Best snack swaps

By Christine Ruggeri

We all love snacking. It gets us from one meal to the next, while helping us to maintain healthy energy levels. But snacking can contribute greatly to overdoing it on calorie intake. With some simple packaged snacks running hundreds of calories, it’s easy to lose track of how much you’re actually consuming in a day. 

Just making some healthy snack swaps throughout the day can help you to knock off 300+ calories. Skip the sugary, processed and nutrient-lacking snacks for those that will not only help you to maintain a healthy weight, but will contribute to your overall wellness with vital nutrients. 

Best Snack Swaps

1. Raw Veggies for Chips: Save 100 Calories

If you’re craving a crunchy snack, opt for fresh veggie sticks, like carrots, peppers and cucumbers instead of high-calorie, processed potato chips. A small bag of chips contains about 160 calories, plus refined carbohydrates and very few (if any) nutrients. And let's be honest: A lot of us have much more than than one serving!

A cup of sliced bell peppers, on the other hand, has about 39 calories, plus it’s high in fiber, vitamin C and vitamin A. To snack on raw veggies, simply slice them and eat them plain or dipped in hummus for an extra boost of protein.

2. Fresh Fruit for Dried Fruit: Save 100+ Calories

Although dried fruit is made of, well, fruit, it’s dehydrated and energy-dense, which makes it really easy to eat way too much in one sitting without even realizing how many calories you’re consuming. A half cup of dried apricot runs about 156 calories, for example, while a half cup of fresh apricot halves contains only 38 calories. Fresh fruits contain more water, so they are usually more filling too. 

3. Plain Raw Yogurt for Flavored Yogurt: Save 50 Calories

Raw yogurt from sheep or goats is easier on the digestive system than cow’s milk and it contains a wealth of important vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. If you don’t have access to raw yogurt, organic yogurt from grass-fed animals works, too.

What you want to avoid is conventional flavored yogurts that are processed and contain additives. Just adding in the sugary flavor will increase the calorie content too, usually by at least 50 calories per serving.

4. Chia and Flax Seeds for Granola: Save 100 Calories

Looking to add something crunchy to your yogurt? Skip the high-calorie granola and go for chia and flax seeds instead. You’ll get the same bite, while limiting the calorie count. A serving of granola (just over ½ cup) is somewhere around 210 calories, while a tablespoon each of both chia and flax seeds contain a total of 110 calories — plus omega-3 fats, protein, fiber, calcium and magnesium.

If you’re having a yogurt parfait snack, simply sprinkle the seeds on top in place of granola. You can add fresh fruit and cinnamon for flavor.

5. Seltzer for Soda: Save 200 Calories

Do you crave something sweet and bubbly in between meals? Drinking soda can increase your daily calorie intake by a whole lot. A bottle of soda runs about 200 calories and it’s loaded with artificial flavors and sugar. Even diet sodas are made with artificial sweeteners that come with a slew of potential side effects. 

To please your bubble craving, opt for seltzer. It comes in different flavors or you can go for the unflavored option and add lemon, lime, cucumber or fruit.

6. Americano for Latte: Save 150+ Calories

It’s no secret that milk-based coffee drinks, like lattes, can be loaded with calories. For your morning or afternoon pick-me-up, opt for an Americano instead. The Americano is made with a shot of espresso (like a latte) and water, in lieu of milk. 

You’re saving 150–200 calories (or more) this way. You can add in a splash of milk if you prefer a creamier flavor and it’ll still be much lower in calories.

7. Dark Chocolate for Cookies: Save 50 Calories

Your after dinner treat doesn’t need to be high in calories. Dark chocolate is brimming with antioxidants and polyphenols, making it a healthier option than processed and sugary baked goods.

Two pieces of a good quality dark chocolate contains about 90 calories, while two homemade chocolate chip cookies run about 160 calories.

8. Apple Slices for Crackers: Save 65 Calories

Apple slices make for an excellent surface area for spreading nut butter. They are crunchy and sweet, and much lower in calories than packaged crackers. A medium apple has about 95 calories, while 10 crackers contain roughly 160 calories. Plus, an apple is a more nutrient-dense option, with fiber, vitamin C and potassium. 

To use sliced apple as a snack, simply cut it and spread a good quality nut butter on top of each piece. You can also add coconut flakes, cinnamon or a drizzle of honey for a more filling snack.

9. Hard-Boiled Eggs for Cold Cuts: Save 50–100 Calories

A large hard-boiled egg contains about 78 calories, plus it’s a great source of protein, selenium and B vitamins. With cold cuts, on the other hand, one slice of deli turkey contains about 30 calories and a slice of ham contains 60 calories. Most people end up eating 3–5 slices of cold cuts, or more, which can certainly add up. Plus, deli meats are very high in sodium and additives. 

For a high-protein snack, opt for 1–2 hard-boiled eggs instead. They are nutritious and filling. You can add a touch of salt for flavor.

10. Sprouted Bread for Pretzels: Save 30 Calories

One slice of a good quality sprouted bread has about 80 calories, while offering fiber and protein. A small package of pretzels contains about 110 calories, depending on the brand, and offers very little fiber or any other nutrient. Plus, they are generally covered in salt and higher in sodium, and they aren’t very filling unless dipped into hummus, peanut butter or another type of high calorie dip. 

As a snack, spread avocado, hummus or a good quality grass-fed butter on sprouted bread. You can also toast it and eat it plain. 

Christine Ruggeri is a writer and nutrition counselor based in New York. She's worked for Ancient Nutrition and the Dr. Axe team for five years. She has a degree in Education with a concentration in English from Iona College, and received her health coach certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.   

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