Whether you are a hard-charging exerciser looking to gain muscle or are trying to lose weight, food is a very important part of your success. Eating the right foods at the right time can multiply your results. In contrast, eating too much of the wrong foods can impede your progress massively!
Main meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) should be the foundation of your healthy eating plan but snacks are important too. Well-chosen snacks will:
Provide your body with energy between meals – before or after workouts for example.
Help stabilize blood glucose levels leading to less hunger.
Break up the time between meals to stop you feeling deprived.
Provide a valuable additional source of both calories and nutrients.
Give you something to do while your significant other is updating their Facebook status – again!
Provide your body with the materials it needs to grow and repair during sleep.
Snacks should be good for you and supplement rather than detract from a healthy eating plan. However, many of the snacks that are commonly available are really unhealthy, fattening, and packed full of sugar, fat, or artificial additives.
With that in mind, here are some ideas for healthy snacks that will do you well without weighing you down with unwanted calories – exactly what you need before hitting the hay!
1. COTTAGE CHEESE AND CHOPPED WALNUTS
Cottage cheese is an excellent source of both protein and calcium – two essential ingredients for muscle growth and repair. The protein in cottage cheese, calcium caseinate, is renowned for being a slow releasing protein which makes it ideal for night-time consumption. Walnuts are high in omega-three fatty acids and an excellent anti-inflammatory that should enhance recovery from exercise. In addition, the presence of omega-three fats will slow digestion and stabilize blood sugar levels.
One cup of cottage cheese and one tablespoon of chopped walnuts equates to around 300 calories.
2. CHOPPED APPLE AND NATURAL PEANUT BUTTER
Filling, high in fiber, but low in calories, apples are a great snack. An apple a day keeps the doctor away or so the saying goes and judging by the nutritional profile of an apple, this is not too far from the truth.
Peanut butter (almond butter if you prefer) contains both protein and healthy fats. Choose an organic, natural, no-added-sugar product.
Take one apple and chop it into slices and then spread each slice with a thin layer of peanut or almond butter. Tasty and weighing in at 150 calories, this is a light snack that won’t break the calorie bank.
3. HUMMUS AND BABY CARROTS
Hummus is a food dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas or other beans, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and garlic. Available from most delis and many supermarkets, hummus is traditionally eaten with pita bread but that can make this snack a little too heavy for many people. Instead, use it with low-calorie baby carrots for a snack that is light and healthy.
Five baby carrots and ¼ cup of hummus should be substantial enough to be filling but weighs in at around 150 calories.
4. CHEESE, HAM, AND SPRING ONION ROLL-UPS
This snack is so easy to make that even if you are in the midst of a real late-night hunger-panic, you should have no problem throwing it together to satisfy your need for a snack. No cooking, no food prep, super tasty – what’s not to like? Even better, it’s completely free from sugar and virtually carb-free too so you won’t derail your diet. The protein and fat also ensure you are going to stay fuller for longer.
- 2 slices of lean, cooked ham
- 2 slices of edam or gouda cheese
- 2 spring onions – washed and stripped
- 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise
Place one slice of the ham on a plate and lay a slice of cheese on top. Put one spring onion on the edge of the ham/cheese and spread half the mayonnaise over. Roll up and then cut in half. Repeat this process with the other ham and cheese slice.
Delivering 20 grams of protein and only 250 calories, this light snack is just what your muscles need to keep them fueled through the night. Cut calories by omitting the mayo.
5. BEEF JERKY
Beef jerky is air-dried beef that was once a staple in the Wild West. It’s almost entirely carb-free and high in protein. It can take a fair bit of chewing which makes it an ideal long-lasting snack; it’s very hard to overeat on beef jerky!
Seek out organic jerky – buffalo jerky has the most favorable nutrient content but any jerky will do providing it has no added sugar. A 28 gram/one-ounce serving contains around 120 calories and 10 grams of protein.
Eating healthily does not mean avoiding snacks completely although you’ll probably want to steer clear of common snacks like candy bars and cookies. Healthy snacks will aid recovery and stave off hunger and should definitely be part of your nutrition plan!