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It’s not uncommon for athletes to feel peckish throughout the day, especially if putting in some serious training hours. That means you’re likely looking beyond meals to meet calorie needs. While snacking can be a perfectly acceptable method to help fuel your active lifestyle, it can also be a bane to your diet if you end up reaching for too many nutritional landmines. To make sure that your daily snack habit doesn’t torpedo your healthy eating efforts, reach for these smart choices to satisfy your cravings when hunger strikes.
If you’re craving a quick carb fix
Try: Cereal cups
It’s 5 p.m., you’re famished and you’ve got to hop on the bike in a few minutes, all of which begs the question: Where do I get a near instant source of carbohydrate energy to power my workout? Look no further than the increasing number of grain-based hot cereal cups on the market. Just peel back the top, add hot water and boom … you have yourself an on-the-go nutritious snack that will release a steady stream of energy into your body. Beyond oats, some brands include other power grains like quinoa as well as notable add-ins, such as nuts and chia seeds.
Need to know: You want most of the carbohydrate energy in single-serving hot cereal to hail from whole grains, so compare brands by looking for those with the least amount of the sweet stuff.
Two to buy:
Seven Sundays Blueberry Chia Buckwheat Minne Muesli
Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oatmeal Classic
If you’re craving something creamy
Try: Skyr yogurt
Studies show that spooning up a high protein yogurt for a snack can help keep you feeling full longer. Plus, you’ll benefit from the bone-strengthening calcium and gut-friendly probiotics in the great white. If you’re a fan of Greek yogurt, it might be time to set your sights on Iceland and try their style of yogurt known as Skyr. Pronounced skeer, it has a crave-inducing creamy, thick texture plus heaps of protein—20 to 25 grams in a one-cup serving. As with all yogurt, it’s better for your waistline if you avoid the sugary deluge of flavored versions and instead opt for plain Skyr. Add sweetness with fresh fruit.
Need to know: Reduce your supermarket carbon footprint by purchasing Skyr or Greek yogurt in multi-serving larger tubs.
One to buy:
Siggi’s Plain Icelandic Skyr
If you’re craving crunch
Try: Bean chips
The United Nations has hailed 2016 as the International Year of Pulses (to raise awareness about the health benefits of dried beans and peas and encourage crop production). So celebrate by crunching your way through a bag of bean-based chips. While greasy potato chips are no way to satisfy a snack attack, those where beans are the star of the show contain up to five times as much hunger-taming fiber and twice the protein of traditional chips. As a bonus, you get a shot of energy-boosting iron. Suddenly, you have even more reason to break out the guac.
Need to know: Some beans chips contain more corn or potato than bean. Look for a brand where beans, or even lentils, are listed as the first ingredient.
One to buy:
Beanitos Black and White Bean Skinny Dippers
Tip: A snack is supposed to be just that: a snack. Aim to cap calories at 200 to 300, making up the rest of your calorie needs through whole foods at mealtime.
If you’re craving a sweet fix
Try: Dried bananas
Packed with carbs and potassium, the monkey food has long been fare for the athletic crowd too. And now you don’t have to peel back the skin to go ape for bananas. When you suck the moisture out of the fruit, what is left is a habit-forming sweet and crunchy treat that can help you tame a sweet tooth without falling prey to man-made sugars. Heck, you can even use them as portable fuel when working up a sweat.
Need to know: Dehydrated bananas are sweet enough, so select those not coated in added sweeteners.
One to buy: Bare Cocoa Banana Chips
If you’re craving salty goodness
Now that hipsters and the Paleo crowd have stolen jerky away from long-haul truckers, the market for parched meat has exploded. You can find an endless array of flavors featuring a range of meats including grass-fed beef, bison and even salmon. That means it’s never been a better time to rip into jerky for a low-fat, high-protein snack when jonesing for something with a touch of saltiness. In fact, the combo of protein and salt makes jerky a standout option after a stiff workout to help hasten recovery.
Need to know: You want a jerky that is a bit salty but not a salt lick. Ideally that means opting for a brand with less than 500 milligrams of sodium in a serving.
Two to buy:
Field Trip Cracked Pepper Turkey Jerky
Krave Chili Lime Jerky