The Protean Life of Protein Snacks
September 2, 2009 12:44 PM   Subscribe

I have recently started riding my bike 10 miles a day and lifting free weights 4 days a week. I need some healthy, lowish carb, high protein snacks AND savory vegetable snacks to stave off my crazy sugar cravings.

I've had a notoriously demanding sweet tooth all my life, and it's exacerbated by exercising or forgetting to eat in a timely fashion. I'm working on it, but my recent spike in activity has left me absolutely dying for bready sandwiches, cookies, sugared coffee, etc. I'm trying to kick both processed sugar and get to a more balanced diet of 1/3 good carbs, 1/3 good fats, 1/3 proteins.

I'm looking for flavorful, healthy, hunger-killing snacks to get me through my worst sugar attacks. So far I really like hardboiled eggs or edamame, both with onion salt; cottage cheese; greek strained 2% yogurt; cherry tomatoes with kosher salt; organic turkey wrapped around cheddar and mustard; tamari almonds; and packed tuna with spring water. I'm trying to cut down on the tuna due to mercury, though. What else should I consider? I read several related questions and am interested in recipes like this one that recommends walnuts, gorgonzola and pear slices.

I definitely need to eat more vegetables, which I tend to only do when they're seasoned and/or savory, so I'd appreciate some easy recipes to take with me to work or that are easy to prepare with a few ingredients during lunch time using the oven at work. I'm not necessarily vegetarian, but cooking raw meat squicks me out, so I won't make anything that involves handling and cooking dead, squiggly skin.

What else should I be eating that's tasty enough to make me forget about the box of cinnamon graham crackers that my co-workers stack in the communal area?

posted by Hwaet to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
I understand baked potatoes are quite filling and low-cal.
posted by Lieber Frau at 12:47 PM on September 2, 2009

When you want sugar, make a half pb&J sandwich, but use chunky peanut butter, spreadable fruit with no sugar added (or fake sugar), and whole grain bread with no HFCS. Amazingly good. Amazingly filling. And just sweet enough. Plus you get carbs, protein, and your sweet tooth satisfied all at once!
posted by whimsicalnymph at 12:53 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would suggest something like hummus with vegetable sticks for dipping as a good veggie savoury snack to stave off the hunger. I can't eat many complex carbs that are readily accessible (thanks to a gluten intolerance), so I am a protein junkie and this sates my hunger pretty well. You could also branch out into stuff like baba ganoush or tzaziki (with the yogurt you like!) to make those veggies tasty too!
posted by urbanlenny at 12:55 PM on September 2, 2009

veggies with hummus! Also soups and stews are a great way to get a grip of veggies - and you can make a lot at a time which will save you the trouble of having to make lunch for yourself each evening for the following day. I get a bin of local, farm-direct produce delivered to me each week (I don't know if this is available where you live, but I highly recommend it), it's generally what ever is in season, and I often just take all the veggies, steam them a little first and make a crazy pot of soup! For example, recently made soup with a butternut squash base plus kale, zucchini, onion, fennel and tofu! Delicious. low-carb, tons of vegetables.

When I ate cheese, I used to really like cheese + fruit. Like some goat cheese and pears.

And you if you want to make something sweet without the refined sugar, try using some stevia leaf!
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:57 PM on September 2, 2009

Beef or Turkey jerky is usually low carb high protien, but watch out for the sodium, it is pretty darn high. I have noticed that some of the recipes are lower sodium than others so check the labels.

May take some getting used to but oatmeal with whey protein is also not bad. I used to do the chocolate designer whey.

If fish doesnt make you squicky then:

Smoked salmon is one of my faves, also a bit high in sodium.

Lettuce wraps. Any protein I suppose but I enjoy a seared tuna with some sort of soy/sesame oil dressing with some other julienned veggie in there wrapped in a Romaine leaf. Really good but more of a meal.
posted by WickedPissah at 1:00 PM on September 2, 2009

If "sugared coffee" means a cup of regular coffee with a teaspoon of sugar, that's not that bad, really. A teaspoon of sugar is only 15 calories. "Coffee drinks" on the other hand, though, can have tons of sugar.
posted by zsazsa at 1:00 PM on September 2, 2009

I did the low-to-no sugar thing when I started exercising seriously and did a small exception for right-after-exercising time when I figured sugars were not only okay, they were a good part of post-exercise recovery. My absolute favorite post-workout snack is nonfat plain greek yogurt [you can buy this or just strain your own regular nonfat yogurt and save a lot of money] with some protein poweder, maple syrup and flax seeds. It's sort of a gross slurrylike substance, but it's sweet, full of protein and as far as I can tell more or less the equivalent of chocolate milk.

For other high protein foods, I'm really partial to lentil soup with carmelized onoins [in face carmelized onions makes anything delicious], grilled chicken breast on half an english muffin [pretty low bread value, high delicious chicken value, can buy chicken precooked so no skin squicks], sliced apples and sharp cheddar cheese, celery and peanut butter, and salads! You can bring the fixings to work in a baggie and then add dressing right before you eat it, maybe toss in a few pita chips or low fat croutons for crunch.
posted by jessamyn at 1:01 PM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

We're loving the banana peanut butter smoothie right now-a frozen banana, 1/2 c of milk, 2 tbs pb, 1 tbs honey, a scoop of vanilla protein powder, 4 ice cubes. Can sub yogurt for the milk.
posted by purenitrous at 1:08 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

A former roommate was on Atkins for a while, and sometimes would try sprinkling cocoa powder into marscapone cheese. She said it was surprisingly good.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:11 PM on September 2, 2009

I don't know how low-carb you're going. If you're still eating any sort of grain or starch like beans, OR high-sugar fruit -- say, pineapple or pears or even three apples a day -- then you can ignore all this advice, because you're still ingesting a good many carbs.

However, if you're avoiding all sugar and starch, then I'd recommend you ALSO avoid any foods that are non- or low-fat. Reason: if you go low-fat as well as very low carb, you are going to lose too much weight of the bad kind, too quickly -- namely, you'll lose muscle. In fact, a low carb diet, whether for weight loss or muscle building, basically should be a high-fat, moderate-protein diet, especially if your aim is to remain sane and satiated and energetic.

My favorite snacks when I'm low-carbing it a la Paleo + dairy, and also lifting regularly:

Fage full-fat Greek yogurt (6g of carbs a serving, and wholly delicious) mixed with sunflower seeds and low-sugar berries (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries -- frozen works, makes it a bit like some delicious ice cream-like dessert). Also makes an excellent breakfast, btw!

Nuts, string cheese, Baby Bels (very handy on the run).

Half an avocado, salted and eaten with a spoon; OR stuffed with chicken salad, salmon and mayo, tuna salad (if you don't mind the mercury, yum).

If you're not averse to baking and want to satisfy your cravings for bread products:

Almond thins with cream cheese on top.

Muffins made of flaxseed and almond meal. VERY filling. There are a hundred recipes. My favorite --

Chocolate Flax Muffins: Mix together 1 c. ground flax, 1 c. almond flour, 4 eggs, 2 t baking powder, 1 cup Torani caramel, 1 t vanilla, 1 T cinnamon, 6 T butter, 4 T cocoa powder, 1/2 cup walnuts, pinch of salt. Optional: put walnuts on top before cooking (20 minutes at 350)

Also, breakfast muffins: mix 13 eggs with chopped veggies of your choice, or gourmet sausage (like jalapeno and asiago) if you like it. Optional: add a tablespoon of heavy cream. Pour into tinfoil muffin cups. Sprinkle top with shredded cheese. Cook at 22-25 minutes at 350. Voila: delicious meal on the go.
posted by artemisia at 1:16 PM on September 2, 2009 [9 favorites]

P.S. By "this" advice, I meant my own, which concerns only low carb eating (less than 60g a day). Many good suggestions above if you're doing a moderate i.e. "restricted" carb diet. :)
posted by artemisia at 1:17 PM on September 2, 2009

Two suggestions for savory veggie snacks:

1) Jicama, cut into batons and sprinkled with fresh lime juice and chili powder.

2) Roasted cauliflower or broccoli. Cut either into florets, toss with a bit of olive oil, and roast at 400 for 20-25 minutes. I like to toss the cauliflower with garam masala or some similar spice mixture. For the broccoli, I just use S&P. Both are great left over and would travel well to work in a ziploc bag.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:28 PM on September 2, 2009

My very favorite savory vegetable snack: dried wakame seaweed. Here's what I said about it before:
Strange but true: I find that dried wakame seaweed satisfies the potato chip urge. The little flakes are crunchy and salty and delightfully umami. They're also virtually calorie-free and full of vitamins. You can't eat them all day long -- too salty -- but they make a good substitute for a packet of chips. If you've got a health-food or Whole Foods-type store nearby, you should be able to find them in bulk.
posted by ourobouros at 1:44 PM on September 2, 2009

If you aren't too worried about your salt intake, dill pickles (or any flavor you prefer) are my satisfying, crunchy, easy snack of choice. Low in calories and high in cucumber!
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 1:47 PM on September 2, 2009

For a yummy vegetable snack, toss baby peeled carrots with toasted sesame seeds, a pinch of thyme and a pinch of salt.
posted by amarynth at 1:52 PM on September 2, 2009

I eat a huge salad every day for lunch, with protein-y things in it like hardboiled eggs, baked salmon, beans (kidney, garbanzo, black, cannelini, etc.), and nuts/seeds. I don't eat chicken but that would be another good protein source. I make enough to fit in one of those large 64-oz yogurt tubs every night before bed (takes like five minutes, tops) and add the dressing and a mix of unrefined salt / garlic powder / nutritional yeast just before I eat it.

Other things that I like in the salad:
red/yellow bell peppers
lemon cucumbers
diced onion
romaine or spring mix
any leftover steamed veggie from last night's dinner
(broccoli, green beans, squash, etc.)

Layer it heaviest/hardiest on the bottom to lightest/delicatest on top in the tub so it survives more or less intact until lunch the next day.

posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:56 PM on September 2, 2009 [5 favorites]

I just had a bit of trail mix--Costco's fruit and nut medley. I'm not massively fond of the nuts--I prefer meat--but I'll eat them when mixed in with the dried fruit, which satisfies the sweet tooth without being obnoxiously healthy. Plus, it's got simple sugars, plenty of protein, and some fat. Seems to do well for me (hilly fast bike commuting 5 miles twice daily). It's also non perishable and highly dense, so it's easy to carry around.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 2:11 PM on September 2, 2009

these roasted chick peas
posted by nanhey at 4:30 PM on September 2, 2009

- A big spoonful of natural peanut butter
- It's tomato time, so spread some delicious hummus, pesto, yogurt cheese or light cream cheese with dill, tzatziki sauce, or tapanade on some really ripe tomato chunks or slices
- Berries, strained yogurt, and a little cinnamon or vanilla
posted by maudlin at 5:24 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

You already mentioned hardboiled eggs. My recent favorite seasoning for the hb eggs is Valentina. Drip some of that stuff on the top instead of salt... wow! Really fast and surprisingly delicious.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 10:18 PM on September 2, 2009

My current favorite solution to craving sugar is half a cup of cottage cheese with a tablespoon of no-sugar-added spreadable fruit (I like strawberry) and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon. Mix it all together and oh holy cow. It's so freaking good that I choose it over ice cream most of the time. Plus, it's only about 150 calories and it fills me up for quite a while.
posted by evilbeck at 10:20 AM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

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