Have you ever come home from work and polished off a bag of potato chips while cooking a healthy dinner? Felt the midday slump? Had trouble losing weight or gaining muscle? The problem may lie in your snacks -- or lack thereof.
Have you ever come home from work and polished off a bag of potato chips while cooking a healthy dinner? Felt the midday slump? Had trouble losing weight or gaining muscle? The problem may lie in your snacks -- or lack thereof. Snacking on high-protein foods in particular "can help you feel more satisfied" in between meals than fat or carbohydrates, says McKenzie Hall, RD, co-founder of NourishRDs.com. "Many protein sources also contain other good-for-you nutrients, such as healthy fats in nut butters, fiber in hummus or calcium in dairy," Hall says. Protein is an all-around nutrient star: muscle builder, metabolism booster and appetite stabilizer. To make it as easy as possible to fit high-protein snacks into your day, here are 10 portable options with at least eight grams of protein and fewer than four ingredients.
1. Chocolate-Peanut Popcorn
Sweet and salty, this snack may taste like dessert, but it has almost a quarter of your daily fiber requirement (a nutrient most people don't get enough of), healthy fats and protein. Unlike the movie-theater candy version, Nestle Goobers and buttery popcorn, you get the flavor and benefits without all the sugar and saturated fat. This snack offers 286 calories and 10 grams of protein.
Related: Full Recipe: Chocolate-Peanut Popcorn
2. Triple-Berry Smoothie
Pour this satisfying smoothie into a travel cup and hit the road. Frozen fruit is picked at the peak of ripeness before any of the nutrients start to break down, so it may be healthier than out-of-season berries flown in from another country. In addition to disease-fighting antioxidants, this smoothie also has healthy fats, protein and fiber to "help ward off hunger pangs in between meals," according to McKenzie Hall, RD. This smoothie clocks in at 332 calories and 12 grams of protein.
Related: Full Recipe: Triple-Berry Smoothie
3. Fruit, Seeds and Cheese
While a small serving of cheese may look unassuming, it packs six grams of protein and 15 percent of your daily value of disease-fighting vitamin C. This snack also takes a while to eat and feels satisfying, but doesn't have many calories. It's the opposite of a high-calorie iced coffee, which goes down fast and leaves you hungry. This snack combo provides 182 calories and nine grams of protein.
Related: Full Recipe: Fruit, Seeds and Cheese
4. No-Bake Protein Bars
Carbohydrates and protein are the perfect post-workout mix. Many people hate the taste of protein shakes, so Arman Liew, the healthy-living blogger behind TheBigMansWorld.com, developed a no-bake bar that sneaks protein powder into the batter. "The key is using a good protein powder you enjoy on its own," says Liew. "I find that a plant-based or casein protein powder works best, and you can never go wrong with adding some nuts or peanut butter for a dose of healthy fats!" he adds. This tasty snack bar contains 106 calories and 13 grams of protein.
Related: Full Recipe: No-Bake Protein Bars
5. Hemp Hearts & Coconut Bar
This bite-size snack contains hemp hearts, a plant-based protein that's packed with omega-3 fatty acids (which are linked to the prevention of heart disease and stroke), omega-6 fatty acids (which help lower "bad" LDL cholesterol) and fiber. In fact, "hemp hearts have more protein and omegas and fewer carbohydrates than the same serving of chia or flax," says Kathy Siegel, M.S., RDN, nutrition consultant for Manitoba Harvest. Enjoy this snack bar for 231 calories and eight grams of protein.
Related: Full Recipe: Hemp Hearts & Coconut Bar
6. Nut-Butter Boat
"Also known as 'ants on a log,' this is more than just a childhood favorite. The combination of protein, fiber and complex carbohydrates guarantees you'll be full all afternoon," says Alissa Rumsey, RD, CSCS. "I like to cut the celery into bite-size pieces, which makes them easier to eat when I'm on the run." This snack offers 291 calories and 10 grams of protein.
Related: Full Recipe: Nut-Butter Boat
7. Almond Butter-Stuffed Dates
One of nature's sweetest fruits pairs deliciously with creamy, high-protein nut butter, says Alissa Rumsey, RD, CSCS. This higher-calorie snack is perfect for active people or pregnant women who need to add about 300 extra calories a day. And, since dates are full of fiber, "just a couple will keep you full for hours," adds Rumsey. This nutty date snack has 333 calories and eight grams of protein.
Related: Full Recipe: Almond Butter-Stuffed Dates
8. Edamame-Cranberry Trail Mix
"Dry-roasted edamame is a great plant-based source of protein and a nice stand-in for nuts in this trail mix," says Alissa Rumsey, RD, CSCS. You can use store-bought dry-roasted edamame or roast thawed shelled edamame at home in your oven. Rumsey adds that, "The dried cranberries provide natural sweetness and supply you with some carbohydrates for energy." This trail mix packs 228 calories and 12 grams of protein.
Related: Full Recipe: Edamame-Cranberry Trail Mix
9. Beef Jerky and a Pear
"Beef jerky is making a comeback," says Alissa Rumsey, RD, CSCS, "and this time without all the sodium, nitrates and other additives." You can get eight grams of protein for just 80 calories, and it's easy to toss in your bag, whether you're heading to the gym or the airport. Rumsey suggests pairing it with "a piece of fresh fruit for lasting energy." Healthier jerky brands include Krave, Country Archer, Chef's Cut Real Jerky and Simply Snackin. This snack combo has 160 calories and nine grams of protein.
Related: 28 Secrets to Help You Lose Weight
10. High-Protein Yogurt and Granola
Both Greek yogurt and Icelandic-style skyr are strained, high-protein yogurts. Siggi's brand makes a skyr-style yogurt with simple ingredients, like the Orange & Ginger flavor that has pieces of real candied ginger. When it comes to granola, choose those "with less than 10 grams of sugar and at least three grams of fiber," advises Alissa Rumsey, RD, CSCS. Look for a short ingredients list, she adds, "where the first ingredient is a whole grain (i.e., oats, whole wheat, barley, etc.)." Enjoy this protein-packed snack for 270 calories and 24 grams of protein.
What Do YOU Think?
Do you currently plan your snacks? If you do, what are some of your favorite portable ones? If not, will you start? Which recipe is your favorite? Share your tips and ideas with us in the comments below.
Related: The Ultimate Do-Anywhere Lunch-Hour Workout