Reasons Why Protein is Your Best Bet

Ditching junk food for protein-rich snacks helps keep you satisfied.

When hunger strikes during the day — whether you're at work, school or on the go — you inevitably snack. And with snacking, you have two choices: eat healthy or don’t. It's a toss up and you probably already know which you should pick, but it doesn't always happen.

Chips and candy lurk around every corner, both at convenience stores and the vending machines at the office, making the temptation to grab a bag or bar too easy. You might feel satisfied at first, but eventually the sugar rush could leads to a crash or the fat content in the chips hits your belly. There are ways to feed your hunger while also getting the satisfaction you need: snack with foods containing more protein.

"When you're looking to have sustained energy, protein is one of the nutrients that supplies that,” Rebecca Scritchfield, a registered dietitian and ACSM certified health fitness specialist based in Washington, D.C., said. “It takes longer to break down and it lasts longer." In other words: it satisfies you and keeps you feeling full where other snacks may make you feel sluggish and hungry faster.

Even better, you have many options. No matter if you're sitting around or gearing up to head to the gym, go shopping or run the carpool, you can snack easily with nutritious, protein-filled options.

"I recommend dairy as a protein source — like milk, chocolate milk, yogurt and cheese," she said. "If you use milk in a smoothie, you can then take that with you. You can also have nuts like pistachios or almonds and nut butters like peanut butter for a quick PB&J."

Instead of grabbing unhealthy snacks at the corner store, take 30 minutes to make some snacks at home you easily can take with you. Scritchfield suggests making a batch of trail mix with your favorite kind of dark chocolate and mixing it with a couple types of nuts and different dried fruit. Pour milk in a reusable water bottle (or grab a small bottle that's made for on-the-go drinking at the store) to wash down your trail mix to get added protein — and calcium.

"Calcium is an important nutrient throughout life and it's something people have difficulty getting enough of," she said. "Milk is a great source for that."

If you're looking for a combination of protein foods, chia pudding made with milk does the trick and it's super easy to make. Chia seeds offer up nearly five grams of protein per ounce – combine them with milk’s high-quality protein to add a protein boost to your snack.

"Chia seeds are soluble, and you can combine with milk and a few other ingredients — different fruits, nuts and honey to sweeten it up — to make a thicker pudding that is truly a nutrient powerhouse,” Scritchfield said.

So the next time when you think snacking healthy is too hard or too expensive, consider what you have at home and realize that your protein fix is likely an arm's reach away.