High Protein Snacks

I'm experimenting with some new diet foods over the summer. They're not really diet foods, but I'm trying to control my insulin spikes. So my new rule is that every carb I eat must have some protein with it. I actually started this BEFORE I saw nutritionist/trainer Mark MacDonald say the exact same thing on Dr. Oz this past week, but it's nice to get confirmation from a professional that I'm doing the right thing.

I have a minor sugar craving -- usually for just a bite of something sweet after a meal, but that's not my major problem. My downfall is chips, crackers, and sunflower seeds. I like crunchy snacks in small pieces that I can mindlessly graze on while I work on the computer, watch TV, etc. Something about the rhythm of picking things up and popping them in my mouth is relaxing to me and helps me concentrate while I work. The sunflower seeds aren't so bad, except for the sodium and the fact that I eat a whole bag in one sitting. But the chips and crackers are pure carbs that my metabolism can't seem to burn off anymore.

I know better than to try a deprivation-based diet. I crave snacks the act of snacking way too much for that. But offsetting the foods and snacks I love with a bite of protein is something I can handle. So, what am I eating for my new protein quest? Here goes:

FreeBird Seasoned Grilled Chicken Breast Strips Freebird grilled chicken strips
They're a whopping $6.99 for an 8 oz. box at Whole Foods, but they're great to have on hand to toss onto a salad, into some pasta, a stir fry, soup, or any other snack or meal that's lacking in protein.

They're fully cooked, so all you have to do is warm them in a nonstick pan for 3-5 minutes. (You can mircowave them too, but it takes the same amount of time.) You can cut up your own chicken strips, cook them, and freeze them to have on hand, which I'll eventually do. But if you want it done for you, the FreeBird strips work great!

Skim Mozzarella Sticks
Every diet article ever written seems to recommend these. I was never a big cheese eater, but these are a handy snack in a pinch, or when you want to eat carbs and need to offset it.  

Mini Babybel Light
Even before I began my latest protein kick, I had taken to keeping these in the refrigerator and learning how to enjoy cheese as a snack. (I know, I know. You cheese lovers must think I'm crazy. I'm not lactose intolerant or anything, but my mother is, so I grew up not having cheese in the house, and I still feel very "meh" about cheese to this day. I could take it or leave it.)

Keeping a supply the Babybels along with the mozzarella sticks give me a little variety. I eat a few Back to Nature Flax Seed crackers with it -- although I'm weening myself off of those, and I'm trying to find something whole wheat yet tasty to replace them with. I'm open to suggestions if you've got any.

Sabra Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
This is another snack that I was hooked on before the protein kick, but instead of enjoying it with crackers, I eat it with carrot and celery sticks, when I want a break from peanut butter. It's great for chicken pita wraps, too, as a substitute for mayo.  

Celery Sticks, Carrot Sticks
This is another snack that's always on diet lists. I'm counting this a protein snack because it encourages me to eat protein that I otherwise wouldn't. I don't like snacking on vegetables -- I guess if I did, I wouldn't need to lose weight and overhaul my diet in the first place. But as I said earlier, I like snacking on small things, and sure enough, without chips in the house, I went for these. And because nobody likes I plain carrot stick (at least I don't), I found myself reaching for cheese, or peanut butter, almond butter, or hummus to go with it. Mission accomplished.

Kashi Trail Mix Chewy Granola Bars 
Great to keep in the car as a meal replacement when you're out and about, or at your desk at work. They have 6 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, only 6 grams of sugar, and no high-fructose corn syrup. I don't like every Kashi product, but these are great. (Cherry Dark Chocolate ones are good too). The They have just enough sweetness to curb your sugar craving, and the almonds and fiber help hold you over if you eat a bar between meals.  

Whole Foods Sliced Deli Turkey
I often complain that the deli food at Whole Foods lacks seasoning -- and it does. But here's one instance where that's a good thing. They sell nitrate-free turkey breast, which you can have them slice up for you for sandwiches. It's a quick and easy lunch (with mustard on whole wheat), but I've taken to eating a slice plain or with a little mustard as a snack, or as an offset to any carbs I want to snack on.

I was kind of late to the party on this one, but it's my new treat. The whole point of these bars is for them to be healthy AND tasty. I haven't tasted all the varieties, but I can personally vouch for the goodness of the Dark Chocolate, Nuts & Sea Salt. It's like eating a Snickers, but healthier. (Only 5 g. of sugar). I've heard good things about the Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein, but my local Whole Foods doesn't carry it, so I may have to order it online. Everything about it sounds good, though, and with all the reviews I saw online, it seems like a winner.

So that's it for round one of the protein snack experiment. I miss my chips and crackers, but I've already noticed after 2 weeks of eating like this that I wasn't as hungry between meals. The whole point is to smooth out the ups and downs, so I would say it's working.