18 Paleo Snacks Under 200 Calories
The paleo diet is based on the belief that a diet of wild animals and plants consumed during the Paleolithic era (about 10,000 years ago) is the healthiest way for humans to eat. While it remains controversial, numerous fitness enthusiasts, including Ginger Calem, a certified CrossFit Trainer and gym owner in Georgetown, Texas, cite its perks. "I’d say my top three benefits [of eating paleo] would be an increased energy level, complete lack of stomach discomfort and bloating, and a dramatic decrease in joint inflammation and pain," she says. When you’re eating paleo and need a snack, what do you reach for? Here's a list of paleo snacks, under 200 calories each, to help you manage your weight while sticking within the guidelines of the paleo diet.
1. Omelet Muffins
You've given up grains, but you can still enjoy muffins. "Most snack options are made of grains or contain sugar," writes dietitian Aglaée Jacob, a registered dietitian and paleo diet advocate in Canada. "Fruits are an option, but not if you are trying to limit your carbohydrate intake." A healthy alternative? Omelet muffins, says Jacob. Simply mix your favorite omelet ingredients such as eggs, veggies and diced lean meat together, then distribute the batter evenly in a nonstick muffin tin. Once baked, you'll have a batch of protein-rich, grain-free muffins to snack on for several days. One standard-size omelet muffin contains under 90 calories.
2. Natural Trail Mix
Considering their calorie density, nuts and seeds may not seem diet-friendly, but they provide hefty amounts of fiber, protein and healthy fats, making them more satiating than processed foods. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2009, researchers analyzed the nut intake of 51,188 women ages 20 to 45 over eight years. Women who reported eating nuts twice or more per week actually had a slightly lower risk of gaining weight or becoming obese compared to women who seldom ate nuts. One-quarter cup of trail mix containing fruit, nuts and seeds provides about 175 calories. Whether you make your own or purchase prepared trail mix, make sure the ingredients are devoid of added sugar.
3. Meat and Avocado Lettuce Wraps
One-half of an avocado provides 5 grams of satiating fiber and other essential nutrients, including B-vitamins, potassium, unsaturated fats and vitamin E. Calem recommends wrapping avocado slices and deli meat (gluten-free) in crisp romaine lettuce leaves for a nutritious paleo-friendly snack. "This just makes me think of sunshine and happy summer days for some reason," she said. Wraps made with one-half of an avocado, two deli meat slices and several large romaine leaves provides about 170 calories. For added flavor and nutrient variety, incorporate other veggies, such as diced tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers.
4. Fruit with Coconut Milk
If you're craving ice cream or a healthy, hydrating sweet, top fresh fruit, such as berries, melon cubes and mango chunks, with coconut milk. The fat in the coconut will enhance satiation and help you better absorb fat-soluble nutrients, including the vitamin A in mangoes and the vitamin E in blueberries. One cup of mixed berries topped with one-quarter cup raw coconut milk provides about 195 calories. Coconut milk is a great paleo-friendly alternative to replace other sources of saturated, like whole milk and heavy cream.
Related: Dietary Guidelines for Americans
5. Eggs with Veggies
Calem described "speedy eggs with greens" as the quickest-to-make paleo mini-meal. "I scramble an egg or two and then fold in some spring mix lettuce," she said. "When heat hits those greens, it really brings out a fabulous flavor." You can make your own rendition by scrambling eggs with whatever veggies you have on hand. Diced tomatoes and red bell peppers add a kick of the antioxidants lycopene and vitamin C. For added satiation, incorporate fiber-rich veggies, such as cooked kale, broccoli and carrots. Herbs and spices, such as garlic, basil, sea salt and black pepper, can add ample flavor while contributing no calories. Two eggs with one-half cup fresh vegetables contains about 150 calories and 12.5 grams of protein.
6. Dried Seaweed
Salty snacks and movie watching often go hand in hand, but most conventional snack options such as buttered popcorn, corn chips, potato chips or Doritos are not paleo-friendly. The Paleo Network recommends munching on dried seaweed, which is significantly more nutritious and lower in calories than chips and buttery popcorn — and also rich in protein, providing more than 8 grams per cup and a valuable source of potassium. Purchase prepared dried seaweed, paying mind to the ingredients, or make your own by seasoning and baking fresh seaweed until crisp. For a heartier snack, serve dried seaweed with hummus and veggie sticks.
7. Banana Chips
Bananas can help satisfy your sweet tooth while staying within paleo diet guidelines. Pat Hanavan, a CrossFit Personal trainer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, recommends making your own banana chips by coating banana slices in lemon juice then baking them on a baking sheet until they're crisp, flipping them frequently. As a valuable potassium and carbohydrate source, banana chips provide a useful way to restore electrolytes and glycogen -- the energy your muscles utilize -- after workouts. You can also make banana chips in a food dehydrator or purchase prepared varieties. Homemade chips tend to be healthier and lighter, as many commercial varieties are fried. Chips made from a medium, seven-inch banana contain 105 calories.
Four meatballs, approximately a 3-ounce serving, contain 180 calories and 15 grams of protein. "Meatballs are a great source of protein for a portable boost of energy," writes Hanavan. They're also simple to make and store. Prepared frozen meatballs provide a convenient option but look out for fillers, such as gluten and breadcrumbs. When making your own meatballs, choose the leanest cuts of meat, such as ground turkey or extra-lean ground beef, to keep your calorie and fat intake modest. Also, try adding different herbs and spices like black pepper, dried oregano, parsley or basil. For a paleo-friendly dipping sauce, heat diced tomatoes, pure tomato sauce, garlic and Italian seasoning blended over the stove.
9. Veggie Sticks and Guacamole
This zesty, flavorful dip is as nutritious as it is colorful. Typically made by adding lime juice, diced tomatoes and salt to mashed avocados, guacamole is simple to prepare and fits well within a paleo lifestyle. "Don’t worry about the amount of fat in an avocado," says Stacy Mitchell, a registered dietitian and food blogger. "It is healthy fat!" This fat reduces inflammation and helps your body better absorb the antioxidant lycopene, which is prevalent in tomatoes. For added fiber and protein, Mitchell recommends adding adzuki beans to your guacamole. A cup of fresh veggie sticks, such as sliced carrots, cucumbers and bell peppers, served with one-quarter cup standard guacamole contains about 130 calories.
10. Baked Sweet Potato Fries
U.S. News and World Report lists sweet potatoes as one of the top weight loss promoting foods. Sweet potatoes are rich in fiber, providing 4 grams per potato, and are loaded with vitamin A. Hanavan recommends baked sweet potato fries as an ideal paleo snack. Unlike conventional fries, baked potato wedges are relatively low in fat and calories. Simply slice a sweet potato into rounds or sticks, coat them with a touch of olive oil and sprinkle on your favorite spices. One-half sweet potato's worth of baked fries prepared with 2 teaspoons of oil contains about 140 calories.
11. Hard-Boiled Eggs, Nuts and Veggies
Whole eggs provide 113 essential vitamins and minerals. The yolk is one of the few natural food sources of vitamin D, and they’re loaded with protein. Eggs also contain significant amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin — antioxidants associated with a reduced risk for heart disease and age-related blindness, according to the American Optometric Association. One of Calem's favorite paleo snacks consists of a hard-boiled egg, a small handful of raw almonds or other nuts and fresh veggies. One egg served with 10 raw almonds and a snack pack of baby carrots contains about 160 calories.
12. Dried Fruit
Dried fruit is a convenient way to gain energy and nutrients on-the-go. "These may be high in sugar, so don’t overdo it, but they can give a great boost of energy for athletes and other active sorts," suggests Hanavan. A 2.5-ounce portion of mixed dried fruit provides about 175 calories and 5.5 grams of fiber. Half a cup of dried figs supplies about 185 calories. Choose dried fruit without added sugars. If you have a food dehydrator, experiment with making your own dried fruit blends. Because it won't spoil like fresh produce, you can keep dried fruit in airtight containers in your car, purse and office -- lowering your chance of grabbing pastries and fast food (paleo no-nos!) when hunger strikes.
13. Ants on a Log
"Ants on a log" may draw up memories of grade school, but it's a fun and nutritious snack for all ages. Try topping your celery stalks with cashew or almond butter and raisins or dried currants. Two stalks of celery topped with 1 tablespoon of nut butter and one-quarter cup dried currants or raisins provides about 195 calories. For a lighter, equally flavorful alternative, swap out the nut butter for hummus. At about 25 calories per tablespoon, hummus contains about one-quarter of the calories. Sunflower seed spread is similar in calories to nut butter but provides a useful alternative for people with nut allergies.
14. Frozen Fruit
Frozen bananas are a favorite with kids, according to Hanavan, and far healthier than sugary frozen desserts. Simply place peeled bananas wrapped in plastic wrap in your freezer overnight. One medium-size frozen banana contains 105 calories. For a more decadent option, add 2 teaspoons of nut butter and a dusting of natural cocoa butter to your bananas prior to wrapping and freezing. One banana topped with nut butter and cocoa contains about 185 calories. Frozen red and green grapes and peach slices also make for tasty snacks. One cup of frozen grapes or two small peaches contain about 105 calories.
15. Salmon Salad with Cucumbers
Salmon's rich protein and vitamin D content make it not only filling, but also excellent for your bones. Salmon salad is versatile and easy to make. Common ingredients include drained, water-packed salmon, mayonnaise and chopped celery. Try using a dairy-free mayo and incorporating flavorful ingredients, such as lemon juice, dill and relish. To keep the calories modest, use just enough dairy-free mayo to coat the fish and celery, adding seasonings gradually to suit your tastes. For a portable snack, slice a cucumber down the center, scoop out the seeds with a spoon then top each side with salad, or use cucumber slices as grain-free crackers. Three ounces of veggie-loaded tuna salad served with a cucumber contains about 180 calories.
16. Paleo-Style Smoothies
You should aim for four to five servings each of fruits and vegetables daily, says the American Heart Association. Doing so staves off heart disease and obesity while keeping your immune system healthy and strong. Paleo-style smoothies provide a convenient way to reap these benefits. Start with a base of water or coconut milk, and then add fresh or frozen fruit. For ample fiber and antioxidants, add fresh or cooked carrots, mango chunks and dark leafy greens. For more protein, add nuts, seeds or pasteurized egg whites. For bromelain, an enzyme that helps reduce inflammation, add fresh pineapple. A smoothie made with 1 cup reduced-fat coconut milk, one-half cup fresh or frozen berries and one-half cup fresh mango provides about 180 calories.
17. Cauliflower "Popcorn"
Considered a paleo diet classic, cauliflower popcorn isn't corn at all — a good thing since corn is not allowed on the paleo diet. By roasting and seasoning cauliflower, you can get the crunch and flavor of movie theater popcorn without the excessive amount of fat and calories. An entire head of cooked cauliflower contains only 145 calories. To keep the calorie content modest, top cauliflower with a drizzle of olive oil before roasting. Season the florets with healthy toppings, such as garlic, Italian seasoning and a dash or two of sea salt.
18. Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus
Prosciutto, a flavorful, thinly sliced ham, can make the simplest of dishes seem gourmet. Asparagus provides very few calories yet valuable amounts of nutrients, including fiber, potassium and B vitamins. Four asparagus stalks wrapped in four slices of prosciutto and spritzed with olive oil spray provides 150 calories and 13 grams of protein. Simply prepare the roll-ups, then roast them on a baking tray until the ham is crisp at the edges. Prepare a large batch to share or enjoy for several days, storing leftover wraps on a tray topped with plastic wrap in your fridge.
August McLaughlin is a health and sexuality writer, podcast host and author of “Girl Boner: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment” (Amberjack Publishing, 2018). Her articles appear in DAME Magazine, Cosmopolitan.com, the Huffington Post and more, and she loves connecting with readers through her blog and social media. augustmclaughlin.com