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PROTEIN: Why including it in your snacks (and meals too!) is a Good Choice

You've been between meals, you feel the tell-tale pangs of hunger (it's that hunger hormone, GHRELIN, signaling to your brain that your body needs a little something to keep your energy up...) So what do you grab: A granola bar? A piece of fruit? Some veggies? Crackers? Chips? Take a look at what your snack choices are and what might be missing. Let's find ways to fill in the gaps.

There are many snack foods out there which are high in refined carbs and sugar, and they will leave you feeling unsatisfied and craving more food. Yes, truly, MORE food! It's amazing when you don't eat a combination of carbs and proteins together, your body literally searches for balance (or homeostasis) and does stuff like make you crave more of the simple carbs and sugars, which you give into and eat and doesn't quite satisfy what your body is really trying to find..perpetuating the continued eating...creating a calorie overage...causing insulin surging and rapid insulin dropping,...weight gain, etc, etc, etc.... unless of course you find what your body is truly looking for, AHEM...the balance of healthy carbs and proteins, which will help stave off the continued cravings... I know, right?

To maintain a healthy balance in your body, you definitely don't want to perpetuate those cravings! Here is something to think about when selecting between-meal snacks (as well as planning your meals):

PROTEIN is a powerhouse: it promotes fullness as it signals the release of appetite-suppressing hormones, slows digestion and stabilizes blood sugar levels. Ever had a carb loaded snack and felt yourself "tank" a while later? It's because there was no protein in your snack and an over-abundance of simple sugars.

Protein is what allows your body to properly repair tissues, while carbohydrates are your body’s primary energy source. AND your body needs both! For a typical 2,000-calorie diet, recommends eating 50 to 175 grams of protein and 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates per day. A snack that’s rich in protein, carbohydrates or both will nourish your body and help you meet your dietary goals, and regulate your appetite.

Some Ideas:

Hummus and Veggies: Hummus is made from cooked and mashed chickpeas that are blended with tahini or olive oil, then used as a dip. 1/3-cup contains 6.5 grams of protein that’s also high in many other nutrients. AndVeggies are a fabulous, high-nutrient food to pair with hummus.

Hard-Boiled Eggs: Eggs are very healthy, having almost every nutrient that your body needs. They are high in B vitamins and trace minerals. One hard-boiled egg has six grams of protein, which will keep you full until your next meal. This fullness eggs provide may also reduce the number of calories you consume later in the day...

Cottage cheese: is high in protein, and a filling snack that can be eaten on the go.

There are 14 grams of protein in a half-cup of cottage cheese. It's also a good source of calcium, phosphorus, selenium, vitamin B12 and riboflavin. You can combine it with fruits and nuts or eat on its own for a delicious snack.

Yogurt with Banana/fruit: Plain, fat-free yogurt is an excellent source of protein. Add a ripe banana for extra carbohydrates. Mango, strawberries, blueberries, pineapple and other fruits are also tasty in yogurt, as are slivered almonds and rolled oats. A snack made from 1 cup of plain, fat-free yogurt and a medium banana has 242 calories, 16 grams of protein and 46 grams of carbohydrates.

Apple & Peanut Butter: Apples and peanut butter are a nutrient-dense, high-protein snack that provides many health benefits. The fiber and antioxidants in apples may improve gut health and reduce the risk of heart disease, while peanut butter has been shown to increase HDL (the “good”) cholesterol and reduce LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides. Peanut butter it is fairly high in calories, so eat in moderation.

A snack of a medium apple with one tablespoon of peanut butter provides four grams of protein.

Trail Mix: a combination of dried fruit and nuts, sometimes combined with chocolate and seeds. It is a good source of protein, providing eight grams in a two-ounce serving.

You can add more protein by using almonds or pistachios, which are slightly higher in protein than other types of nuts like walnuts or cashews. The dried fruit and nuts make it very high in calories, so eating a single handful is a reasonable serving.

Turkey Roll-Ups: cheese and veggies wrapped inside slices of turkey breast, a breadless sandwich of sorts. Make the roll-ups by spreading 4 slices of turkey breast with a teaspoon of cream cheese. Add a pickle or cucumber strip and a tomato slice on the turkey and roll them into wraps. Each wrap contains around five grams of protein from the turkey and cheese, and extra nutrients and fiber from the tomato and cucumber.

Protein Bars: are an easy way to consume protein. They are much healthier if you make them on your own, so watch for the store-bought kind with added sugar and other unnecessary ingredients. But Larabars and RX Bars are popular protein bars made with few ingredients.

Protein Shakes: make for an easy snack with high protein! They can be made with several types of protein powder, including whey, egg, soy and pea protein. Generally, a scoop of protein powder inlcudes 20 grams of protein, which can keep you full until your next meal. To make a protein shake, combine a scoop of protein powder, a cup of milk or juice, a cup of ice and fruit, and blend. Pour into a portable container so you can take it wherever you go!

Nut Butter, edamame, pumpkin seeds, lentils, beans, canned salmon, canned tuna, a handful of almonds, roasted chickpeas, cheese sticks, overnight oats...and more, will help keep your hunger at bay and keep you from continual snacking.

Eat a protein + carbohydrate at every meal and snack.


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