29 Oct 13 High-Protein Low-Carb Snacks to Keep You Feeling Satisfied
When you’re feeling peckish, it’s easy to reach for the nearest packet of chips or candy as you pass through your local grocery store. Tempting as that may be, your health will be far better served by choosing high-protein low-carb snacks instead.
Healthy snacks come in many different forms, but if you’re following a keto diet (or simply limiting your carbs), focused on your fitness, boosting your nutrition, or aiming to lose weight, a high-protein low-carb snack is your friend. Let’s explore why that’s true and then look at some healthy, protein-rich snacks that are also delicious.
Why Your Snacks Should Be High-Protein and Low-Carb
Protein, carbohydrates, and fat are the three macronutrients your body needs to function optimally, and your body uses all of these for fuel in different ways. Let’s look briefly at the role each of these play.
Protein is the macronutrient that builds the structure of your body, including your bones, muscles, and organs. It gives you energy and focus to get through your busy day and your workout, and it stabilizes your blood sugar. And if weight loss is your goal, increasing your protein is extremely effective. Protein also keeps you satiated, so you’re less likely to give in to food cravings.
Depending on your age, level of activity, and fitness goals, you need a certain number of grams of protein per day. While the average person needs about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram per day, if you’re very active, you need at least 2 grams per kilogram and very likely more. If you’re an older adult who wants to reduce loss of muscle mass, you need around 1.5 grams per kilogram of protein.
Your body doesn’t store protein and you’re using it up all the time, especially if you’re working out intensively. So you need to get it from animal or plant protein sources every day — preferably throughout the day rather than all at once, especially if you want to build muscle. One gram of protein provides you with 4 calories.
As well as protein, you need a certain amount of healthy carbohydrates. While sugar is a carb, it’s usually not a healthy option.
Your body breaks down carbs into glucose, uses what it needs for energy, and then stores the rest as fat. Like protein, 1 gram of carbs also provides you with 4 calories.
If you’re an endurance athlete, you may need to carbo-load before an endurance event to sustain your energy. Although carbs provide you with the same number of calories as protein, protein is far more useful for muscle-building and athletic performance, not to mention weight loss.
Also, when you’re eating carbs, some of that is made up of indigestible fiber, so you’ll only be able to digest and use a certain percentage of it — this is known as net carbs.
Finally, you need some healthy fats, which doesn’t necessarily mean low-fat. Fat also provides fuel for your body, far more effectively than carbs, which is why it’s keto-friendly. A single gram of fat provides 9 calories.
Healthy fats are found in many different foods. Some of the more obvious examples are coconut oil or olive oil, the latter being very high in oleic acid, which may help reduce inflammation and improve immune response, among other things.
Important note: Food manufacturers generally use fat or sugar to make food taste good, but good fats are much better for you than sugar. If you’re following a low-carb diet and looking for healthy and tasty snacks, opt for those with healthy fats rather than added sugar.
What to Look For in High-Protein Low-Carb Snacks
If you buy anything ready-made to meet your snacking needs, be sure to read the ingredient label carefully. A product that’s high in added sugar or other artificial sweeteners may appeal to your sweet tooth, but it’s not great for your health. If you’re looking for sweetness, choose products that include fruit or natural sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit instead.
Also, watch out for products that contain common allergens, such as soy or gluten (gluten-free is a good choice) or artificial flavors or colors.
13 Simple and Delicious High-Protein Low-Carb Snacks
1. Chicken Breast or Turkey
Chicken breast is an excellent source of protein and there are so many ways to eat this high-protein low-carb snack. Cook it yourself or pick some up from your nearest deli. You can enjoy it as is, with flash-fried veggies, or add it to a salad. It’s especially delicious and nutritious with avocado, which adds healthy fats and an extra boost of nutrients, keeping you fuller even longer.
Alternatively, try turkey, which you can use in much the same way. Turkey is especially good for roll-ups, which are basically a sandwich without bread. Spread some slices with cream cheese, add a veggie or two, like cucumber, carrot, avocado, or even a pickle, then roll it up.
2. Canned Fish
Salmon or tuna salad, anyone? While fresh fish can sometimes be a mission to cook, it takes but a moment to open a can. Throw some fish into a salad, make a whole-grain sandwich, or just eat it right out the can — perhaps with a little lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. As a bonus, fatty fish like salmon and tuna are very rich in omega-3s and other important nutrients.
3. Beef Jerky
Go back to your primal roots with some high-protein low-carb beef jerky — whether it’s chewy or crispy (like a meat crisp, really). Beef jerky is very portable and handy for a quick pick-me-up when you’re on the go.
Jerky also comes in interesting variations like chicken jerky and salmon jerky. Before you buy though, check the ingredients list for the sugar content and any artificial ingredients. Or better yet, make your own.
Eggs are a very good source of protein as well as many other nutrients. Hard-boiled eggs are easy to prepare as a quick snack on their own, or added to a salad. If you want to switch it up a bit, try one of the many deviled eggs recipes online (try replacing the mayo with yogurt and mustard, or use half mayo/half yogurt) or make egg muffins with added veggies. Otherwise, scrambled or poached eggs are quick to cook and very satisfying for breakfast, lunch, or supper.
If you prefer plant protein (or even if you don’t), chickpeas can be a delicious source of protein, as well as fiber. If you don’t fancy cooking your own, they’re quick and easy to get from a can. Dip celery, cucumber, zucchini, or carrot sticks into hummus (which is essentially blended chickpeas and olive oil), throw some whole chickpeas into a salad, or roast them until they’re crunchy.
Cheese is an excellent high-protein low-carb snack. And there are so many variations on the spectrum from a hard, aged cheese like parmesan to brined feta and fresh mozzarella, ricotta, or cottage cheese. Of course, there’s also good old reliable cheddar. You probably want to avoid processed cheese though as the name says it all — it’s highly processed.
As a bonus, cheese also gives your calcium levels a boost. Be aware though that cheese can be quite a high-calorie snack, so keep your portion sizes moderate. If you struggle with the effects of normal cheese or just feel like something different, give goat cheese a try.
7. Greek Yogurt
Another excellent source of protein (and calcium too), Greek yogurt is delicious and easy to eat. Spoon it up directly from the container or add a little honey, maple syrup, or chopped fruit if you prefer it slightly sweeter.
You can mix yogurt into many other dishes, have it scooped over granola, or make it into a layered parfait with fruit, nuts, or granola (another great source of protein), and maybe a dash of cinnamon and drizzle of honey. Or if you want to stay on the savory side, chop up some herbs like chives, basil, or parsley, add a little lemon juice, and mix it into a dip for your veggies.
8. Nut Butter or Peanut Butter
Whether you choose smooth or crunchy peanut butter or try an alternative like macadamia or almond butter, you can’t go wrong (unless you have a nut allergy of course). In fact, if you eat nut or peanut butter instead of red meat or processed grains, you could even reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. Nut butter and peanut butter can be blended into a smoothie or shake, and are also delicious on a whole-grain sandwich or with celery or apple slices.
If you prefer your nuts whole, almonds, pistachios, or cashews all hit the spot either raw or roasted, and they’re also great sources of nutrients. You might also enjoy a trail mix with a combination of nuts, dried fruit, and sometimes dark chocolate (another excellent source of protein) and/or grains. Trail mix is very easy to eat on the go and you can create your own mix. If you buy it prepackaged, check the label for any added sugars or unwanted ingredients.
Seeds can pack a high-protein punch and you can eat them as-is or add them to your breakfast cereal, salads, and many other dishes. Some of the most popular high-protein seeds are pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds. In fact, chia is loaded with nutrients.
If you haven’t yet tried chia pudding, you’re missing out. Simply mix some chia seeds with a liquid like milk, almond milk, or yogurt and leave it for a few hours until it’s thickened up. Then add whatever flavor your heart desires, from cocoa or vanilla seeds, to berries or other fruit.
Another plant-based protein, edamame beans are basically soybeans still in the pod and they are extremely nutritious. Edamame beans are usually heated and can then be enjoyed as-is for a snack, perhaps with some herbs or spices, or thrown into a salad or stir fry.
12. Protein Bars
Protein bars can be convenient high-protein low-carb snacks as they’re easy to throw into a bag and grab when you want them. Do read the label to check how much protein they actually contain though, as well as what else might be hidden in there.They can be loaded with added sugar and other undesirable ingredients like preservatives.
Also be aware that some brands use low-quality protein sources for their bars. When you’re looking for a brand, choose one that uses high-quality whey or protein isolates.
Note that some protein bars need to be kept in the fridge, so be sure to store the brand you choose correctly. Or try making your own — there are plenty of recipes out there. That way, you’ll know exactly what’s in it.
13. Whey Protein Powder Shakes
While you can get plenty of protein from whole foods, whey protein powder takes this to the next level. As long as you’re not lactose intolerant — whey is dairy-based — it’s one of the best sources of protein. It’s very quickly and easily digested, and therefore available for your body to use much sooner than beef or chicken, for example.
Mix your protein powder into a smoothie or shake with any other ingredients of your choice, like berries or other fruit, spinach, avocado, or cocoa, and you have a delicious, high-protein low-carb snack that really gives you a boost.
High-Protein Low-Carb Snacks Keep You Going Strong
Whether you’re following a keto or other low-carb diet, counting your macros for athletic performance, or managing your weight, high-protein low-carb snacks are an excellent choice. Choosing the right high-protein low-carb snacks will keep your energy up, your muscles strong and healthy, and your mind focused throughout your day.
There are plenty of options to choose from and many of them are portable and easy to eat on the run. Pick your favorite and stock up on those, so you can simply grab and go when you need to.