We tend to associate snacking between meals with naughty but nice treats, but there are plenty of healthy low calorie snacks that are tasty as well as filling.
Eat a nutritious low calorie snack that’s sweet and you’re less likely to reach for the biscuit tin. Or, if you prefer a low calorie snack that’s high in protein, choose one that’s unrefined so you’ll feel fuller for longer. Great if you need something to eat before or after a workout.
‘Contrary to popular belief, snacking isn’t the bane of healthy living,’ says Amy Rimes, a nutritionist at specialist fitness brand I Run Far. ‘Everyone snacks, and it’s a way of providing your body with essential nutrients that you’re lacking before you have a bigger meal. Ignoring your body’s hunger warnings results in overeating at mealtimes. Snacking well is vital to appease your body’s needs.’ In other words, snacking isn’t off the menu (including healthy late night snacks). However, it’s not the act of snacking but what you eat that’s important.
‘Pick foods that are low in fat and added sugar, but high in fiber and water,’ says Amy. ‘It’s why you feel fuller after eating a banana than a chocolate bar. Ideally, you want a mix of fiber, protein, and non-saturated fats.’
‘Many studies show that someone on a diet high in nutrients will consume fewer calories, so it’s wise to look at the nutritional content of snacks rather than just the calories,’ advises Andrea Burton, a nutritional therapist and technical advisor to Bio-Kult probiotic supplements.
Low calorie snacks
Sweet low calorie snacks
1. Energy balls
‘Energy balls are packed full of protein and healthy monounsaturated fats from the nuts, helping to keep you feeling full for longer,’ says Andrea. ‘Opt for a recipe with added oats or flaxseeds for additional fiber and without added sweetener – just dried fruit, which is high in fiber (a high fiber diet can help with weight loss) and contains vitamins and minerals. However, although non-refined, it still contains sugar so have 1 or 2 energy balls as a snack (they are 59 calories per ball).’
Almond and cranberry energy balls recipe
- 10 Medjool pitted dates
- 1 cup (85g) rolled oats
- ¼ cup (40g) dried cranberries
- ¼ cup (35g) almonds
- 4tbsp almond butter
Place the dates in a food processor and blitz until smooth paste forms. Add the rolled oats, dried cranberries, almonds, and almond butter and pulse until combined. Using slightly wet hands, roll tablespoonfuls of the mixture into 20 balls. Place in the fridge for 1 hour to set. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
2. Frozen mango cubes
‘A yogurt-sized container of these cubes is just 90 calories but also provides you with over 60% of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin C,’ says Amy. For a refreshing low calorie snack, dice the flesh of a fresh mango and freeze apart, and flat, on a plate. Once frozen, add the cubes to a separate container and freeze.
3. Banana chocolate bites
‘These include healthy fats and protein and come in at 99 calories for 2 bites,’ says Andrea.
Banana chocolate bites recipe
- 3 ripe bananas
- Almond butter
- ½ cup (75g) dark chocolate chips
- 2tsp coconut oil
Peel and slice the bananas. Place ½tsp almond butter onto a banana slice and top with another banana slice to make a sandwich. You should be able to make around 30. Place the bananas on a baking paper-lined baking tray and leave them in the freezer for about 1 hour.
Next, melt chocolate chips and coconut oil in the microwave or using a water bath. Once the chocolate is melted, dip each frozen banana sandwich into the melted chocolate so that half of it is coated. Place the chocolate-covered sandwiches back on the baking tray and into the freezer for 15-20 mins. Once the chocolate is set, transfer the bananas into a container and store them in the freezer for up to 2 months. The longer the bananas stay in the freezer, the harder they will get. Remove from the freezer about 5 minutes before eating.
4. Jaffa Cakes
Ok, so these are processed so they’re meant to be eaten occasionally. But if you’re exercising regularly and need a quick pick-me-up, Jaffa Cakes (£1 for 10, Tesco) are an acceptable treat as they are one of the healthier biscuits out there.
‘There’s a reason you’ll see footballers snacking on these cakes during halftime,’ says Amy. ‘Two Jaffa Cakes are 92 calories in total, and provide a great little sugar kick.’
5. Fresh fruit and nut butter
‘One of the healthiest sweet snacks out there is fresh fruit. Snacking on fruit slices, dipped in, or spread with, nut butter or tahini is a good way to add healthy fats and protein to a simple snack,’ says Andrea.
‘An apple slice and some peanut butter is a great snack full of natural sugars, fiber, insoluble, and vitamin C, plus its only 96 calories per slice,’ says Amy.
6. Kombucha gummies
‘Research shows the importance of maintaining a healthy microbial balance in the gut,’ says Andrea. ‘Regularly consuming traditionally fermented foods (one of a range of foods that can boost our mood) containing beneficial bacteria and yeast species is a great way to support your health. Kombucha is one such fermented food. It’s made by fermenting tea (green or black), with sugar and a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). As the SCOBY ferments the tea, it uses up the sugar as an energy source, making the final product a healthy, slightly fizzy, low sugar option. Kombucha is cheap and easy to make at home.’
‘Alternatively, pre-made versions are available online and health food stores (we like Suffolk Elderberry’s Homemade Kombucha Jellies, £4.80 for 20). Or there are plenty of recipes online to follow. The calories are dependent on the recipe but are generally around 35 calories per gummy.’
7. Cup of blueberries
Blueberries are one of nature’s superfoods and nutrient-dense food that makes an ideal snack option. Blueberries are also considered low calorie fruits, which makes them perfect if you’re on a strict calorie-counting diet.
‘Packed with huge levels of antioxidants and nearly 15g of vitamin C, blueberries pack a huge health punch. A cup (190g) only contains around 90 calories,’ says Amy.
8. Golden milk
‘There’s no reason snacks can’t be liquid! Treating yourself to a delicious mug of golden milk can be just as satisfying as a food-based snack,’ says Andrea. ‘It’s packed with warming spices, many of which are high in polyphenols and antioxidants. The main ingredient that gives the drink its distinctive golden colour is turmeric, an Indian spice that contains the active flavonoid curcumin. Curcumin has been widely studied and shown to have over 150 therapeutic properties, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant functions.’
‘Turmeric (and other spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves if using) are heated with dairy or plant-based milk, and the mix is sometimes sweetened with 1tsp of honey or maple syrup, or cinnamon – which are naturally sweet,’ she adds. ‘There are lots of different recipes available. You may find making a batch of turmeric paste and keeping it in a sealed jar in the fridge useful – just add milk whenever you fancy a pick-me-up. The calories depend on the recipe used but, as an example, golden milk made with coconut milk and a ⅓tsp honey is about 90 calories per cup.’
Savoury low calorie snacks
9. Vegetable sticks and dips
‘These are an excellent snack, helping you to reach your recommended veg intake for the day,’ says Andrea. ‘Veg is also high in fiber, helping to feed beneficial species of bacteria in the gut. Go for hummus as the dip and you will also be getting a good amount of protein. Combine it with cherry tomatoes, red pepper and cucumber slices, broccoli florets, celery, and carrot batons.’
Two tablespoons (30g) of hummus is about 50 calories, while a whole carrot contains around 30 calories and 1 medium pepper around 25 calories.
There aren’t many healthy crisps out there so popcorn is a great alternative instead. ‘Popcorn snacks are now quite common in our supermarkets but look out for the brands that don’t add the nasties!’ says Andrea. ‘Proper Corn has some good varieties and most come in under 100 calories per bag.’ Try Proper Corn’s Lightly Sea Salt Popcorn (£1 for a pack of 6, Tesco), which contains just 44 calories per bag.
‘It’s the perfect munching snack while multi-tasking,’ says Amy. ‘It’s high in fiber too, so not only is it low in calories it keeps you fuller for longer.’ Just aim to make your own so there’s nothing added, such as salt or sugar.
11. Sweetcorn fritters
‘These are a good source of fiber, manganese, iron, magnesium, vitamin C, and folate, and are about 97 calories per fritter,’ says Andrea. They can even be served with a freshly prepared salad for a low calorie meals option.
Sweetcorn fritters recipe
- 280g organic sweetcorn, drained
- Bunch of chopped coriander
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 120g buckwheat flour
- 185ml cold water
- 2tsp of coconut oil
- Salt and pepper
Place the sweetcorn in a large bowl. Add coriander, lemon zest, and season with salt and pepper. Next, add buckwheat flour and cold water and mix well until smooth. Heat 2tsp of coconut oil in a large non-stick pan on high heat and once the pan is hot, ladle in the mixture. Cook the fritters in two batches of four, or divide the oil (4tsp in total) accordingly if your pan is not big enough (roughly ½tsp oil per 1 fritter).
Cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side until browned. The batter makes 8 medium-sized fritters. These are good to snack on warm or cold. They can be stored in the fridge or freezer and re-warmed as necessary.
12. Three crackers with cheese or hummus
‘Crackers and cheese, or crackers and hummus, are a classic low-calorie snacks. The fibre is filling, and the cheese provides protein and calcium,’ says Amy. If you opt for 25g of reduced-fat Cheddar, that’s around 60 calories.
Andrea recommends Rude Health crackers ‘such as the Buckwheat and Black Bean Crackers (£2.50, Ocado), which – at 21 calories per cracker – can be teamed with hummus (1tbsp of hummus is about 25 calories) for an easy, healthy and filling low calorie snack.’
13. Edamame beans
Hailing from Asia, edamame beans are whole soybeans that are very popular as a snack and side dish. For a vegetable, they pack a considerable protein punch.
‘Among the healthiest snacks around, ½ cup (70g) has around 85 calories, 9g of protein and 4g of fibre. They have become readily available in nearly all lunch sections of supermarkets,’ says Amy.
While many nuts are high in fat, a little goes a long way in satisfying your appetite and 20 pistachios are only 80 calories. Plus, raw nuts are rich in good fats and other goodness.
‘Often thought of as an unhealthy because of the high fat content (though most of that is unsaturated), pistachios are rich in protein, fibre and vitamin and minerals,’ says Amy.
15. Lentil and Black Bean Cornitas
‘Take a look at Rude Health products and you can find Chickpea and Lentil Cornitas or Black Bean Cornitas (both £1.33 for a sharing bag, Ocado), which come in at just over 100 calories and 98 calories per 25g serving respectively, and are much healthier than other salty crisps and snacks,’ says Andrea.
Low calorie snacks that are high in protein
16. Baked spiced chickpeas
‘Chickpeas are high in both fibre and protein and packed full of nutrients such as folate, iron and manganese,’ says Andrea. ‘Baked chickpeas are easy to make at home and are a great savoury snack.’
- 1 tin of chickpeas
- 2tsp coconut oil
- Spice mix made from ½tsp cumin, ¼tsp cayenne pepper, 1tsp each of sea salt and black pepper
Drain the chickpeas, rinse and pat dry to remove any loose skins which can burn easily. Put them in a bowl with coconut oil and the spice mix and make sure they are evenly coated. Spread on a baking tray and bake at 200C/400F/Gas 6 for 30-35 mins, giving the tray a shake every now and then until the chickpeas are golden and crunchy. Turn the oven off and leave to cool in the oven for another 20-30 mins.
This makes about 5 servings at 100 calories and 5g protein per serving. Make a big batch and store in a glass jar for a couple of days. After that, you can re-bake them for 5-10 minutes to get the crunch back.
17. Low-fat Greek yogurt
‘People often forget how high in protein low-fat yogurt actually is,’ says Amy. ‘A 100g serving (⅕ of a large pot) will provide you with around 71 calories and 5.2g of protein as well as promoting growth of good bacteria in the body.’
18. Boiled egg
So simple yet effective, a boiled egg offers a low calorie protein hit as well as providing vitamins A, B2 , B6, B12, D, E and K, and copper, iron, selenium and zinc.
‘Easy to pack away in a bag, this snack is a popular source of protein (6g of it in fact, and just 78 calories), and is a staple of Japanese lunchboxes,’ says Amy.
19. Roasted kale chips
‘A great alternative to chips and pretzels is roasted kale chips,’ says Andrea. ‘Kale is one of most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, being a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, which have been shown to have multiple health benefits. Cruciferous veg are excellent sources of fibre, vitamin K, vitamin C and folate. They also contain a variety of other phytonutrients, some of which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and protective effects against certain cancers. Eating cruciferous veg on a daily basis is therefore great for your health,’ she says.
‘Roasted in the oven, kale is delicious,’ says Andrea. ‘To make the crispy chips chop your curly kale into pieces. Toss in a bowl and massage in some olive oil and then add some herbs and spices (for example, cumin, paprika and a little salt). Place on a baking tray, and bake for between 8-15 minutes at 180C/350F/Gas 4. Check they’re not burning and turn the tray regularly so they cook evenly. Each portion is slightly over 100 calories and 6g protein.’
20. Cottage cheese and cantaloupe
Low calorie snacks such as this fresh curd cheese is a snacking staple that can be paired with fruit, veg or crackers.
‘About ½ cup (65g) of cottage cheese provides 65 calories and 7g of protein, which can help fight hunger pangs throughout the day,’ says Amy. ‘Adding a wedge of cantaloupe melon can provide an added kick and still fall under 100 calories.’
21. Egg muffins
‘If you’re looking for a healthy savoury snack that’s both high in protein and rich in complex carbs, these easy-to-make egg muffins combine the two. They’re essentially mini frittatas!’ says Andrea. ‘Plus, since you get 12 egg muffins you can freeze them and reheat or eat cold whenever you want them. The calorie count will change depending on what you include; however, an example using onion, kale and mushroom will add up to 64 calories and 5g protein per muffin. If you add broccoli, 50g grated cheese, some garlic and maybe a few chilli flakes each muffin is 96 calories with 8g protein.’
- 12 large eggs
- A selection of chopped veg of your choosing (e.g. broccoli, onion, peppers)
- A selection of chopped herbs of your choosing (e.g. coriander, parsley, chives)
- Coconut or olive oil for greasing
Grease the muffin tray holes with coconut olive oil. Preheat oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Secondly, whisk 12 large eggs to blend (like you would if scrambling them) and sauté broccoli and onion or any of your favourite vegetables such as peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, or shallots instead of onion. After that, add a sprinkling of herbs. Combine these and then spoon or ladle the egg mixture into the greased muffin tray. Fill all the way to the top. Place a baking sheet under the muffin tray as they bake to catch any egg mixture that might bubble out. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cups comes out clean.
22. Salmon and cucumber bites
‘Oily fish is a fantastic source of healthy fat omega-3, which has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Moreover, it’s also a good source of protein,’ says Andrea.
‘Slice a quarter of a cucumber, distribute 2tbsp of plain Greek yogurt between the slices, top with salmon (50g between the slices) and sprinkle with black pepper. You’ll get a whopping 12g of protein and only 93 calories,’ she says.
23. Pumpkin seeds
Like nuts, seeds are tiny powerhouses of nutrition that will take the edge of your appetite. You can buy pumpkins seeds from supermarkets and health stores such as Holland & Barrett (H&B’s own brand cost £1.39 for 125g), or learn how to roast pumpkin seeds with our easy recipe.
‘Packed full of nutrients, and rich in fibre, carbs, vitamin K, iron, and magnesium, pumpkin seeds are a great healthy snack,’ says Amy. A 1tbsp serving provides 56 calories and 3g of protein.
24. Basil radish dip and cucumber
‘An unusual one but full of protein and, as radish is part of the cruciferous family, full of fibre, vitamins and minerals,’ says Andrea. ‘Mix some Greek yogurt, feta cheese, basil leaves, radishes and lemon juice in a food processor. Slice some cucumber into batons to dip and enjoy. At 8g of protein and under 100 calories, what’s not to love!’
25. Protein bars
If you’re looking for low calorie snacks that are easy to carry in your handbag a protein bar is good to eat on the run.
‘Currently everywhere on the market, a quick hunt around will find several protein bars pack full of vitamins, minerals and fibre,’ says Amy. ‘As the name suggests, these are also high in protein, though if you’re looking to stay within 100 calories you may have to eat half at a time.’ Half a Premier Protein Bar (£1, Ocado) provides 89 calories and 10g protein.
It’s recommended that you make your own low calorie snacks and avoid processed and refined foods where possible. Watch for low calorie snacks that claim to be ‘good for you’ but aren’t.
‘Food covered in high levels of salt, such as nuts or popcorn, can appear to be healthy as they’re advertised as low in calories but actually have hidden dangers, such as causing high blood pressure,’ says Amy. ‘Another danger of so-called healthy foods is empty calories – those snacks are high in refined sugar, white flour, gluten and colourings.’