The key to a satisfying snack? Protein. With these portable, protein-packed snacks, you'll never have an excuse to head out with a candy bar or bag of chips again.
This story originally appeared on Health.com.
The power of protein
The difference between a snack that has staying power and one that leaves you hungry an hour later? Protein. This nutrient is a hunger-busting powerhouse because it slows digestion and keeps blood sugar steady, and research shows protein helps keep cravings at bay. "Protein can help you lose weight because it increases satisfaction, and when you feel satisfied from your eating plan, you're better able to stick with it," says Alexandra Oppenheimer, RD, of Ambitious & Nutritious. But it's not like you can cook up a chicken breast and eat it in the car, so we've rounded up 17 protein-packed snacks that you can take with you anywhere.
Single-serve cottage cheese
Protein: 20 grams per 5-ounce serving
Think Greek yogurt is the be-all-end-all for high-protein dairy snacks? Think again: A single-serving container of nonfat cottage cheese boasts 3 grams more protein than a typical serving of Greek yogurt and is just 110 calories. Plus, it gives you 125 milligrams of bone-building calcium. (Keep in mind, though, it runs high in sodium, supplying 20 to 30% of your daily quota.)
Protein: 6 grams per egg
Eggs used to be considered a nutritional no-no due to their high cholesterol content. Today, though, most nutritionists agree that they're a powerhouse breakfast or snack when enjoyed in moderation. In addition to protein, the humble egg gives you a hearty dose of vitamin D and vitamin B-12 for just 77 calories apiece. Best part: they're easy to take on the run—just remember to peel them before you go to make eating them on your commute a snap. Even better: some convenience and grocery stores sell hardboiled eggs in packages of two, so they're a snap to snatch up when traveling.
Peanut butter pack
Protein: 8 grams per 1.15-ounce pack
You probably wouldn't throw a jar of peanut butter into your handbag, but for convenience and natural portion control, you can carry individual squeeze packs of nut butters, like those from Justin's, alongside your wallet and mobile phone. A single-serving portion of Justin's peanut butter contains 190 calories and is made with just peanuts and palm fruit oil—no added sugars here. Smear on a banana to up the antioxidants and fiber, suggests Oppenheimer.
Mini cheeses or string cheese
Protein: 6 to 8 grams per serving
Personal packages of cheese like Mini Babybel wheels or Sargento sticks are great because they're individually wrapped for easy toss-in-your-purse portability—and they won't get squished, either. If you're trying to lose weight, choose one that says "part-skim" on the label, advises New York City registered dietitian Martha McKittrick. "You can still get some satiating fat but will save calories," she says.
Single-serve oatmeal packets or cups
Protein: About 4 grams per packet or cup
Just add hot water, stir, and you've got a warm bowl of protein- and fiber-packed oats in minutes for 150 to 200 calories per serving (depending on which flavor you choose). Quaker, Dr. McDougall's, N'Joy, and other companies sell single-serving cups of oatmeal, but you could also simply carry a packet with you—you can ask for a cup at any fast-food place or coffee shop. For times you need a little something extra to fill you up, slice a banana into your oats or toss in a few almonds.
Protein: 8 grams per half cup
In addition to belly-filling protein, a 90-calorie microwave package of edamame (soybeans in their pods) supplies 3 grams of fiber. The combo of protein and fiber is potent against hunger. Got a crunchy craving? You're in luck: one serving of dry roasted edamame has even more protein: 14 grams.
Protein: 7 grams per quarter-cup serving
For only 120 calories per serving, these beans offer 5 grams each of protein and fiber. Better yet, a daily serving of dietary pulses like chickpeas (as well as beans, lentils, and peas) can lower LDL cholesterol levels, according to research in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Make your own by mixing rinsed and drained chickpeas in a bowl with olive oil and your choice of spices (we love chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper) and then baking them in an oven preheated to 425 degrees for about 45 minutes.
Protein:12 to 20 grams per container
If you're aiming to get more protein in your diet, it's a good idea to switch from traditional yogurt to Greek. Greek is strained, so it takes on a thicker consistency—and contains more protein and half the sugar compared to traditional yogurts. Depending on the brand, you'll get 12 to 20 grams of protein per container, not to mention the bone-building
calcium and gut-friendly probiotics.
Whole-grain protein bars
Protein: 10 to 15 grams
Nutrition bars are a no-brainer—they're a filling snack in a no-fuss, easy-to-carry package. But before you chow down, read the label carefully. Some are loaded with sugar and fat, and more protein isn't necessarily better, says McKittrick, because super-high protein bars—like those that have 30 grams—are also usually high in calories (up to 400!). A good measure: aim for a bar with about 10 to 15 grams of protein with at least 5 grams of fiber and less than 15 grams of sugar. Luna Bars are one good choice.
Turkey roll ups
Protein: 18 grams
McKittrick loves to wrap up nitrate-free deli turkey breast with a squirt of mustard, a slice of tomato, and some lettuce. You could also pump up the veggie content even more with a couple baby carrots or thin slices of red pepper. The combo contains about 75 calories and 18 grams of protein to hold you over from lunch to dinner. Roll and stash in a plastic container or wrap in foil.
Box of low-fat chocolate milk
Protein: 9 grams
Chocolate milk is the perfect post-workout snack, delivering 9 grams of protein that helps repair muscle and improve recovery, according to a 2012 Central Washington University study. You can buy single-serve boxes of low-fat milk from brands like Organic Valley that don't even need to be refrigerated. Throw one in your car in the morning and sip it on your way home from the gym.
Protein: 4 grams per quarter cup
Made from pureed chickpeas, tahini, and olive oil, hummus has a healthy mix of protein (5 grams) and fiber (4 grams) in a quarter-cup serving. Create your own snack-pack with baby carrots, red bell pepper slices, grape tomatoes, or cucumber slices.
100-calorie almond packs
Protein: 4 grams
Did you know there are 14 almonds per 100-calorie serving? If you don't have time to count them out into travel-friendly zip-close bags, portion-controlled packs take out the guesswork. You can buy them with walnuts or almonds, but when you're looking for protein, go almonds. They contain a bit more (4 grams) compared to walnuts (3 grams). Add dried fruit, like apricots, for extra fiber, suggests Oppenheimer.
Protein: 16 grams per pouch
No, you don't have to pop open a can. Buying tuna in a pouch makes it easy to eat. There's no draining required and you can dig in with a fork. Each tuna packet contains 16 grams of protein and 100% of your daily need of the free-radical-fighting antioxidant selenium. If you're not into plain tuna, try marinated flavors like lemon pepper.
Protein: 6 grams per 4.4-ounce cup
Whole grains are a surprisingly good source of protein. Rice cups, like Minute Multi-Grain Medley, require just a one-minute zap in the microwave. With a mix of power grains like brown rice, quinoa, and oats, it's got 6 grams of protein, plus energizing iron and B vitamins to perk you up.
Related: 18 Health Benefits of Whole Grains
Protein: 7 to 11 grams per 1-ounce serving
Brands like Krave and Perky Jerky are putting a healthy spin on jerky. Made with pork, beef, and turkey, they come in inventive flavors like basil citrus and teriyaki. One ounce of jerky has 7 to 11 grams of protein for a slim 70 to 90 calories. Buy nitrate-free brands and watch out for sodium, since jerky is typically high in salt.
Protein: 11 grams per 1-cup serving
A cup of this low-fat, creamy, drinkable "yogurt" is bursting with three times the probiotics of yogurt, a quarter of your daily need for vitamin D, and 11 grams of protein. Bonus: probiotics have been associated with weight loss. Kefir is also 99% lactose-free, so it can be an option even if you have trouble digesting traditional dairy products.