Dieters have long fussed over carbohydrates and fat while overlooking another essential element of a balanced diet: protein. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, protein snacks can help ward off hunger pangs throughout the day and keep your blood sugar stable, which is especially important if you're at risk for diabetes or are trying to control your weight. Keep protein-rich snacks on hand to help get you through the day in a healthy way. Share these high-protein snacks with your kids to help them grow properly and fight off infection.
1. Peanut Butter
Peanuts are a heart-healthy protein. Some peanut butters are riddled with partially-hydrogenated oils and sugars; however, there are also low-fat and all-natural varieties that can travel very well. Smear peanut butter on whole-wheat crackers for miniature take-along sandwiches. The half-tubular shape of a celery stalk is perfect for filling with peanut butter. Put peanut butter in the microwave for about 30 seconds to melt it into a smooth, creamy dipping sauce for vegetables or an apple. The USDA states that 2 tablespoons of peanut butter are equivalent to a 2-ounce portion of meat and can provide you with nearly a third of your daily recommended serving of protein.
Legumes are an excellent source of protein, and one of the tastiest ways to snack on beans is to turn them into hummus, a Middle Eastern spread made of chick peas and a sesame paste called tahini. Pinto beans, black beans and pigeon peas can be used instead of or in combination with chick peas, and ranch dressing can substitute for the tahini. Add a rinsed, drained can of peas or beans to your blender or food processor, then add a couple of tablespoons of tahini, the juice of half a lemon, a pinch of salt, a splash of olive oil and enough water to make the mixture into a creamy spread. Get creative when flavoring your hummus. Use garlic, roasted red peppers, black olives, roasted eggplant or curry, and don't be afraid to try something unusual, like honey with pickled ginger or sautéed mushrooms with sage. Dip raw veggies, pita bread quarters or tortilla chips into your hummus.
Otherwise perishable meat can be transformed into low-fat, protein-packed snacks that don't require refrigeration or heating. Homemade jerky is surprisingly simple to make. Use a lean piece of flank steak or turkey breast cut into 1/8-inch strips and season it liberally with salt, pepper or a dry spice rub such as ranch seasoning mix. Alternatively, you can marinade the strips in liquid, such as Worcestershire sauce or cider vinegar, along with salt, garlic powder, chili powder and other seasonings for flavor. A dehydrator comes in handy, but you can set your oven on warm, approximately 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and lay the strips out on a rack with a drip tray. It should take six to eight hours to cure, depending on the meat, its fat content and your oven. Turn it frequently; it's ready for cooling when it appears dry, rubbery and begins to split.
Hard-boiled eggs are convenient to tote around for a protein-rich snack, but you can jazz them up for a more flavorful option. After you boil your eggs, throw them into a food processor with some ranch or blue cheese dressing, a little garlic, salt and pepper. Cut the fat even further by removing some -- or all -- of the yolks, as the whites are pure protein. Puree and whip them until they are super-creamy for a heavenly snack. Smear it on bread for a sandwich, dip your cucumber and carrot sticks in it or roll it in a lettuce leaf for a veggie and egg wrap.
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