5 Healthy, Low Calorie Packaged Snacks Recommended by a Dietitian

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As a dietitian, I emphasize the importance of eating whole foods throughout the day at meals, rather than snacking on empty calories. We have become so reliant on quick snacks during busy work days rather than prioritizing our meals. We stopped investing in our meals because our schedule doesn’t allow it. But what about what our bodies need?

When it comes to eating healthy, I will also educate my clients on eating several meals throughout the day. Eating REAL food, not processed foods. Whole foods have no mystery ingredients, are easier on digestion, and contain various nutrients we need every day!

Well wait, isn’t this article about snacks?

Yes, it is. There is a time and place for snacks. Incorporating a few snacks throughout the day is important to support your goals, but snacking all day long without investing in balanced meals won’t help anyone’s goals.

This can be a very confusing topic for my clients and I couldn’t agree more.

My general rule of thumb is to aim to eat 10-20% (or less) of your daily calorie intake as a processed snack or an indulgent that you cannot live without. Including a favorite food or snack into your day will increase your ability to stay consistent as you won’t feel like you’re “dieting.”

For example, if you were on a 1500 calorie diet, you’d be consuming 150-300 calories in the day of something that you truly enjoyed. Therefore, you’d feel less likely to binge on other snacks as you are allowing yourself your specific treat for the day.

The next question is always.. Well what snacks do I eat that are healthy?

This is always a great question. It depends. It depends on what my clients like (savory or sweet), how many calories they have allotted for the day, and what their specific goals are.

Today, I thought I’d share a few snacks that ALWAYS go over well with clients. We’re all human and I get it, sometimes we just need a tasty treat to satisfy our needs.

  1. QUEST – Protein Chips

Okay this snack is one of those snacks that NEEDS to be in their pre-portioned snack bags, otherwise, I will eat the whole bag in one sitting.

Quest, the brand known for their protein bars (not the tastiest in my opinion, but to each their own), has come out with the BEST protein chips I’ve ever had. The flavors include spicy sweet chili, nacho cheese, BBQ, loaded nacho, and hot and spicy!

This spicy sweet chili flavor is our favorite with only 140 calories and 19 grams of protein!

I never met anyone who didn’t like these chips, but I will say.. they’re NOT the healthiest. We will buy these chips to have in the house if we have a craving for chips, but I don’t always keep these in the house.

Our goal, and the goal we set for our clients, is to eat well and prioritize whole foods. It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a treat like this from time to time, but it’s important to know these aren’t everyday foods.

  1. SkinnyPop Mini Popcorn Cakes

We all know rice cakes are the ultimate “diet” snack low in calories, but SkinnyPop took rice cakes to a whole new level. These are in fact a WEEKLY purchase in our household.

If you’re looking for a satisfying crunch of a snack without the guilt, this is IT.

22 of these rice cakes are only 120 calories! And they are gluten-free!

Normally I’m not a big fan of chips, but this tasty snack only has three ingredients; popcorn, sunflower oil, and sea salt.

There are also a variety of flavors that you can choose from. The sea salt flavor is for those of you that love chips, the cheddar flavor is for those of you that love cheddar popcorn, and the cinnamon and sugar flavor is for those who have a sweet tooth!

Sometimes we need to feel like opening up a snack bag and snacking endlessly. These rice cakes will help you feel like you are not dieting and can sit in front of the TV and snack! Do I recommend the habit of snacking endlessly? NO, but from time to time it won’t affect your goals if you’re only eating the serving size!

  1. Kodiak Cakes – Granola Bars

Let’s just take a moment to thank the stars above for the creation of the Kodiak Cakes company. If you don’t know who they are, then you may or may not live under a rock. Their origin began with protein pancakes that are absolutely delicious and have crushed the market ever since.

Thankfully this company keeps producing more and more treats for us. Their latest creations are granola bars; one tasting like a Quaker’s chewy granola bar and the other tasting like a Nature Valley bar.

The chewy granola bar contains 140 calories with 7 grams of protein. For a granola bar, that is a LOT of protein! The texture is also spot on for a granola bar. I remember as a kid opening up a granola bar excited to taste the chewy, sweet flavor of a chewy bar and now I have the same feeling with no guilt! FYI – my favorite flavor is the s’mores flavor and it does not disappoint!

The crunchy granola bar has 210 calories with 10 grams of protein (comes with two bars in the package just like the Nature Valley brand). I personally love the taste of this bar and will usually eat it pre or post workout (put in my smoothie or crumble it up in my yogurt – YUM). 

This company has a genuine goal to provide consumers with the best ingredients and products to fit your healthy lifestyle. Finding quality packaged snacks is hard to do, but Kodiak Cakes continues to amaze me!

  1. Rx Bars

Rx Bars are as natural as a product can get. These bars are made with about 7 REAL, whole foods ingredients. When studying for my Bachelors Degree in Nutrition, a strict guideline was to find products that contained 10 ingredients or less, and this one fits the bill.

These bars have 220 calories with a whopping 12 grams of protein!! They also contain up to 5 grams of natural fiber! This is unheard of for a protein bar.

Between the ingredients, total calories, and macro split, these bars should be everyone’s Go-To if they’re looking for something quick and healthy.

FYI these bars are not vegan friendly as their main source of protein is from egg whites, but if you are an ovo-vegetarian, these would be a great source of protein.

WARNING – They are chewy and I mean chewy. Be ready with a glass of water while eating these bars because they can get stuck in your teeth due to the consistency. If you do not like chewy foods, these are not for you.

They also come in a variety of flavors. My favorite flavor is the chocolate sea salt. The chunks of sea salt on top really bring out the rich flavor of the chocolate. If you like chocolate and you haven’t tried these bars yet, try this flavor first!

  1. Built Bars 

Over the past few years, the Built protein bars have become the latest craze. I’ve had many protein bars myself and I can honestly say these bars don’t taste like your average protein bar.

I hate when protein bars taste like protein powder, whether that’s whey or pea protein. When I eat something, I want to enjoy it. I will NOT eat something that I am not a fan of just because it’s healthy or fits my macros.

These Built bars come in many different flavors and two different textures.

The first being a VERY chewy texture – this is their regular bar. It reminds me of eating a lot of caramel at once, but without the caramel flavor. Their chocolate coconut flavor is my favorite as the coconut gives you a flavor to focus on rather than just the chocolate. I have not tried any of the other flavors, but I will say that the fruity flavors are more popular.

The coconut flavor contains 130 calories, 17 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of fat, and 18 grams of carbs. Not bad for a protein bar.

The second bar is called the Puff. This bar tastes like a Mallowmar, but without the cookie layer, essentially it’s a marshmallow with a coating of chocolate over it. In my opinion, I like the mud pie flavor as this flavor has crumbles of cookies on top of the bar that breaks up the marshmallow texture.

The Mud Pie Puff flavor contains 150 calories, 16 grams of protein, 3 grams of fat, and 17 grams of carbs.

These textures are VERY different from each other and from other protein bars. I would try a flavor that you love and make sure to READ the reviews to see what bar may fit your taste buds.

I’m not a big believer in eating prepackaged foods as a meal replacement. We only get a certain amount of opportunities throughout the day to provide our bodies with the nutrients it needs. 

Are there more snacks I could recommend? Yes.

However, in my practice I emphasize the importance of eating whole foods and snacks that mostly do not have nutrition labels (fruits and vegetables). I do recognize that there is a time and place for products like the ones above.

Keep a lookout for future posts that may include new products as the snack market is VERY competitive.

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