Perfect Snack Pairings

Snacks can be healthy and provide benefits.

I’m a snacker. I’m also a nutritionist. While many people may think the two don’t go together — a nutritionist who snacks?! — snacking can not only be a healthy practice if you choose the right foods wisely, it can also help set you up to make better meal choices and smarter portion sizes.

Snacking can be a great way to boost your nutrient intake, as well as improve your health. And contrary to what you may have heard, snacking can help you maintain your weight or even lose a few pounds if planned properly.

You may try getting by with an apple or a handful of nuts. But if you’re feeling hungry in the late afternoon — a time when most of my clients get the munchies — the best way to enjoy a satisfying snack is to create the perfect pair.

Creating the perfect snack

When it comes to creating the perfect pair, the first thing that probably comes to mind may be wine and cheese, or chips and dip. While you can enjoy these on occasion, I’ve got some healthier suggestions in mind.

Pairing a fruit, vegetable or whole grain — which all contain fiber — with a food that contains protein or healthy fat is a winning combination for a satisfying snack that is both nourishing and energizing. This combo will stabilize your blood sugar, slow down digestion and keep you full and far more satisfied than a single-food-group snack. You won’t feel “hangry” or irritable because you are hungry. They also taste better and beat a dry rice cake by a long shot.

In my book “Finally Full, Finally Slim,” I offer ideas to get you started. Here are some of my favorites — both savory and sweet:

Avocado toast

Spread a quarter of an avocado on a slice of whole-grain toast, Ezekiel bread or whole-grain crackers. As I previously wrote, grains are not taboo and don’t need to be avoided, even if you are trying to lose a few pounds. Whole grains contain fiber, folate and magnesium.

Avocados contain heart-heathy fats along with vitamins and minerals including potassium, folate and vitamins C and K. The fat and the fiber are super satisfying, tasty and a winning combination.

Roasted chickpeas or edamame with sliced red and yellow peppers

Chickpeas and edamame contain plant protein and fiber, and pair well with peppers or your favorite crunchy veggie like carrots, celery, radishes or jicama. Red and yellow peppers are rich in nutrients including vitamin C and other antioxidants, folate, vitamin K, potassium and fiber.

When you roast chickpeas or edamame (shelled) in the oven, they transform into a crispy and savory snack. Here’s how:

— Drain the chickpeas and dry them well before roasting.

— Toss the chickpeas with olive oil and kosher salt. You can experiment with spices like cumin or chili powder.

— Spread them on a baking sheet and roast in the oven on 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, stirring them every 10 minutes.

You can eat them as a snack or toss them into soup or salads for some crispiness. You can roast the peppers or enjoy them raw. If you have no time for roasting, no problem. Enjoy hummus and veggies instead.

Sliced apple or pear with nut butter

Apples and pears are easy to grab and high in nutrition. They’re rich in fiber, containing around 4 to 5 grams each, and are super satisfying.

They pair well with nut butters, which contain heart-healthy unsaturated fat along with some protein, vitamin E and fiber.

I love sliced apples with about 1 tablespoon peanut butter; almond butter or cashew butter are also yummy. I often heat the peanut butter in the microwave for 30 seconds, so it softens and easily spreads onto the fruit.

Yogurt parfait

I love a yogurt parfait made with Greek yogurt (2% milk fat), mixed berries, a drizzle of honey and crushed walnuts. This tasty snack is the perfect combination of protein from the yogurt, antioxidants and fiber from the berries, and healthy fat including omega-3 fatty acids from the walnuts.

It’s filling, high in nutrients, including calcium, vitamins D and E, and low in calories.

Oversized strawberries dipped in almond butter and cocoa chips

Craving a fun sweet treat? These next three DIY snacks will satisfy your sweet tooth. Or enjoy for dessert after a meal.

This decadent dessert is high in vitamin C, fiber, heart-healthy fat and taste. Place the almond butter and cocoa chips in the microwave for around 30 seconds to soften. Spread the dips onto the strawberries and enjoy warm.

You can also place the chocolate-almond-butter-covered berries in a baggie and freeze to enjoy as a cold snack.

Banana peanut butter ‘nice cream’

Blend a frozen banana (sliced), 1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter and ½ cup unsweetened almond milk in a food processor or a blender and enjoy.

Bananas are high in potassium and fiber, while the peanut butter contains healthy fat that will keep you satisfied.

Apple pie in a mug

Chop an apple and mix with 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts. Sprinkle with cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg and a drizzle of lemon juice to your liking. Heat in microwave for 1 to 2 minutes depending on the consistency you enjoy.

This snack contains fiber, healthy fats and a dose of great taste.

7 snack pairings that are satisfying and good for you:

One final tip: Give your snack as much attention as you would your meal. Enjoy these seven snacks sitting down and savor the flavor.

— Avocado toast.

— Roasted chickpeas or edamame with sliced red and yellow peppers.

— Sliced apple or pear with nut butter.

— Yogurt parfait.

— Strawberries dipped in almond butter and cocoa chips.

— Banana peanut butter “nice cream.”

— Apple pie in a mug.

More from U.S. News

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What to Know About Becoming Semi-Vegetarian

8 High-Protein Breakfasts That Keep You Full

Perfect Snack Pairings originally appeared on usnews.com

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