You’ve heard me say that nuts, fruit smoothies, yogurt and certain protein bars are decent snack options for achieving a healthy weight. This is true. They are certainly better choices than candy, chips, fries and other sugary and fat-laden snacks.
What you may not realize is that wholesome choices can also be packed with calories. This is fine if you’re paying attention to serving sizes and how you pair things like nuts with fruit, rather than other calorie-dense options like granola. Generally, you want to keep snacks between 100-200 calories, whereas meals will fall between 300-500 calories (depending on weight, metabolism and health goals).
The important message is to watch serving sizes and to have a general sense of high-calorie foods and their lower-calorie counterparts. Use this guide to switch out these eye-opening, calorie-dense options with my suggested alternatives for healthy-weight:
Saboteur: 1 cup of trail mix
Solutions: Keep your serving size to about ¼ cup (174 cal) for a quick snack or try eating ¼ cup walnuts and ¼ cup raisins (280 cal).
Saboteur: 2 tablespoons olive oil
Solutions: Olive oil is super healthy, so just watch your portions. If making as salad dressing, use 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar or lemon with a little bit of sea salt (133 cal). When cooking, use grapeseed oil instead. It has a higher flash point and disperses more readily in the pan so you don’t need to use as much.
Saboteur: 1 cup granola
Calories: 597 calories
Solutions: Keep your serving size to about ¼ cup (150 cal) and use it as a topping to Greek yogurt and fruit as opposed to eating it as a full bowl of cereal.
Saboteur: Most commercial smoothies
Solutions: Make your own smoothies using almond milk and 1 cup of your favorite frozen fruit. For added protein use Greek yogurt or a suggested serving of protein powder – I use JuicePlus+ Complete vanilla or chocolate. (350 cal)
Saboteur: ¼ cup peanut butter
Solutions: This is a great source of protein and generally liked by all, so it’s an easy snack. Just be mindful of your serving size, and stick to no more than 2 tablespoons (200 cal) per serving. It’s best to eat peanut butter with low-calorie fruit, like an apple, rather than adding extra calories with bread or crackers. As an alternative to peanut butter you can use ¼ cup hummus (108 cal).
Saboteur: Jumbo whole grain muffins
Calories: at least 400
Solutions: Split a muffin with a friend or opt for a small slice of whole wheat banana bread. (200 cal)
Saboteur: Whole wheat bagel
Solutions: Eat ½ a bagel, or skip it all together and eat one slice of whole wheat bread (120 cal)
Saboteur: 3 oz. yogurt covered raisins
Solutions: Have 5 small squares of dark chocolate instead (170 cal)
Saboteur: 1 cup Ben and Jerry’s Fudge Brownie low-fat frozen yogurt
Solutions: If having a treat, be mindful of portions. Remember, most serving sizes on ice cream packages are for one cup. You can often cut calories by eating an all natural fudgsicle or frozen fruit bar (100 cal). You can also add plain cocoa powder and a 1/2 teaspoon honey to plain Greek yogurt for a treat that’s under 200 calories.
Saboteur: 6 oz bag of vegetable chips
Solutions: Portion control! Put a small handful on a napkin, equaling a 3 oz. portion (420 cal). Better yet, I’m a huge fan of PopChips – with 1/3 less fat than fried or baked potato chips, you can enjoy a 17-chip serving of PopChips for only 100 calories! They come in fabulous flavors too, including BBQ, Sea Salt & Vinegar, Jalapeno (my favorite), Salt & Pepper, Cheddar, Sour Cream & Onion and Original.
Saboteur: 1 medium avocado
Solutions: Avocado is an amazing food and a super healthy source of fat that will keep you feeling full. Keep your intake to no more than ½ an avocado per serving (150 cal). We enjoy it sprinkled with a little sea salt or Mrs. Dash.
Saboteur: 1 cup almonds
Solutions: Almonds are a great pick-me-up snack, with lots of fiber and nutrition. These are a perfect snack to keep in your purse, at your desk or in your car, as long as you don’t mindlessly graze. Instead of loading up on a cup of this tasty treat, eat 10 almonds and ½ a banana (120 cal) instead.
Saboteur: 1 cup Grape Nuts
Solutions: This was my favorite cereal as a teenager, and I used to eat huge, heaping bowls every morning. No wonder I struggled with my weight! If you’re craving Grape Nuts, mix ¼ cup (102 cal) with ½ cup of a lower-calorie cereal such as whole wheat flakes (100 calories).
Saboteur: 6 oz. strawberry-flavored yogurt
Calories: 180, but 32 grams of sugar!
Solutions: I’m not so worried about the calories here, just the sugar content. Stick to plain low-fat Greek yogurt and add your favorite fruit and a small drizzle of of honey (150 cal) to cut the sugar calories in half!
Saboteur: 2 cups orange juice
Solutions: This is also high in sugar, so use this tip with your kiddos: Pour 1/4 cup orange juice and dilute it with water or soda water (60 cal). Better yet, drink flavored seltzer water. I like Canada Dry and the Whole Foods brand seltzers.