The hardest part about dieting is always cutting back on the snacking. When you are trying to count calories, meals between meals are usually the first thing to go. These seven plant-based snacks are high in fiber, packed with nutrition and guaranteed to fill you up.
Almonds, when eaten in moderation, can reduce glucose levels, blood pressure, and your waistline. This healthy, plant-based snack is full of nutrients including high levels of magnesium, copper, vitamin E and phosphorus. A 1 oz portion of almonds (about 24 pieces) has 6 grams of protein, 3 grams of net carbs, 14 grams of fat and 160 calories. While the fat content is high, almonds contain mostly monounsaturated fat which is beneficial for your heart.
Seeds are an essential part of a plant-based diet. Pumpkin seeds in particular rank high on the plant protein chart. In addition to the high protein content, pumpkin seeds contain two essential amino acids, tryptophan and glutamate. They are also full of nutrients like potassium, zinc, magnesium and copper. Like almonds, pumpkin seeds are high in fat (140 grams per ounce) and contain about 180 calories per 1 ounce serving. This healthy plant-based snack is low in carbs at 1 gram of net carbs per ounce.
Hummus, a spread traditionally made from chickpeas and tahini, can be a healthy snack if you watch your portions. Most varieties contain salt, lemon juice and oil. If you are buying hummus in the store, check the label as the calories can vary dramatically depending on flavors and additives. Despite its reputation for high fat content, a National Health and Nutrition Examination survey found that adults who consume hummus have more fiber, potassium, vitamin A, and polyunsaturated fats in their diet and lower levels of cholesterol and saturated fats. Skip the pita chips and serve hummus with carrots, celery or even cucumbers for an even healthier plant-based snack.
Rumor has it that a few chain movie theaters do not use any dairy or animal products in their popcorn. While I can’t endorse the quality of ingredients that make up the fake butter, there are much healthier options you can make at home. Smartfood Delight Sea Salt Air Popped and Smartfood Sweet & Salty Kettle Corn are both vegan friendly varieties. Air popped varieties (compared to oil popped) average 35 calories per cup and are a good source of fiber. Top your popcorn with nutritional yeast for a cheesy, dairy-free flavoring that is full of essential nutrients like vitamin b12.
Edamame, or soybeans, are another great source of plant-based protein and fiber. Once shelled, a half cup serving contains less than 130 calories and has 11 grams of protein and 9 grams of fiber. Edamame also contains essential nutrients like iron, vitamin C and magnesium. While the benefits of soy are still debated, new research on estrogenic foods like soybeans suggests that there is not a connection between soy and breast cancer. Regardless, if you are concerned about consuming soy with a hormone sensitive condition, you should always consult your doctor.
Red bell peppers are another nutritious snack full of vitamins, nutrients and fiber. One medium pepper contains less than 40 calories and over 250 percent of the daily value for Vitamin C. Red bell peppers are more nutritious than green peppers and actually have more Vitamin C than an orange.
While bell peppers are certainly delicious on their own, nothing beats a creamy, dairy-free cream cheese. Simply combine one cup of soaked raw cashews with 1 tbsp of lemon juice, 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar and 2 tbsp of water in a high-powered blender for a vegan-friendly, faux cream cheese spread. I recommend soaking your cashews in water overnight if you do not have a high-powered blender. Be patient– it may take a few minutes for the mixture to blend from grainy into a smooth spread.
When counting calories, it is easy to focus on vegetables, nuts and seeds and forget about all of the nutritious benefits of fruit. If you are watching your sugar intake, look for fruits that are low on the glycemic index. Nutritionally dense fruits like blueberries, raspberries and cherries pack antioxidants and vitamins with little sugar and carbohydrates. Remember that fructose, the sugar naturally found in fruit, is not the same as added sugar. Eating fruits like grapes or oranges that are high in sugar is still better than not eating any fruit at all.