We’ve all been there: After a week of counting your calories and resisting the salty chips you’re craving, you’re left starving without a healthy option in sight. That’s when you’re faced with the choice of nomming on whatever is closest or holding out for the right bite. Though it might seem like registered dietitians and nutritionists are always well-prepared for those inevitable snack attacks, they’ve had to go through the ringer to find the smartest selections too.
From packaged go-to’s that actually have nutritional value to fresh and prepared foods that are also easy to transport, there are myriad options that will fulfill and sustain you until your next meal. Here, the pros give you a glimpse into their own kitchens so the next time you’re in a bind, you won’t give in to the french fries you really (really!) want:
1. Whole grain toast and waffles
Before you kill it in your favorite boxing class or spin your heart out for an hour of indoor cycling, what do you eat? If your pantry isn’t stocked with solid options that teach you to carb load in an effective way, you could find yourself starving near the end of your exertion, or worse, not performing as well as you would have if you ate something better for you. Because sports dietitian Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, is a marathon runner, she understands firsthand the importance of fueling pre-workout. Her favorite pick? Whole grain toast or waffles. “I always keep these in my freezer because they’re quick to cook up, and they offer me an easy way to digest fuel. I always top them with pure maple syrup, since carbohydrates are the primary fuel for the body and provide energy that helps maintain your stamina,” she explains.
2. 100-calorie packs of Wonderful Pistachios
If you’re the type to always pick savory over sweet, registered dietitian and nutritionist Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, says there’s nothing better than these appropriately named snacks. Wonderful in taste, health, and convenience, Gorin explains close to 90 percent of the fats found in pistachios are the beneficial mono- and polyunsaturated type. “These fats, along with the fiber and plant protein found in the nuts, help to keep you fuller for longer,” she explains. She also says the process of cracking open these bad boys could lead you to eat less, at least according to one study. Just how much less? 40 percent! All that effort pays off — in many ways.
3. Cauliflower rice
When every meeting has run long and your manager’s feedback feels relentless, you might end up burning that midnight oil into overtime. That’s why when you get home, having an easy dinner that’ll check off “hunger” from your overflowing to-do list is essential. At the start of the week, doctor of naturopathy and certified nutritional counselor Luisa Szakacs, ND, CNC, suggests creating a big batch of cauliflower rice that can go with anything. “You can add fresh wild-caught salmon, some seasonings, and the riced cauliflower to a sauce pan, cover, and keep the stove on low. It is a very tasty dish, filled with protein, and so easy to do,” she says. And if you have any left over, pack some of the rice for the next day at work. It will fill you up and help you to bite your tongue when your boss is getting on your last nerve.
4. Raw almonds, pumpkin seeds, and other mixed nuts
Board-certified periodontist and nutritionist Sandra Moldovan, MS, DDS, says that while many people are wary of nuts because of their high calorie count, they shouldn’t be because that’s not necessarily such a bad thing. It all depends on what you pick, considering many of those calories are used to maintain your blood sugar level. “I grab a bag of raw almonds, pumpkin seeds, or mixed nuts because pasteurized nuts have been heated, causing lots of enzymes and nutrients to be destroyed,” she explains. “Nuts have healthy unsaturated fatty acids, as well as magnesium and iron. Pumpkin seeds are loaded with zinc, which is essential for our immune system. If I find sprouted nuts or seeds, then this is preferred, as they are easier to digest.”
5. Greek yogurt with fruit
The good news about this snack is it’s not only easy to find on the fly, but also it’s delicious! As registered dietitian and nutritionist Kaleigh McMordie, MCN, RDN, LD, explains, it’s packed with protein, carbs, and fiber that keep her full and energized, without spiking her blood sugar. Though it’s best to find natural, organic varieties that don’t a ton of sugar, if you’re really short on time and alternatives, Greek yogurt itself is a healthy option.
6. Bob’s Red Mill oatmeal cups
Parents have to not only resist the urge to snooze past their alarm, but also get their kiddos ready for the day too. For when there simply aren’t enough minutes before it’s time to head out the door, you need a no-brainer breakfast. While Rizzo prefers stovetop oats if she has the time, when she’s stretched too thin, she turns to these nutritionally sound instant cups. “I really like the Bob’s Red Mill oatmeal cups because all you need to do is add water. They are made with oats, seeds, fruit, and sweetener, and they even make unsweetened varieties,” she says.
7. Dried seaweed
Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat. Wouldn’t you think it’s something Ariel would eat? You can channel your inner mermaid when you reach for Szakacs’s favorite snack: dried seaweed. Before you turn your fin — er, nose — up to the idea, give it a go: Many health nuts use this uber-healthy snack as the perfect trade for the chips they’re craving. Especially for long work days, it’s a strategic pick since it might make you that much more creative and focused. “This sea vegetable is rich in iodine and vitamin B-12, which keeps the brain and nervous systems healthy,” Szakacs says.
8. Canned pulses
Not sure what a pulse is? No worries. Gorin explains that these smart snack picks offer 8 grams of protein and fiber per 1/2 cup serving. Pulses might be canned chickpeas, black beans, or lentils that you can turn to if you want to keep your hunger at bay. “I’ll mix the pulses with olives, capers, halved grape tomatoes, and black pepper. Then I’ll top everything on quick-cook brown rice. Hello, filling, nutritious meal in minutes,” she says.