Kashi Chewy Granola Bars
These are the chewiest bars going (don't confuse them with other types of Kashi bars — look for "chewy" on the label). They have 130 to 140 calories each, 4 grams of fiber, 5 g of protein, and they're made with real nuts and whole grains. And they actually taste good.
"You've got chewy, you've got sweet, and you've got a bar," Gidus says. "That's got a real snacky feel to it. The calorie range is right, and the fiber is high."
Frozen Peas and Corn
Ditching the celery sticks doesn't mean abandoning the whole food group. Frozen vegetables often taste better because they're not turning into starch, like their produce-aisle counterparts. Freezing vegetables seals in their naturally sweet flavor.
Half of a cup of peas has 55 calories and 3 g of fiber; the same amount of corn contains 72 calories with 2 g of fiber. The high-fiber and low-calorie-density combination means they're filling and satisfying, and the frozen part makes them interesting. They're firm, but not rock hard, and they melt in your mouth.
"You can use the same trick with fruit," Gidus says. "Freeze grapes or cherries, and it's a whole different experience."
Skip the usual fruit-on-the-bottom suspects — high in sugar, ho-hum in texture. Try Fage Total Greek Yogurt instead. This imported greek yogurt is strained, which makes it fluffy. It'll fool you into thinking it's fat-filled, but the "0%" on its label tells you how much fat it really contains.
The 80 calories per serving give you room to maneuver, so sweeten the pot with chopped apricots or dates. "There's evidence that dairy calcium helps you lose weight, and this also adds protein and fiber," Gidus says.
If you think the microwave's only contribution to snack time is popcorn, you have to try Quaker Express Oatmeal. Office-friendly, it's packaged in an individual cup. Just add water and microwave for about a minute, and you're set to snack.
"Studies have found that oatmeal is more filling than dry cereal with the same calories and fiber content," Gidus says. The Baked Apple flavor has a slight fiber edge (1 g) over the other flavors. Best of all, it won't stink up the office.
A 2003 Brazilian study found that three apples a day can keep weight gain at bay — and can even help you lose. "There's no magic compound," according to Rui Hai Liu, Ph.D., an apple researcher at Cornell University.
"The best way to lose weight is to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables. That increases volume and decreases calorie density." If you've got 5 minutes and a knife, cut your apple up and mix it with some chopped walnuts and a teaspoon or two of maple syrup. Or eat it with a tablespoon of peanut butter to add about 100 calories' worth of the satiating power of nuts.
We're not done chewing yet. Licorice, which has an active ingredient called glycyrrhetinic acid, has been shown to help reduce body fat mass. (The good news is you don't have to be able to pronounce the acid to reap its benefits.)
Decio Armanini, M.D., who did the research at Italy's University of Padua, explains that there are two ways licorice works. The first is complicated and involves blocking an enzyme that plays a role in fat accumulation. The second is simpler. "Licorice can reduce appetite," he says. "The effect is probably related to the agreeable taste of licorice, and for that reason people do not need to eat more."
We're not talking Twizzlers here; go for the real thing, preferably with licorice extract high on its ingredient list. (Look for it in grocery stores, not convenience stores.) A handful is about 150 calories and will keep you busy chewing something sweet, flavorful, and satisfying for twice the time it takes to down a bag of M&Ms.
Frozen Juice Bar
Unwrap a frozen juice bar and you can practically hear the ice cream truck rounding the corner of your cul-de-sac. "They're sweet and tangy, and anything frozen takes longer to eat," Gidus says. "They're just afew calories, and they've even got some vitamins."
If edamame had a tryst with orange-dusted nachos, the result would look a lot like soy chips — a high-fiber, low-fat snack that's a significant source of soy protein. And soy protein, according to a recent study in the International Journal of Obesity, not only helps facilitate weight loss, but also helps ensure that the weight lost is fat rather than muscle. The isoflavones in soy act like estrogen and inhibit the enzyme that facilitates fat deposits, according to Paul Cooke, Ph.D., a soy researcher at the University of Illinois.
A pack of soy chips racks up as many as 7 g of soy protein in about 100 calories, which leaves room for a 1/4 cup of Guiltless Gourmet bean dip. The dip adds 60 calories and another 4 g each of fiber and protein.
Before you reach for a snack — even one on this list — ask yourself if you're really hungry. If you're not or you're not sure, reach for a stick of gum.
James Levine, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic has measured the energy burned by chewing and found that just moving your jaw up and down can burn some 11 extra calories per hour, which is a boost of about 19 percent over your just-sitting-there level. Now, 11 calories may not sound like much, but that's about a pound a year for every hour per day that you chew. And that doesn't count the calorie savings from the snacks you're not eating.