Best Low-Carb Snacks to Fuel Your Body
Do you love to snack? If you’re like most people, snacks are an integral part of your day. According to a recent IFIC Foundation Food and Health survey, 97% of respondents said they eat snacks during the week. What’s more, snacks are becoming a popular option to the traditional three-meals-a-day way of eating.
Whether you’re a habitual grazer or a weekly nosher; it’s not always easy to sort through which snacks are healthy, especially when it comes to grocery shelves filled with prepackaged chips, crackers and bars. Throwing low-carb versus high-carb into the mix, makes it even more challenging to know which munchies are best for our bodies.
As you likely learned in school, the primary purpose of carbohydrates, commonly referred to as “carbs,” in the diet is to provide energy as your body’s main fuel source. It can also be a little complicated to get the right amount and type of carbs – they are necessary for cell function at every level of your body, but too much of them can make you feel tired and bloated.
Starches, sugars and fiber are the three main types of carbs in food and are called “simple” or “complex” based on their chemical makeup and what your body does with them. Starches include starchy vegetables, dried beans, and grains. Sugars include those naturally occurring (like in fruit) and added (like in a cookie). And fiber comes from plant foods versus animal products like eggs, meat, or fish.
Simple carbohydrates are easy-to-digest, basic sugars, which can be an important source of energy. It’s important to be aware of that and to limit the amount of refined or processed sugars found in packaged baked foods and sodas.
Complex carbohydrates are found in whole grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables, and contain longer chains of sugar molecules. This means it usually takes more time for the body to break these down and use; providing you with a more consistent amount of energy.
Choosing Healthy Low-Carb Foods
A good rule of thumb for determining what’s a healthy, low-carb snack is that it has somewhere between 100 and 250 calories and less than 12.5 grams of carbs per serving – or has less than 20% of the calories coming from carbs. Do keep in mind that "low-carb" can vary from person to person, depending on their weight, diet, and goals.
When shopping for ready-to-eat, packaged foods, make a habit of checking the first few ingredients listed, in addition to the Nutrition Facts label. Keep an eye out for the calories, total and types of fat, as well as grams of sugar and milligrams of sodium, since these foods may contain unhealthy trans fats and high amounts of added sugar and sodium.
Look for a snack that is high in nutritional value (protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber) and relatively low in calories, total fat, saturated fat (no trans fat), sugar and sodium. What’s most important is that it is high in nutritional value. For example, nuts are high in fat and calories, but also loaded with nutrients; making them a healthy, low-carb choice.
The American Diabetes Association is a good resource for more carb facts and information, including how to count carbs and tools for creating a healthy, low-carb diet plan.
By becoming more aware of your overall carb intake, opting for lower, complex carb choices, and selecting minimally processed foods whenever possible – you’ll be well on your way to fueling your body with healthy, low-carb snacks.
Low-Carb Snacks Sampler
Simple, quick and healthy low-carb snack options abound. We’ve gathered some of our favorites finds here:
- Tuna salad lettuce wraps are easy to make, practically carb free and protein rich. All you need are canned tuna, mayonnaise, diced celery, salt and pepper for seasoning, and butter or romaine lettuce leaves for your wrap. Another option is to spoon the tuna on low-carb crackers — like those made from almond flour – if you want more crunch.
- Make your own fruit parfait by layering raspberries (a low-carb fruit) with 2% Greek yogurt and chopped roasted pistachios for a delicious, satisfying snack packed with fiber, healthy fats and phytochemicals.
- Try roasted chickpeas or kale; baked avocado or sweet potato chips – all offer rich flavor and crunch, without the empty calories and carbs found in many processed chips and crackers. Not only are these chip alternatives delicious, but they are rich in vitamins and nutrients our bodies crave.
- Make a low-carb trail mix by combining a variety of nuts (pecans, walnuts, roasted pumpkin seeds), along with other low-carb ingredients like unsweetened coconut flakes. This high-protein snack is filled with heart-healthy fats and fiber that will satisfy your hunger and make you feel fuller longer.
- Tired of the same old guacamole dip and looking for something new? This low-carb, protein-rich pumpkin hummus dip offers a fresh and flavorful twist, and “plays” well with a variety of vegetables – making it a crunchy, filling and fun snack option.