Finding a snack for under 100 calories isn’t too hard. Finding one that’s filling, good for you, easy to make, and flavorful is another story. A granola bar that lasts two bites? Crackers that taste like cardboard? Pass.
If you’re monitoring your calories, the thought of skipping snacks to meet your diet goals might be appealing. But a well-planned snack in the late morning or mid-afternoon can improve your focus, curb hunger pangs, and even help you maintain a healthy weight, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A smart snack may keep you from overeating at dinner, which you might if you haven’t eaten since lunch and you come home ravenous (you know what we’re talking about).
But don’t just think of your afternoon snack as a way to “hold yourself over” until tonight’s lasagna comes out of the oven. Snacks are also a great time to squeeze in another serving of fruits and veggies—something the average American tends to fall short on. About 85 percent of Americans eat below the recommended serving of vegetables a day, and 75 percent don’t eat enough fruit, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The key to a healthy 100-calorie snack: choosing nutrient-dense foods. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains all offer major nutrition perks to make your snack worth it. Skip added sugars and sodium (a.k.a. much of what’s in the vending machine).
Here are whole food, DIY 100-calorie snack ideas to add to your meal plans.
Half a red bell pepper, cut into strips, with 2 Tbsp of hummus. Any hummus flavor will do, but try to stick with varieties with short and simple ingredients lists. You could also make your own hummus at home. Not a fan of bell pepper? Switch it up with carrots, celery, radishes, jicama, or cucumber slices.
A sliced hard-boiled egg on top of 3 whole-wheat “woven” crackers. Hard-boiled eggs are an easy and convenient source of protein, and whole-wheat crackers (like Triscuit) are minimally processed and hearty. Add a dash of paprika for a little flavor and color, or go crazy with hot sauce. (Here are healthy reasons to love hot sauce.)
25 pistachios. In terms of quantity, pistachios are royalty of 100-calorie snacking. You can have 25 for 100 calories, 4 grams of protein, and 4 grams of monounsaturated fats—that’s the good kind. (Learn more about good vs. bad fats.) Pro tip: Buy the in-the-shell variety. The process of cracking open the shells will slow you down, which may prevent overeating.
Three cups of air-popped popcorn. Even if you don’t have an air-popper, this snack is now available in many stores, even in single-serving bags. If you’re used to microwave popcorn loaded with neon-orange butter, you might need to acquire a taste for this less buttery, less salty version—but the health benefits are worth it. (Here are the health risks of eating too much salt.) Try sprinkling flavorful, non-salt toppings like black pepper, cajun seasoning, garam masala, or—for a few extra calories—a touch of parmesan cheese.
Half-cup strawberries and 10 cashews. Or cherries. Or raspberries. Or blueberries. Basically, pair fruit with nuts for a combo that meets the perfect snack trifecta: fiber, protein, and healthy fats.
Looking for more snack tips? Here are signs your favorite snack bars are actually healthy.