Before we get into this, I feel it’s important to take a moment to talk about the fixation with calorie counting, and what calories actually are. Sensationalism is a plague on society, and it’s far and wide-spread, including in the fitness world. It can’t be avoided, but we can at least do our part to combat that sort of thing and stave off the ignorance that spreads.
Counting calories isn’t inherently a bad idea, but purely vilifying them the way so many fitness journalists and the culture at large tends to do, is patently absurd. Calories are to some extent, necessary. A calorie is basically a unit of energy which can be provided by food. Remember that the body takes in nutrients for three basic purposes (four if you count fiber and roughage). We largely consume protein as a building material for healing, growth and physical maintenance. We’re made of protein, more or less, after all. Vitamins serve multiple systematic purposes that’re actually a little too complicated to get too deep into here. Carbohydrates such as sugars, starches and the like are actually fuel.
Put simply, if you cut calories down to the point where you’re not getting required energy levels, you will always be fatigued and likely at risk of several complications like depression as well. Needless to say, you need a certain level of caloric intake to stay perked up, and even more if you’re significantly physically active (with a heavy workout routine and higher fitness goals). The problem arises when we consume more calories than we can burn in a period of time, whereupon our bodies convert them to fat as a storage method. It’s worth noting some bodyfat is also necessary, and varies from person to person.
All of that out of the way, though, while being too conservative with calories during meals is actually unwise, snacking is a different animal. Let’s admit it, one of the things that has stopped many of us from pursuing better fitness isn’t the exercise – it’s not hard to make exercise fun with a little creativity. No, the problem comes from the fact most people like food. We’re evolved to like food, after all, it keeps us alive. None of us want to give up those little snacks we have throughout the day. The good news is that while these are where excess calories tend to come from, there are a plethora of low-calorie snacks that’re delicious, affordable and easy. Most of these are things you probably already love, and will probably pleasantly surprise you when you learn they’re healthy and low-calorie.
We’re going to look at some of these today, but this is far, far from a definitive nor comprehensive list (we’d be here all day if we tried to do that).
For the Sweet Tooth
First, let’s talk about some sweet foods. Lots of us have a sweet tooth, and it’s hard to stave off that craving for a Snickers bar around 2 in the afternoon. And honestly, once in a while, it’s fine to enjoy one of those, provided you burn those calories within 24 hours. Still, there are some quite tasty sweet alternatives without that cost.
A favorite of health enthusiasts for some time are various fruits. While one or two fad diets, for reasons we will never comprehend, have said fruit is the devil, it’s absolutely not. Fruit tends to have less than 40 calories, though it can vary by portion. Especially healthy are bananas, mixed berries and citrus. Mixing these with something with some protein, like Greek yogurt or cottage cheese results in a filling and fulfilling snack that’s not just low-calorie, but positively delightful.
Nuts and Chocolate
Chocolate? Healthy? We must be kidding, right? Nope! Milk chocolate isn’t the healthiest way to enjoy chocolate, but it’s also not the only form of it. Dark chocolate is very low-calorie due to the minimal amount of sugar and milkfat present, and it’s packed with antioxidants and vitamins. Enjoying low-fat nuts like almonds or walnuts and some dark chocolate is a good high-energy, low-calorie snack. If you don’t like bitter, though, you may not like this one as much.
Avocado and Pickles
Avocado is a super food. It’s very low-calorie (though it does have a fat content to it), rich with vitamins and, as fruit goes, it’s fairly high in protein. Avocado on wheat toast is a favorite among millennials and health enthusiasts, but you can do so much with avocado. You can eat it plain, you can mix it with egg whites for a healthy omelet, but our favorite around here has to be spicy avocado, with a drizzling of hot sauce and a little cracked pepper. Hot sauce, and really anything involving a vinegar base, is not only good for circulation and muscle health, but a very low-calorie approach to getting richer flavors.
Along these same lines, dill pickles (which you can make overnight with some cucumbers, vinegar and salt) are a healthy, flavorful snack that also gets you necessary salts.
For Cheese Lovers
Do you love cheese? Cheese is another food often given a bad rap in the diet world. A lot of cheeses, or an excess of any cheese, is indeed fattening and probably not great on the arteries. However, low-oil, drier cheeses are delicious, and pair well with nuts, berries or yes, avocado. These include feta, cottage cheese, parmesan and lower milk-content varieties of mozzarella. Munching on some blueberries and feta is a filling, delicious snack we’re quite fond of here.
Modernly, for the lovers of “junk food”, we have some excellent alternatives that wouldn’t have been possible in days gone by. For the chip lover, kale chips, as unpleasant as they sound, are an almost calorie-free alternative to potato chips or corn chips/nachos. Similarly, various fruit chips such as apple or banana provide that crunch without the pudge.
Modern approaches to things like air-popped popcorn, baked cheese and much more are also to be had with fewer than 20 calories per serving most of the time. There even exist ice cream options, if you can find those.
As we said, these are just some basic ideas, there are thousands of ways to pair these, and many other great snack ideas well outside what we’ve discussed here. Follow us on Facebook to learn more – we love to snack too, and we’re always sharing ideas for healthy ways to feed the munchies.