We all know that the healthiest snacks are unprocessed or minimally processed foods like fruit and veggies, nuts, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains. But sometimes you just have to splurge on something salty, crunchy, gooey, or sweet-or all four of those things at once (pass the kettle corn!). Epicurious editors worked their way through several grocery-cart loads of diet and reduced-calorie versions of popular snacks and came up with the ten tasty treats gathered here. Each one will satisfy your snack-attack without blowing your diet plan.
Breakfast, Snack, or Granola Bar:
Special K Cereal Bars
Per serving (one bar, .8oz./22g): 90 calories, 1.5g fat (1g saturated), 0mg cholesterol, 17g carbohydrate
Frankly, we weren't bowled over by any of the cereal or granola bars we tasted (most were "too sweet or stale, or just plain gross," in the words of one editor), but these were the best by far: a good grab-and-go option that's crunchy and nicely sweet without being cloying or overtly artificial-tasting.
Michael Season's Lite Cheese Puffs
Per serving (2 cups/28g):130 calories, 4.5g fat (.5g saturated), 0mg cholesterol, 20g carbohydrate
Here's what we liked about these puffs: They actually taste like cheese (thanks to the real cheese on the ingredient list). They're nice and crunchy and also have far fewer calories than regular cheese puffs.
Per serving (1 oz./28g): 120 calories, 3g fat (.5g saturated), 0mg cholesterol, 21g carbohydrate
These ultracrunchy, perfectly salted chips have more potato flavor than any baked variety we've tried. A small amount of safflower and/or sunflower oil gives them a nice real-chip flavor and mouth-feel, without making them greasy.
Wheatables Oven-Baked Snack Crackers: Hearty Multigrain
Per serving (17 crackers/30g): 140 calories, 6g fat (1.5g saturated), 0mg cholesterol, 20g carbohydrate
These robust and satisfying crackers have only marginally more calories than the reduced-fat version of Wheatables. We liked that we could see and taste the different grains (wheat, corn, rye, oats), and would happily snack on these with some string cheese or reduced-fat Cheddar. (Note, though, that they are not made with 100 percent whole grains and only have one gram of fiber per serving-i.e., they're still a snack food and not a health food.)
Back to Nature Crispy Cheddar Baked Snack Crackers
Per serving (24 crackers/30g): 140 calories, 5g fat (.5g saturated), 0mg cholesterol, 20g carbohydrate
While these actually have ten more calories per serving than Reduced Fat Cheez-It crackers, we think they have better cheese flavor. Plus, we like the fact that they contain no partially hydrogenated oils and have less saturated fat than Cheez-Its.
Pita or Bagel Chip:
Trader Joe's Reduced Guilt Pita Chips (Sea Salt)
Per serving (about 7 chips/28g): 100 calories, 2.5g fat (0g saturated), 0mg cholesterol, 15g carbohydrate
These three-ingredient crisps (pita bread, sunflower and/or safflower oil, and sea salt) are remarkably satisfying-crunchy, brown and toasty, and visibly flecked with sea salt. One editor described them, approvingly, as "the most like real food" of any of the bready chips we tasted. Try them crumbled over salad or dipped in hummus.
Food Should Taste Good Multigrain Tortilla Chips
Per serving (1 oz/28g/about 10 chips): 140 calories, 7g fat (.5g saturated), 0mg cholesterol, 18g carbohydrate
These chips, made from stone-ground corn; brown rice flour; sesame, sunflower, and flax seeds; quinoa; and other good-for-you ingredients are a favorite new find for Epicurious Editor-in-Chief Tanya Wenman Steel. They're not quite as low in fat and calories as some baked tortilla chips, but they are delicious straight out of the bag. They also have three grams of fiber per serving, so they'll help fill you up and keep you satisfied longer than many chips.
Edy's/Dryer's Slow-Churned Light Ice Cream
Per serving (for 1/2 cup of our favorite, Light Peanut Butter Cup): 130 calories, 6g fat (3g saturated), 20mg cholesterol, 20g carbohydrate
Unlike many "reduced" versions of premium ice cream (which can still be loaded with calories and fat), this one from Edy's (the name on the East Coast) and Dryer's (what it's called on the West Coast) actually is low in calories and fat-and it's still deliciously creamy. If you want to splurge a bit more on calories while still reducing fat and cholesterol, we also liked Ben & Jerry's new Lighten Up ice creams, which were introduced in 2007 (a 1/2 cup of Raspberry Chocolate Chunk has 180 calories, 5g fat, and 25mg cholesterol).
Stonyfield Farm Low-Fat Frozen Yogurt
Per serving (1/2 cup of Minty Chocolate Chip): 140 calories, 3g fat (1.5g saturated), 5mg cholesterol, 24g carbohydrate
Even the staunch anti-frozen yogurt contingent at Epicurious enjoyed this surprisingly creamy and rich-tasting version, particularly the Minty Chocolate Chip, a not too sweet or too sour chocolate-mint base with nicely chocolaty chips. (Note: We found it well worth the few extra calories and grams of fat to go for low-fat over nonfat with this brand.)
Nondairy Frozen Dessert:
So Delicious Dairy Free Bars Creamy Fudge
Per serving (1 bar, 63g): 90 calories, 2g fat (0g saturated), 0mg cholesterol, 17g carbohydrate
This was the surprise hit among our dairy-loving tasters. The bars were quite fudgelike in taste and had a good frozen mousse-like texture. If you're watching cholesterol or can't consume cow's milk products, they're particularly worth a try.
By Megan O. Steintrager
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