That mid-afternoon stomach rumble has hit again and you want something to eat, but you don’t want to blow your diet. Several manufacturers have packaged their products in 100-calorie portions, but they aren’t necessarily healthy. Many contain high-fat crackers or cookies that only have 100 calories but not many nutrients. Coming up with a healthy, low-calorie snack is easy with a little planning and some basic knowledge of the calorie contents of certain food groups.
A piece of fruit about the size of a tennis ball contains around 60 calories. A handful of grapes, a cup of melon or an ounce of raisins contain about the same number of calories. Fruits makes a great snack because they are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber, plus they satisfy a slight sweet tooth. Add a half tablespoon of natural peanut butter to make it 100 calories. The peanut butter adds a little fat and protein that will keep you feeling full longer.
One cup of raw veggies contains just 25 calories. Make yourself a salad, add half a cup of black beans for some protein and a tablespoon of salad dressing, and you have a 100-calorie snack that’s bound to make you feel like you just ate a meal. Salad dressing contains 45 calories per tablespoon, so if you don't like plain vegetables, dip them. Other healthy veggie-dip options include hummus, which has about 25 calories per tablespoon; plain yogurt, which has 30 calories in one-fourth cup; or ricotta cheese, which has 75 calories in one-fourth cup. Add some spices or herbs for flavor without adding calories.
Whole grains make good snacks because they have fiber, which takes longer to digest and helps you feel full longer. Look for whole-grain crackers that contain at least 3 grams of fiber. Read the label for calorie content and portion size. Whole-grain bread contains around 80 calories a slice, and if you have reduced-calorie bread, you can eat 2 slices. Spread a tablespoon of light cream cheese on your bread to add another 20 calories and you have a filling 100-calorie snack. Three cups of light microwave popcorn or a handful of whole-grain pretzels contain about 80 calories, too.
Dairy products are good sources of calcium, protein and carbohydrate. Milk is also fortified with vitamins A and D. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, most people don’t eat or drink enough dairy products. The Guidelines recommend drinking 3 cups of low-fat or fat-free milk daily. Snacking on dairy products will help you meet these requirements, and most contain about 90 calories each. A cup of fat-free or 1 percent milk, half a cup of cottage cheese or a cup of light yogurt contains 90 to 100 calories. An ounce of cheese contains between 35 and 75 calories, depending on the fat content. Check the label for specific calorie content.
Sometimes, you just have to have something sweet. For a healthy, sweet, 100-calorie treat, try one cup of sliced strawberries topped with one-fourth cup of whipped topping and grate a small amount of dark chocolate on top. Some candy bars and granola bars contain around 100 calories; you just have to read the labels.
Kristin Mortensen began writing newspaper articles in 1992 for The Sierra Vista Herald. She has also been a registered dietitian since 1991, and has worked for hospitals, clinics and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) programs. Mortensen has a bachelor of science in dietetics from Brigham Young University.