En español | It's 3 p.m. You're hungry. If your next move typically involves a bag of chips — or anything sugary — it's officially time to mix it up. That's because while research shows that the vast majority of adults are daily snackers, those over 50 need to do so wisely. “As you get older you need fewer calories, so you want to make sure you get more nutrition per bite,” says Joan Salge Blake, nutrition professor at Boston University and host of the health and wellness podcast Spot On!
But you're not only after something low in calories. And it's OK if a single apple doesn't quite do it for you. Along with vitamins and minerals, an ideal snack should provide some carbs for quick energy along with fiber and protein to help sustain you until the next meal.
Here are five power-packed snacks that will help you satisfy cravings and give your body the fuel it needs.
These little seeds seem to be showing up everywhere, with good reason. For starters, they're a great source of fiber, which is all-important for keeping your GI tract working, says Salge Blake. Just 2 tablespoons pack 8 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein; chia seeds are also a good source of minerals like calcium and iron as well as heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. To whip them into a great snack option, try an easy-to-make chia pudding: In a small glass bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons chia seeds with 1/2 cup milk of your choice (if you use a nondairy milk, be sure to choose an unsweetened one). Allow to sit for two to three minutes, then whisk again. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours and up to five days. When you're ready to eat, add fresh fruit, dried coconut, nut butter or any other toppings you'd like.
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Savory yogurt bowl
People often assume that yogurt is a nutritious snack food. Unfortunately, most of the yogurt options in stores are heavily sweetened varieties, which means you may end up with more sugar than you'd expect from a healthy snack. Dannon Fruit on the Bottom lowfat blueberry flavor, for instance, has 21 grams of sugar per 5.3-ounce serving, 11 more grams than Dannon's plain lowfat yogurt. That's like adding almost 3 teaspoons of sugar into your bowl. Instead, start your yogurt snack with that plain yogurt, and go savory. Top it with chopped tomatoes and cucumbers or any other raw veggies you have on hand, and a sprinkle of an “everything” seasoning such as Trader Joe's Everything but the Bagel.
Cottage cheese may not exactly be new to you. But using it to power a smoothie puts a completely fresh and delicious spin on this retro food. It also makes for a perfect snack. “It's a fantastic source of protein,” says Salge Blake. A half-cup serving has 85 calories, 11 grams of protein and 115 mg of bone-building calcium — around 10 percent of your daily need. Blend 1/2 cup cottage cheese with 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/4 cup frozen raspberries and 1/2 frozen banana.
Garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas, are little nutrition powerhouses. They’re a great source of protein and fiber, and they also provide valuable minerals like folate, iron and potassium. Straight out of the can, though, they’re not exactly snack-worthy. Enter the new breed of crunchy chickpea snacks from brands like Biena and Bush’s Best. Available in savory and sweet flavors like barbecue, ranch and honey, they’re a nutrient-dense stand-in for your potato chips and kettle corn. For instance, a 1-ounce serving of sea salt chickpeas has around 110 calories, 6 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein; a same-sized serving of potato chips has 160 calories, just 1 gram of fiber and 2 grams protein. Measure out a 1-ounce serving or buy in individual serving packets to eat as a standalone snack. Or sprinkle on top of a small salad or cup of soup.
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You may have seen these young, green soybeans as an appetizer at sushi restaurants. They're also a good source of protein and fiber — 8 grams and 5 grams, respectively, per half cup — which makes them perfect for snack time, says Salge Blake. Plus, they're easy to prepare. Simply buy a bag of frozen edamame in the pod. Boil 1 pound of edamame in a pot of water for three to five minutes, or microwave with 1/4 cup water for one to five minutes. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and serve warm, or enjoy at room temperature or chilled later.
Rachel Meltzer Warren is a nutrition writer, educator and counselor.