Choosing healthy snacks for a diet doesn’t have to be complicated.
In fact, the more diet rules you impose on yourself, the more difficult your diet may be to stick to. And on top of that, when the rules require dieters to make drastic, demanding changes, diet failure seems to happen more often than not.
Experts agree that the best diets employ small, realistic changes—changes almost anyone can commit to for the duration of a diet and in the long run as well.
Instead of focusing on complicated rules, deprivation, and restrictions, try portion “mindfulness.” Portion mindfulness simply demands that dieters honor serving sizes. This diet practice works because anyone can realistically start paying attention to, and then limiting, portion sizes of foods they already enjoy eating. This easy, actionable rule will help anyone starting a diet achieve heartening results. (No one will have to beat themselves up if they end up having a cookie against the rules of their no-sugar diet.)
While a portion-control diet strategy sounds simple, it can be easier said than done, especially, when it comes to snacking. Units of measurement on snack foods vary greatly from item to item. Sometimes you’ll see ounces, and other times, you’ll see grams, cups, or even quantities.(Everyone follows the rules when they have to count out 23 potato chips, right?)
Furthermore, some packages look like individual helpings, but they really contain 5 servings. Even experts believe nutrition labels might be confusing; people, especially when they’re unprepared, have a hard time processing all the numbers and percentages they find on an average food label. What does it all mean?
We’ve developed an informative cheat sheet of healthy snacks and treats for any diet. In addition to listing diet-friendly snacks, we included easy-to-picture representations of proper serving sizes. With this list, any dieter can understand how much of each snack they can enjoy without breaking any diet rules.
Healthy Snacks for a Diet: The Basics
This primer covers serving sizes of some of the most common snacks out there. If you master portions of these options, then you have the tools you need for long-term diet success.
Hummus and Veggies
Hummus and fresh vegetables never fail to satisfy any snacker. Plus, this combination can be a perfectly appropriate healthy snack for a diet if you watch your portions of hummus.
Hummus, while nutrient-dense, has a healthy dose of calories. Tahini paste (made from sesame seeds) provides that characteristic hummus flavor, but it also packs on the calories. However, hummus’s richness also makes it incredibly satisfying in small portions, and satisfaction could be the secret to diet success. No snack will be diet-friendly if it leaves you feeling hungry; you’ll probably just end up giving in and eating more calories later on.
A serving of hummus:
- Is four tablespoons (Yes, that’s plenty! A little hummus goes a long way.)
- Has about 100 calories, depending on the brand or the recipe. Check the nutrition information for your specific hummus.
- Looks like four dates. One tablespoon is roughly the size of a date. So a diet-friendly serving of hummus shouldn’t be able to cover four dates in a bowl.
Nuts make amazing healthy snacks for a diet. They’re easy to eat, they require no cooking or preparation, and they have lots of protein and nutrients to keep you full and healthy. Eating only a proper serving size of nuts might be where many well-meaning dieters find they have an Achilles heel.
A serving of most nuts:
- Is one ounce.
- Has about 160 calories.
- Looks like a mandarin orange. You know how you can cup a mandarin orange perfectly in the palm of your hand? You should be able do that with a serving of nuts.
We don’t want to say the same thing over and over again, but some simple facts are just too true not to repeat. Like many other snacks, cheese would be perfectly healthy for a diet if people adhered to its recommended serving size. Cheese has healthy protein and calcium, and it can be a part of a long-term diet plan when eaten in moderation.
A serving of most cheeses:
- Is one ounce.
- Has about 120 calories.
- Looks like a package of mini sticky notes. If your cheese is pre-sliced for sandwiches, then you’re in luck; a serving size is one slice. (Your diet doesn’t care if the slices just “stuck together.” Be honest with yourself and your body!)
Hearing what equals a serving of popcorn will probably sound like music to most dieters’ ears. Air-popped popcorn boasts a serving size of one whole cup, and that will set you back about 30 calories only.
Avoid hidden calories bombs in your choice of flavoring. Obviously, butter and oil will set your diet back and probably double (at least) the calories in your popcorn. Pretty much anything that comes in a spice jar is fair game for zero-calorie flavor. Try Himalayan salt, curry powder, dried mustard, Old Bay, seasoned salt, cajun seasoning, cinnamon, and anything else your heart desires.
A serving of air-popped popcorn:
- Is one cup.
- Has about 30 calories.
- Looks like a baseball. Think about holding a baseball in your hand; it’s a bit more than a handful, but it’s also not quite two handfuls.
You can find the noble pretzel almost anywhere; that’s why it pays to know what a portion size looks like. Since pretzels really get around, they come in a seemingly endless variety of shapes and sizes. Some are thick and super crispy while others are light and almost soft. Some come in super-sized bags while others come in barely-there pouches.
A serving of pretzels:
- Is one ounce.
- Has about 110 calories.
- Looks like a mandarin orange. (Yep, the same size as a serving of nuts.)
Luckily, sliced bread makes it easy to visualize portion sizes. It’s a bit more difficult to figure out how much avocado you should be eating. Sure, avocados are good for you, but too much of even a good thing can ruin a diet.
A serving of avocado:
- Is about 2 tablespoons.
- Has about 50 calories.
- Looks like the scoop section of an ice-cream scoop.
Spread one serving of avocado on one piece of whole-wheat bread and you’ve got a snack that has about 120 calories.
Everyone loves trail mix, but few people know how much of it they’re actually supposed to eat. Trail mix gets tricky because it’s a combination of different things. Can you eat the same amount as a serving of nuts, or should you follow the portion sizes for dried fruit instead? And if your mix has any of those rare bits of chocolate floating around, then that presents yet another complication for dieters.
A serving of most trail mix:
- Is 1 ounce.
- Has about 131 calories.
- Looks like a mandarin orange. (The old orange measuring trick strikes again.)
Oatmeal seems like one of those foods that’s just so naturally healthy that it doesn’t even need a serving size. If a little is good for you, then a lot of it must be really good for you. But like anything else, too much oatmeal can ruin your diet.
A serving of oatmeal:
- Is 1 cup, cooked. (Oatmeal grows as it cooks and absorbs water. 1/2 cup of uncooked oatmeal makes about 1 cup of oatmeal. If you cook a whole cup of dry oatmeal, then you might end up eating much more than a typical serving.)
- Has about 160 calories.
- Looks like a baseball.
A note on sweeteners:
Most people add some kind of sweetener to their oatmeal, but a splash of maple syrup here and a spoonful of honey there can really add up your tally of invisible calories. (Calories from sweetener add up without filling you up.)
- Honey has about 60 calories per 1 tablespoon, which looks like one date.
- Maple syrup has about 50 calories per 1 tablespoon, which will fit inside one small shot glass.
- Cane sugar has about 60 calories per 1 tablespoon, which looks like one date.
Healthy Snacks for a Diet: Individually Packaged Snacks
Packaged snacks, especially packages that contain only one serving, make great choices for diet-conscious eaters. Once the package is empty, you know you’re done; you don’t have to count out almonds or figure out when to stop. When you’re done, you’re done!
Yes, chocolate and cookie dough can be part of a healthy diet. This individually wrapped bar makes it easy to control your sweet tooth. The dreamy flavors in this bar would make it easy to overindulge if you had a less restricted supply.
If you tend to overeat chips, then bags that contain only one serving can be diet savers. PopCorners does one better by combining delicious Wisconsin cheddar with non-GMO popcorn chips for a perfect portion of satisfying crunch.
When selecting chips, read labels with special care. Many bags that look like they have only one serving have about 2-3 servings.
Calories: 130 per 1-ounce bag
If you know when to quit on the chips, but you can never stop munching on cookies, then this perfect 1-ounce bag will help you keep your snacking under control. Plus, these cookies deliver delicious, indulgent flavor. Think a buttery piece of french toast with maple syrup, transformed into a crisp wafer crunch.
Calories: 130 per 1-ounce serving
Fruit strips and fruit leather make great diet snacks. However, these snacks usually have a lot of sugar, which translates to a lot of calories, even if the sugar comes from fruit. Pre-packaged strips will save you from eating 400 calories worth of dried fruit while still delivering on the vitamin-packed benefits and fresh, fruity flavor.
Snack sticks, including meat sticks, make it easy to watch portions. You know exactly how much to eat, and the more you snack, the more your eyes and your stomach get used to the proper portions. These Maple BBQ Pork Sticks from Field Trip harness all-natural flavors to deliver big taste and the high protein will keep you satisfied long after your snack break.
Healthy Snacks for a Diet: The Treats
Many diets fail when people grow bitter thinking about the things they can’t have: cookies, cakes, candies, and tons of other treats that stare us down in the grocery stores every day. Embrace the idea of a sustainable diet by enjoying treats in moderation.
Just a little bit sweet and full of antioxidants, dark chocolate provides a rich treat with enough substance to be health conscious.
A serving of dark chocolate:
- Is one ounce.
- Has about 160 calories.
- Looks like a regular, square sticky note.
Rich and smooth, nut butter lands on the “treats” portion of our list for obvious reasons. To a dieter, eating nut butter is like eating ice cream.
A serving of most nut butters:
- Is two tablespoons
- Has about 190 calories.
- Looks like an egg.
Granola is a classically healthy snack, but since it’s usually sweet and full of healthy fats, we’re considering it a special treat for most dieters.
A serving of most granola:
- Is 1/2 a cup.
- Has about 150 calories.
- Looks like a medium apple.
Sweet dried fruit can be quite a treat for dieters who are trying to watch their calories. Since dried fruit is, well…fruit…it can be easy for people to forget that it’s still full of calories. Stick to serving sizes to avoid eating enough raisins to equal the sugar load of a candy bar.
A serving of most dried fruit:
- Is 1/4 cup.
- Has about 140 calories.
- Looks like a small red new potato.
When many people diet, they gravitate toward widely acceptable diet foods. Knowing they’re making healthy choices, some people forget that eating several portions of a healthy option isn’t much better than eating just one portion of the full-calorie version.
A serving of frozen yogurt:
- Is about 1/2 cup.
- Has about 114 calories.
- Looks like a medium apple.
Really? How is birthday cake on a list of healthy snacks for a diet? Well, we included cake to prove a point: No diet can be successful if it’s not realistic.
Can you honestly refuse every slice of cake you’re offered for an entire year…let alone five years? Don’t try to go cold turkey; simply figure out how much cake you should eat, and eat only that when the occasion arises.
A serving of most cake, with frosting:
- Is about 2 ounces.
- Have about 240 calories.
- Looks like 3 crayons.
Are there any healthy snacks for a diet that you swear by? We’d love to hear about the snacks that keep you sustained when you’re trying to be extra good.
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