It may seem counterproductive to nosh on your favorite salty snacks (read: fries) when you’re trying to shed some pounds, but salty goodness doesn’t have to be the enemy, says Nora Minno, RD.
“If you’re trying to lose weight and get a craving for a salty snack, it’s totally fine to indulge,” says Minno. “As long as you stay within your calorie goals and don’t exceed the recommended 2,300 mg of sodium per day, you’ll still be on track for success.”
From popcorn to French fries, nutritionists share some of their favorite snacks for satisfying that salt craving without sabotaging your diet.
1. Organic Air-Popped Popcorn with Sea Salt
Minno suggests popcorn as a great alternative for a bag of potato chips. “It satisfies your salty craving and your crunchy craving for around 30 calories per cup!” she says. “If you want to add extra flavor, pop it in a saucepan with extra virgin olive oil and different spices like garlic, rosemary, or cayenne pepper.”
2. Baked Sweet Potato Chips with Chipotle Powder and Sea Salt
Don’t let the word sweet scare you. “Sweet potatoes are high in potassium, a natural diuretic, and also contain fiber, which will help keep you full for longer,” says Lisa Mikus, RD. Plus, the complex carbohydrates in sweet potatoes digest slowly, as opposed to foods with simple carbohydrates, which spike your blood sugar, she says. Toss a small, thinly-sliced sweet potato (with skin) in a bowl with one tablespoon of lime juice, one teaspoon of olive oil, and 1/8 teaspoon of chipotle powder. Bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. When they’re done, sprinkle with a dash of salt right after you take them out of the oven.
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3. Harvest Snaps Snapea Crisps
This is another snack for those who love salty and crunchy, but this one you can find at the grocery store. For about 110 calories a serving, Snapea Crisps will fill your salty snack craving, says Mikus. “Pair a serving with a small handful of lightly salted almonds to add to overall nutrition and more staying power,” she says.
4. Whole-Grain Nachos
Take one whole-grain tortilla, mist with canola oil spray, and sprinkle a touch of sea salt. Bake for 10 minutes at 300 degrees, then add a 1/4 cup of black beans, part-skim shredded cheese, and chopped hot peppers. Bake the tortilla with toppings until the cheese melts and nosh with a side of salsa. “The fiber from the beans and tortilla help to keep you full, while the spicy peppers can help to curb appetite and cravings,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies.
5. Homemade Veggie Chips
Since you control what goes into them, this will give you that salty crunch without all of the sodium and fat found in packaged chips, says Alissa Rumsey, RD., CSCS. “Kale chips are well known, but you can also make chips from beets, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and turnips,” says Rumsey. Wash your desired veggie, then cut it into thin slices. Toss them with a tablespoon or two of olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Arrange in a thin layer on a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until crispy.
6. Black Olives
“It is not surprising that black olives are a staple in the Mediterranean diet, since they’re low in calories and contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that will satisfy your cravings,” says Janie Zeitlin, RD. About 3/4-cup provides less than 300 mg sodium and packs lots of flavor.
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7. Turkey and Cheese Roll-Ups with Mustard
“This snack will give you that hit of salt, while also providing you with protein for fullness,” says Minno. It’s especially great for those trying to cut back on carbs, she says. Just roll up your favorite kind of turkey and cheese, and throw in some spicy mustard for dipping. You can also get creative by adding lettuce, tomato, avocado, hummus, and sprouts, says Minno. And since one roll-up should run you about 100 calories each (depending on toppings), aim for about two rolls per serving.
8. Rosemary and Sea Salt Walnuts and Cashews
“Nuts contain fiber and healthy fats to keep you satisfied,” says Mikus. And they’re super easy to make, she says. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees, toss 1/4-cup mixed walnuts and cashews with one teaspoon of olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon of salt, and one teaspoon of ground rosemary. Place the nuts evenly on a lined baking sheet and bake for about five minutes or until golden brown and fragrant.
9. Cottage Cheese
The key to curbing your appetite is choosing foods that are balanced, with protein, carbohydrates, and fats, like cheese, says Zeitlin. “A cup of 1 percent cottage cheese will offer between 200 to 400 mg sodium per serving and leave you feeling full. Once your appetite is in check, you’re more likely to stick to a healthful eating plan and avoid overeating,” she says. Not into plain ole curds? Top your serving with lightly salted almond slivers or chopped walnuts to satisfy that salt craving and your desire to crunch.
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10. Cheese and Crackers
Pairing cheese and crackers is a really easy way to get some protein, fiber, and whole grains—all of which will keep you fuller longer, says Gal Cohen, RD, a dietitian in Philadelphia. Her fave combo? A serving (look on the label!) of Simple Mills almond flour crackers topped with a bit of pepper jack or gouda.
11. Salted Fig Parfait
Figs are high in fiber, which is essential if you’re trying to lose weight, says Mikus. “Dice two figs, drizzle them with one teaspoon of honey and one teaspoon of olive oil, and sprinkle with a dash of sea salt. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Then, top off five ounces of high-protein Greek or Icelandic yogurt with your figs and enjoy.
12. Ants On a Log
The mix of salty, sweet, and crunchy is the perfect craving killer, and you’ll be loading up on tons of healthy fats and protein to fuel your weight loss, says Minno. Just cut celery into four-inch pieces, and spread one to two tablespoons (100 to 200 calories) of organic, lightly-salted peanut butter between the celery, and throw on a few raisins or dried cranberries.
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13. Whipped Feta Dip and Baby Carrots
If you’re the chips and dip type, this healthy alternative is for you. “The airy dip contains fat from the feta, and when paired with the fiber from the carrots, it will keep you satiated for a few hours,” says Mikus. Pulse one ounce of whipped feta into the food processor for 10 seconds. Then add three tablespoons of whipped cream cheese and puree for about two minutes (or until airy). This will come out to around 1/4 cup of dip. Pair with 1/2 cup of baby carrots for a tangy treat.
14. Baked French Fries
French fries tend to get a bad rap when it comes to weight loss, but they don’t have to. “Cut a potato (regular or sweet) into wedges or thin strips and toss with one teaspoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and roast at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, turning once halfway through. Keep the skin on to get the added fiber, which will help keep you full for longer,” says Rumsey.
Five minutes: that’s all it takes to have a cup of restaurant-quality edamame ready for snackin’. This nutrient-dense snack not only provides tons of fiber (8 grams per cup!), but it also is a great source of protein that together fill you up for longer. Top it off with a bit of sea salt and some lemon, per Cohen, to really satisfy that salty craving.
16. Hummus and veggies
These two go together like PB&J, just with more protein and fiber to hold you over during the day. A con? Because it’s such a stand-in snack, it can get, well, boring. “Switch up veggies from time to time and play around with different hummus flavors—just steer clear of any additives or preservatives,” says Cohen. Single-serve containers are always a good option to maintain portion control, but if you’re spooning out from a bigger size, stick to 1/2 to 1/3 cup of hummus.
17. Rice Cakes and Nut Butter
For all those times that you’re craving a little salt but can’t decide what’ll do the trick, anything that calls for a bit of nut butter will be a safe bet. To avoid winding up eating out of the tub (hey, we’ve all been there), set up your snack and then put your ingredients away before eating. This means lay out two to three whole-grain rice cakes (hello, fiber!) and top each with 1 to 2 teaspoons of nut butter (the shorter the ingredients list, btw, the better option). “This snack provides you with healthy fats, fiber, and complex carbs, which digest more slowly, keeping your blood sugar in check,” explains Cohen.
18. Spring Rolls
Feel like getting creative? Channel your inner Top Chef and whip up some spring rolls—which is easier than it sounds. “I like to add a variety of colors—think kale, carrots, and peppers—plus tofu as a protein, and avocado as my healthy fat,” says Cohen. Once you’ve thinly sliced your ingredients, wrap ’em in a small leafy green, and then wrap in rice paper to hold it all together. For a simple DIY peanut sauce that brings the right amount of salt, Cohen says to mix together 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, and a little water to thin out. Feel free to add a few red pepper flakes for a little fuego.
19. Hardboiled Eggs and Guacamole
For a plate packed with healthy fats and proteins that’ll also fill you up, combine two hardboiled eggs with 1/3 cup of guac. “Healthy fats are essential for cell growth and provide our bodies with energy,” explains Cohen. “Plus, eggs contain omega-3 fats, protein, and choline, which promote normal cell activity and liver function.” Woah. Talk about getting your bang for your buck: a healthy, satiating snack that’ll also fuel more parts of your body.
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20. Canned Tuna
A.k.a. a great source for protein, especially when you’re on-the-go. Cohen suggests opting for a 5 oz can and mixing in a little bit of avocado oil-based mayo. Before you hit the road, grab a baggie of peppers and cucumbers, so you get a “perfectly salty snack with an added crunch.”
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