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Healthy High Protein Snacks

By Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

Protein, according to the Centers for Disease Control, is found in every muscle, tissue and cell in our body. Protein is broken down in the body and must be replaced through food. The Institute of Medicine recommends that most individuals consume 10 to 35 percent of their total calories from protein. For the average 2000-calorie diet, this equates to about 50g or more of protein each day. Meats, poultry, seafood and eggs are some commonly recognized protein-rich components of meals during the day. However, there are many other foods, both animal and plant-based, that can provide a rich source of protein not only during meals but also during snack times.

Nuts and Seeds

One ounce of nuts, according to the United States Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database, contains between 4 and 6g of protein. The Harvard University School of Public Health says that nuts are not only a source of protein but also may reduce risk of heart disease if eaten several times a week. It is important to avoid overeating nuts since they contain 150 to 200 calories an ounce. But using nuts as a replacement for chips or other salty snacks can provide a healthy snack alternative. Seeds, such as sunflower or pumpkin seeds, are also a rich protein source, at 6 to 9g of protein per ounce.

Smoothies and Other Dairy-based Snacks

A blend of diced fruit and honey, along with a cup of yogurt, can create a protein-rich smoothie to drink as a snack between meals. One cup of yogurt, in a smoothie or alone, can provide 8 to 13g of protein per cup, depending on the brand and type of yogurt. In addition, 1 oz. of cheese provides approximately 7g of protein, according to the United States Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database. Cheese can be eaten alone, such as with mozzarella string cheese, or sliced with whole wheat crackers as a protein-rich snack. Also, 1 cup of milk or chocolate milk, at 8g of protein per cup, can provide protein after a workout or between meals.

Cereal and Granola

Bran cereals and wheat-based cereals can provide around 3 to 6g of protein per cup, according to the United States Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database. One cup of cereal dry, or with 1/2 cup of low-fat or skim milk, can provide a protein-rich snack after a workout, between meals or as a healthy alternative to a sweet snack for dessert. In addition, 1/2 cup of granola, which contains about 4g of protein, can be eaten with raisins and other dried fruit as a protein-rich trail mix or used as a protein-rich topping to yogurt.

Other Protein-rich Snack Ideas

A 1-tbsp. serving of hummus at 1g of protein, peanut butter at about 4g of protein or cream cheese at 1 to 2g of protein spread on crackers or celery sticks can provide a healthy, protein-rich snack. Other protein-rich snack ideas include 1 oz. of salami, 1/2 cup low-fat pudding, or a 1 oz. granola bar, all of which provide between 3 and 4g of protein.

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