbsp of sunflower seeds in a food processor. Roll the mixture into small balls in your hands and refrigerate until hard. Take two into work each day as a snack-size serving. Scoff.

RECOMMENDED: Coach’s Energy Balls Recipe

Go-To Low-Calorie Snacks

Nut butter and fruit

One or two of your five-a-day fruit ‘n’ veg ration can come from fruit – but to avoid the instant rush of a fructose hit, it’s best to pair them with a lower-GI foodstuff. The easy solution? Pair your banana with peanut butter, or your apple with almond spread. You’ll also get a quick hit of protein and a serving of healthy fats. Alternatively take your protein hit neat – spread it on an unflavoured rice cake or delicious (honest) caramel-flavoured Snack a Jacks rice cake after an intense workout to accelerate your recovery. 

Greek yogurt

While “non-fat” options often aren’t as healthy as they sound, fat-free Greek yogurt packs more concentrated protein than any other type of the stuff. It’s common to find 12-13g of protein in the fat-free variety compared with 7-8g in whole milk Greek yogurt and 6-7g in the non-Greek style stuff. To get the best-quality hit, reach for “traditionally fermented and strained” products when choosing the dairy food of the gods. 

Berries

Berries are a great pick for your daily fruit – they’re high in illness-fighting antioxidants and relatively low in fructose. Twin blueberries, raspberries or blackberries with Greek yogurt and you’ve got a dessert-like dish that also packs a protein wallop and a hit of digestion-friendly probiotics. 

Nuts (and legumes)

Brazils, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, almonds and macadamias (plus peanuts, which are actually legumes and part of the pea, lentil and chickpea famiy) all pack an abundance of healthy benefits. A pack of mixed nuts is one of the best things to keep in your desk drawer – they’re filling and full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, while peanuts rival fruit as a souce of antioxidants. Roasting them (minus the salt) can increase their antioxidant potency by 22%. 

Porridge

Muesli may look like a cold version of this soaked oaty substance, but scientists from Sydney University found porridge’s gloopy consistency makes it twice as filling, even when the portions contain the same amount of calories. So stick with the hot stuff and you’ll find it easier to reject that pack of mid-morning Jammie Dodgers. 

Cottage cheese

It’s a bit like Marmite – some people love its creamy, curdy texture, other people feel like they’re trying to knock back mouthfuls of chunky expired milk. But there’s no doub cottage cheese is one of the best low-calorie, high-protein snacks available. In a 100g portion you get just 98 calories and a massive 11.2g of the muscle-building nutrient. Feeling adventurous? Mix it with tuna and stick it on a rice cake for an easy-to-digest post-workout snack that will help your muscles repair and grow.

Eggs

Beloved of the bodybuilding set, who are laser-focused on trying to pack on muscle without gaining a load of body fat, a single egg rocks in at a mere 70 calories with an impressive 6g of protein. Eggs are also rich in healthy fats that protect your heart, so it’s not just those who train a lot who should be knocking them back in large quantities. Yup, forget what you’ve been told about limiting yourself to a certain number a day – there’s nothing bad in a healthy egg, so omelette yourself gorge on them (sorry).

Grapes

If you often hit the supermarket with a list of veggies but come home with bags of pastries, it's probably because your willpower is starved of glucose. Research in the Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology showed that willpower drops with your glucose levels, so eating glucose-rich grapes before you shop will sweeten your chance of avoiding the cake aisle.

Tofu

Huge in Asia, tofu is coagulated soy milk that’s cut up into blocks and it’s a giant in the low-calorie, high-protein stakes – 100g contains just 117 calories but a significant 12g of protein. It’s got a fairly bland taste but if you combine it with chicken, ginger and garlic in a water-based soup you get a potent muscle-building snack that’s tasty and won’t deepen the tread of that spare tyre around your midsection.​

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