Why Cardio Is NOT The Best Way To Lose Weight

Want to lose fat? Then you need to get your butt on the treadmill. At least, that’s what most people assume—and why most weight-loss warriors aren’t getting the results they want from their workouts.

Consider this: When obese participants followed a diet and either a strength-training or cardio program for eight weeks, the two groups lost a similar amount of weight—but the strength trainers lost less fat-free mass (a.k.a. muscle) than the cardio-doers, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Meanwhile, when Harvard researchers followed 10,500 men over the course of 12 years, they found that strength training was better than cardio at warding off belly fat. (Cue the collective sigh of relief from cardio haters everywhere.)

We’re not saying you should cut cardio out of your life, but if strength training isn’t already a major part of your weight-loss plan—well, it needs to be.

Cardio vs. Strength Training

“People think to lose fat mass they need aerobic exercise and to forget about resistance training,” says Rania Mekary, Ph.D., a researcher with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and lead author of the 12-year study.

On the surface, that assumption makes sense. After all, when you perform moderate-intensity cardio like running, biking, or swimming, the vast majority of your calories burned come from fat, she explains. (Hence why, when you’re cruising along at an easy pace on a cardio machine, it rewards you by telling you that you’re in the “fat-burning” zone.) Meanwhile, during resistance training, the bulk of your calories burned come from glycogen, stored carbs housed in your muscles and liver.

The first option seems far more advantageous for those trying to shed fat. That is, until you consider the fact that your muscle mass —which, when left to its own devices, decreases after age 30—is a key driver of your metabolism. And rather than building muscle, cardiovascular exercise can actually burn up some of it.

“Fat is the major energy source during aerobic training, but many people don’t realize that protein also contributes. And that protein comes from muscle,” Mekary says. “So if you are running, running, running, it can make you lose even more muscle than you would otherwise.”

The result: a slower and slower metabolism. That partially explains why, after many people lose weight, they tend to put it right back on. In fact, research from Columbia University shows that losing just 10 percent of your body weight significantly lowers your basal metabolic rate, the number of calories you burn just to stay alive.

Related: 5 Myths About Your Metabolism—Busted

Meanwhile, strength training increases your metabolic rate in a big way. Over the short term, it causes just enough microscopic damage to your muscles that they have to work hard to recover—a process that requires a lot of energy (a.k.a. calories). Known as ‘excess post-exercise oxygen consumption’(or EPOC), your metabolism can stay elevated for up to 72 hours after your strength training session, according to research published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology. You just don’t get that lasting boost with cardio, especially when it’s steady-state, Mekary says. Over the long term, by building the amount of muscle mass you have with strength training, you can increase your metabolism even further.

What’s more, strength training helps to dull the spikes in hunger-stimulating hormones that often come with weight loss, explains Spencer Nadolsky, D.O., a board-certified family and bariatric physician, diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine, and author of The Fat Loss Prescription. That makes losing weight—and keeping it off—that much easier.

Better Together: How to Combine Cardio and Strength for Optimal Fat Loss

Still, for the best fat-loss results, you don’t want to ignore cardio altogether. “By combining anaerobic and aerobic exercise, you maintain muscle, burn more calories, and are able to burn both fat and glycogen,” says Mekary, noting that, according to her research, combination training is even better for fat loss compared to strength training alone. “It’s a win-win situation.”

While the best way to divide your workout routine depends in part on what you actually like to do (what does your schedule matter if you won’t stick to it?), Mekary recommends devoting about 70 percent of your workout time to strength training and 30 percent to cardio. If you hit the gym five days per week, that works out to roughly three strength days and two (slightly shorter) cardio days per week.

“Ideally, you would schedule strength and cardio workouts on different days,” says Nadolsky, noting that performing cardio right before a strength workout can slightly inhibit muscle-building results. (Another study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that men made comparable strength gains after 24 weeks regardless of whether they hit cardio or strength training first. But the guys who did cardio first initially had lower levels of testosterone—a marker of recovery and muscle-building potential—than those who hit the weights first.) It’s not a huge difference, but if you’re focusing on building muscle and can schedule your workouts like that, by all means, go for it.

Making the most of both your strength training and cardio sessions just takes some simple strategizing. During your strength workouts, focus on hitting as many muscle groups as possible by performing compound moves such as squats, deadlifts, thrusters, pull-ups, and bench presses. Spend the bulk of your cardio time on high-intensity intervals (HIIT) such as sprints on the treadmill, bike, or rowing machine. However, some moderate-intensity, steady-state can be good from time to time, too—especially when you feel like you need a little extra recovery from your lifting sessions and don’t want to go too hard with HIIT.

Related: Find a supplement that supports muscle-building.

3 Ways To Improve Your Squat

Sorry, leg day loathers, squats aren’t going anywhere. This classic move is just that important. “Whether you want to shore up your strength, build muscle, or lose fat, squats are one of the foundational movements that you have to be doing,” says Sean De Wispelaere, master trainer at MBSC Thrive and owner of Sean D. Thrive.

Since they work some of the biggest muscles in your body—your glutes, quads, hamstrings, your abs, and back—squats provide some of the biggest return on your reps. Since big muscles burn more calories in order to power through and recover from exercise than small muscles, squatting is crucial whether you’re looking to build strength or slim down. “And you don’t have to load up barbells to make squatting worth your while,” says De Wispelaere, “cranking out a few sets of bodyweight squats will have your muscles burning in no time.”

Whether you’re squatting heavy loads or sticking to bodyweight squats, proper form is key. “Allowing your knees to cave in or your back to round, for instance, can potentially lead to injury,” says De Wispelaere. “And if you load weight on top of improper movement pattern, you’re likely in for a world of hurt at some point.” That’s why De Wispelaere recommends establishing a solid foundation with the bodyweight squat before progressing to weighted versions.

And even though the squat isn’t a terribly difficult-looking move, it can be tricky to master perfect form. Look out for these common mistakes—and take De Wispelaere’s advice for a more effective burn the next time you drop it low.

Mistake #1: You’re Rounding Your Back

What it means: Your core is weak. (Your “core” is more than just your abs. It’s all the muscles on your front and back between your hips and shoulders.)

While your legs are working to bend and extend through the reps of your squats, you want your core in what’s called an isometric hold, a.k.a. braced as it would be when you do a plank. If your back rounds while you squat, it indicates that your core isn’t strong enough to maintain the tension needed to keep you upright throughout the whole movement, says De Wispelaere.

Why it’s a problem: Repeating a movement over and over with your spine in flexion (meaning your spine aggressively rounds forward, causing your vertebrae to run into each other) can do damage to your back, even if you’re squatting without any weight.

The quick fix: Before lowering yourself down into the squat position, tense your core as though someone is about to punch you in the gut. Keep your abs clenched and pull your chest up in order to keep your back as straight as possible. “No matter how strong you are, only squat as far as you can without your back rounding,” De Wispelaere warns.

The long-term solution: To build lasting strength, performing other isometric holds—like planks or hollow holds—can help build your core strength. You can also practice tightening up your torso during the movement by practicing wall slides, De Wispelaere recommends.

To perform wall slides, face a wall and stand at arm’s-length away from it with your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart. Raise your arms over your head until you form a “Y” shape. Keeping your chest up and your arms high, squat down until your thighs are parallel with the floor. If your hands do not touch the wall at any point, inch yourself a little closer and perform another rep. Repeat until you can’t perform a squat without your hands brushing into the wall. This is a great load-free way to make sure you’re practicing good form.

Related: How To Lift Heavy For Maximum Strength Gains

Mistake #2: You’re Lifting Your Heels

What it means: Your ankles are tight.

This sounds silly, right? Unfortunately, tight ankles are more common than you think, because pretty much everything you do contributes to the struggle. Walking, playing a pickup game, and even sitting on the couch with your feet relaxed can shorten and tighten the tendon (your Achilles) that connects your heel to your calf. Since your ankles are so close to your feet—which are your physical foundation—having tight tendons can affect everything up the chain from there, even leading to knee and hip pain, warns De Wispelaere.

Why it’s a problem: While squatting, you want all parts of your feet—heels, ball, and toes—firmly planted on the floor for maximum stability. This stability will not only keep you from tipping forward or back, but will give more power to your push as you stand, helping you to lift more weight or perform more reps.

“If your heels come off the ground, your base of support is less stable, which means you won’t be able to perform the full range of motion of your squat,” according to De Wispelaere. This undercuts the benefits of the move and sabotages your ability to progress. Think about it this way: You can’t build a solid house on a shaky foundation. You can’t build well-balanced strength and muscle with and unstable base either.

The quick fix: Put a weight plate under each of your heels so they’re elevated while you perform your reps. While this doesn’t fix the problem of inflexible ankles, it does allow you to fully access the squat without lining yourself up for injury, according to De Wispelaere. If you feel unstable with your heels elevated, hold a light five to 10-pound dumbbell in front of your chest for counterbalance.

The long-term solution: To gain more range of motion in your ankles, De Wispelaere recommends performing a super-simple ankle mobility drill.

Here’s how it works: Face a wall and plant your palms on it about shoulder-width apart. Assume a split stance, like you would if you were about to lower into a lunge, with your front foot about six inches away from the wall. Keep your feet hip-width apart. Without taking your feet off the ground, try to touch your front knee to the wall by driving it forward until your heel lifts off of the floor. Hold your position wherever your heel pops up for five deep breaths. Repeat five times on each side.

Related: I Stretched For 30 Days With The Goal Of Touching My Toes—See How It Went

Mistake #3: Your Knees Are Caving

What it means: Your hips are weak.

Shakira might be the only person whose hips don’t lie. For the rest of us hip weakness is really common, according to De Wispelaere. From prolonged periods of sitting at your desk, driving in your car, and relaxing on the couch, your hip muscles shorten and weaken because, in those seated positions, they hardly have to work.

Most people fall into one of two categories: Those who found out they had weak hips and fixed them, and those who don’t know they have weak hips, he says.

Why it’s a problem: When your knees cave in towards each other instead of staying out over your toes while you squat, it can make you more susceptible to knee injuries over time, says De Wispelaere. Why? Your knees are meant to travel front to back (unlike a joint like your wrist, which can rotate around in circles), so any time you force them to go diagonally or sideways, you’re making demands that your tendons and ligaments just can’t keep up with.

The quick fix: Focus on pushing your knees away from each other and lowering yourself down between them as you squat. If you can’t do this on your own, De Wispelaere recommends squatting with a light-resistance miniband and looping it around your legs just below your knees. “The feedback from the miniband will naturally force you to push against it, driving your knees out as you squat,” he says. And, bonus perk: Squatting with the miniband will also help you build strength in your outer hips.

The long-term solution: De Wispelaere recommends doing banded walks to strengthen your hips for the future. To perform a band walk, loop a miniband around your legs just below the knee and stand with your feet a little further than hip-width apart. Keeping your legs the same distance away from each other the whole time, walk yourself in a box pattern using short, choppy steps. Perform 10 steps to the left, then 10 to the front, 10 to the right, and 10 to the back to return to your starting position. Repeat three times.

Related: Shop training accessories for effective workouts anywhere.

How To Get Past Your Muscle-Building Plateau

You’ve been going hard at the gym and riding high—your muscles are strong, your endurance is at its peak, and you’re feeling good. But you’ve also noticed that some of those gains you made have plateaued.

Muscle-building plateaus occur once your body becomes accustomed to your workout routine. Muscles have to be stressed in order for the process of growth to begin—the muscle fibers have to be torn so that they can be repaired, only to be built up stronger and slightly bigger than before.

Janelle Tank, personal trainer and owner of Nell Nation Fitness, recommends that clients facing plateaus should focus on updating the movements they already do, turning them into compounds movements that shock and challenge the muscles in a new way. Here’s how you can do that:

Start By Perfecting Your Basic Compound Strength Moves

Tank’s go-to strength movements for her clients include push-ups, shoulder presses, squats, lat pulldowns, and the bench press.

It’s important to ensure that you have the fundamental movements down correctly before moving on to increased weight. If you aren’t doing a strength exercise correctly, you won’t be getting max gains from the movement—and worse, you might hurt yourself.

Related: Shop all protein powders, snacks, and bars.

Tank’s recommendations? When working on the lower body—such as with lunges or squats—ensure you’re pushing through the heels, keep your knees back behind your toes, and keep your shoulders stacked over your hips.

With shoulder movements, you’ll push through your elbows. And if you are working on the chest, keep your chest pushed upward, towards the ceiling.

“When working your back, pull through your elbows,” says Tank. “In any movement you do, you should always have good posture—don’t look up when you have weight over your head (keep your spine neutral), and don’t let your chest fall down (keep your chest pushed up towards the ceiling).”

Increase The Resistance

Both weight-lifters and those who use their own body weight to work out will need to increase the resistance to see the gains. According to The Review of Food Science and Nutrition, increased stress on muscle fibers is a crucial part of creating muscle growth, which is what occurs when you up the resistance in your workout.

Resistance can be added in the form of five pound increments in weights during sets, or adding a resistance band to various compound movements like squats, side kicks, or lunges.

Work SuperSets Into Your Routine

Tank often has her clients do supersets (which may include two or more exercises done back to back with no rest in between, usually focusing on different body parts) to jumpstart muscle growth.

An example: “We ended a leg workout with 30 reps on the abductor machine followed by 30 weighted lunges and 30 unweighted lunges,” Tank says. “It was crazy intense! But the high repetition shock was a great challenge for my clients.”

Get Plenty of Sleep

A study in the journal Sleep showed that extending sleep to a minimum of 10 hours per night increases physical performance. You may not be able to get that many Zs very often, but it’s worth a try during a serious plateau.

Don’t Forget the Power of Protein

It’s absolutely essential to consume enough protein in order for muscles to be able to repair damage done, heal themselves, and produce the growth you want. During a period of growth, the body needs even more fuel, and more protein, than usual. How much protein are we talking?

Related: 4 Protein Shakes That Taste Like Cheat Day

For strength training, Mike Israetel, Ph.D, sports physiologist and co-founder of Renaissance Periodization, recommends looking to take in two grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, which equals the USDA’s base recommendation multiplied by 2.5.

Elliptical vs. Treadmill: Which Is A Better Workout?

Whether you’re a first-time gym-goer or a complete cardio buff, you’re bound to use—at some point—either a treadmill or elliptical to torch those calories. So which one is the better workout?

“Choosing between the treadmill or the elliptical is similar to choosing between snacking on an apple or an orange,” says John Urena, CPT, CES NASM, Level 1 Precision Nutrition coach and owner of Start to Fitness Training in Los Angeles, CA. “Both fruits offer tons of nutrients and benefits and both are low on the glycemic chart,” Urena says. “Similarly, both the treadmill and the elliptical will offer the ability to raise your heart rate and increase your oxygen consumption—and of course, burn calories,” he says.

Related: Shop protein to power up before your workout.

But there are some notable differences. Here are five good-to-know facts about the merits and drawbacks of both machines.

1. The elliptical may actually activate more muscles.

Unless you’re always cranking up that incline when you hop on a treadmill for a walk or run, you’re only going to be activating certain muscles.

“The treadmill doesn’t allow for the person running on it to produce power through their hamstrings or get full hip extension,” Urena explains. “That’s important, because most of us are sitting all day, which shortens your hip flexors. And when you’re on a treadmill, you’re not getting full extension of those hip flexors. The treadmill belt moves during the planting phase of each step and minimizes glute and hamstring recruitment.”

On the other hand, an elliptical workout not only offers you the option to stretch and extend those hip flexors, but you’ll get more glute and hamstring activation, Urena explains. This is because you’re forcing the pedals to go forward and back (while it’s giving you resistance), whereas the treadmill is propelling the belt for you.

That said, if you prefer the treadmill, Urena has a piece of advice: “Use an incline of at least six—if not higher. The higher the incline, the more recruitment of the glutes and hamstrings.”

Related: Shop products to promote heart health.

And while you’re working out on the elliptical, “you’ll want to make sure you’re pushing evenly with both legs so there’s not a jerking motion with every stride,” advises FitFusion trainer Kenta Seki. “It’s very common for people to push more with their more dominant leg.”

2. The treadmill demands proper form.

We tend to think of the treadmill as an easy, accessible, low-pressure machine, but that’s a bit of a misconception—and one that could set you up for injury. “People want to run to get in shape, but you should be in shape to run,” Urena says. “People don’t realize how important proper form is when you’re doing any type of running.”

To that end, there are certain precautions you can take to ensure your form is on-point while on a treadmill: “It’s very common for people to lean forward while running, which can strain your lower back and knees,” Seki says. “To prevent this, make sure you ‘lead with your hips’ the whole time. Keep your glute muscles engaged and push your hips forward, especially if you’re at an incline. Also, try not to bounce while running—ideally, your head shouldn’t be going up and down, but rather staying at one level.”

3. The elliptical may be better for folks with injuries.

According to the Journal of Exercise Physiology, people with injuries may want to skip the treadmill for the mostly low-impact elliptical. “[The elliptical] may be a more favorable exercise modality for overweight patients or individuals with back, knee, or other lower-leg limitations,” the research says.              

Related: Should You Be Doing A HIIT Workout?

Urena agrees, especially when it comes to people who suffer from back pain. “The discs in your spine are essentially cushions,” he explains. “Over time, when you run and land—whether out in the world or on a treadmill—you’re compressing those cushions. For someone with back problems or lower back strain, what will happen is that the discs will keep compressing and compressing, which could set you up for a herniated disc.”

4. For serious, athletic runners, the treadmill may be the ideal choice.

Running hard on a treadmill should not be something someone does when first starting, Urena notes, but if you’re a well-seasoned runner, you can hit your sprinting goals more easily while on a treadmill. “You can somewhat sprint on an elliptical, but it is not the most rhythmic motion,” he says.

5. Both the treadmill and the elliptical offer a great aerobic workout.

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research involved 18 college-aged people without much training on either machine. They worked out at the same level of effort for 15 minutes, and the results showed similar caloric expenditures. However, the heart rates were higher for the elliptical group.

Also worth noting: In a study by the journal Gait & Posture, it was found that elliptical training resulted in greater quadriceps activity and hamstrings use.

6 Magnesium-Packed Foods You Need To Try

An oft-overlooked nutrient that’s crucial for boosting heart health and keeping bones strong, among a host of other benefits, could be hiding in plain sight at the grocery store and in your pantry: magnesium. The last time you thought about magnesium may have been in high school chemistry, but it’s time to get the element back on your radar.

“Magnesium is one of the most underrated nutrients around,” says Karen Ansel, M.S., R.D.N., author of Healing Superfoods for Anti-Aging: Stay Younger, Live Longer. “This mineral is involved in more than 300 chemical reactions in our body and is especially important for regulating heartbeat and blood pressure, building and maintaining strong bones, and helping muscles contract and relax.” Plus, emerging research suggests it may even play a role in helping our bodies use insulin and regulate blood sugar, she says.

The majority of the magnesium in our body stored in our bones, but it’s also present in our blood and soft tissues, says Michelle Dudash, R.D.N., author of Clean Eating for Busy Families.

And just as magnesium can provide some amazing benefits, not getting enough of it can lead to serious consequences. “Magnesium deficiency has been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and metabolic disorders, including hypertension and type 2 diabetes,” says Alix Turoff, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., C.P.T. And about half the U.S. population doesn’t meet their daily magnesium needs.

The most recent recommended dietary allowance for magnesium intake ranges from 400 to 420 milligrams per day for men and 310 to 320 milligrams per day for women, according to Turoff. These triple-digit numbers may seem daunting, but it’s not too difficult to get your fill. In fact, the best sources of magnesium are actually some foods that we’re already familiar with.

Related: Magnesium is also available in supplement form.

  1. Spinach

Popeye was way ahead of the curve. According to Dudash, a half-cup of boiled spinach contains 78 milligrams of magnesium, which is about 25 percent of the recommended daily intake for women and 19 percent for men. Spinach also packs vitamin C, folate, potassium, calcium, and even a little bit of protein, she notes. Plus, it’s very low in calories, so eat up!

  1. Nuts

Whether you’re at the grocery store, the gas station, or the airport, nuts are pretty easy to find.

“Eating a small handful of nuts (about a quarter-cup) every day is a great way to get more magnesium, along with other beneficial nutrients,” Dudash says. One ounce of dry roasted cashews contains 74 milligrams of magnesium, about 23 percent of the daily value for ladies and 18 percent for the guys, while a quarter-cup of roasted peanuts pack 63 milligrams of the nutrient, for about 20 percent of the daily value for women and 15 percent for men. (Did we mention peanuts also contain protein, fiber, and vitamins A and E?) You’ll also find magnesium in almonds, she says, topping other nuts with 80 milligrams of magnesium per ounce. (That’s 20 percent of guys’ daily needs and 25 percent of gal’s daily needs.)

  1. Mackerel

Hitting the fish counter can also help you bump up the magnesium in your daily eats. Mackerel is an especially good source, with 82 milligrams of magnesium in three ounces, says Turoff. That’s about 20 percent of guys’ daily magnesium needs and 25 percent of women’s. Not to mention, the fish also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which support heart, brain, and eye health. Sounds like a great reason to make sure you’re serving this up for dinner more often!

Related: All The Things You Didn’t Know Omega-3s Could Do For Your Health

  1. Lima Beans

These underrated beans are a quick and easy way to nosh on protein and fiber, and they also contain magnesium, Ansel says. A half-cup of the beans provides 63 milligrams of magnesium, about 20 percent of your daily value if you’re a woman, and 15 percent if you’re a man.

  1. Brown Rice

Did ya need another reason to swap white rice for brown? Not only does brown rice provide more fiber, but a cup also packs a whopping 86 milligrams of magnesium, says Ansel. That’s about 20 percent (men) or 27 percent (women) of your daily dose. Good to know for the next time you order takeout!

  1. Fortified Cereals

Yes, you can also get some magnesium from your morning meal. Some cereals are fortified with magnesium, among other nutrients. One option, according to Turoff, is All-Bran cereal. A half-cup provides 112 milligrams of magnesium (woah—that’s about a third of women’s daily value and 27 percent of men’s!) plus belly-filling fiber.

Related: Are You Making This Crucial Breakfast Mistake?

*Pin this handy infographic to make sure you’re getting your fill of magnesium: 

8 Nutritionists Share The Best Low-Carb Snacks To Keep You Full And Satisfied

As much as we may love them, carbs get a bad rap. And that’s probably because they’re a little confusing. Carbs are our body’s primary energy source, and whole-food sources of carbs (like whole grains, fruit, veggies, yogurt, and legumes) also provide a variety of valuable nutrients.

It’s the carbs from sugar or refined foods, like white bread, that tend to be limited in their nutritional value. They can wreak havoc on our blood sugar levels, often leading to bloating, fatigue, and even weight gain when consumed in excess. But, heck, when portions aren’t in check, even those healthy carb sources can keep you from feeling svelte!

Research suggests carb-controlled diets can help stabilize blood sugar—which is crucial for those with diabetes or hypoglycemia—and reduce triglyceride levels, which cuts risk for heart disease. But because wholesome carb sources contain other nutritional benefits—on top of your body needing fuel—I don’t recommend completely ditching carbs long-term, even when you’re trying to lose weight. (I’ve seen severe carb restriction lead to carb overload too many times.) Still, though, your health—and midsection—will thank you for cutting back on those processed, sugary carbs.

Related: What You Should Know If You’re Considering Cutting Refined Carbs

So if you’re looking for carb-controlled snacks, but don’t want to go full-on Paleo or Whole30, these satisfying, nutritionist-approved bites should squelch that stomach rumbling between meals:

chicken jerky sized

  1. Chicken Jerky

This portable, protein-rich snack can be a good on-the-go nibble when you’re going easy on the carbs. Your average serving of chicken jerky comes in around 80 calories, with nine grams of protein, three or four grams of fat, three grams of carbs, and three grams of sugar. Many jerky varieties are packed with sodium, so look for an option with less than 300 milligrams.

nuts sized

  1. Nuts

A handful of nuts is one of the easiest, most satisfying snacks in the book. And they provide a nice balance of protein, fat, and fiber without many carbs, says Sharon Palmer, R.D.N. An ounce of nuts weighs in at about 160 calories, six grams of protein, 14 grams of fat, three grams of fiber, and six grams of carbs—though exact nutritional info varies from nut to nut. Just go for an unsalted variety to avoid unnecessary sodium and keep thirst at bay, she says.

apple almond butter sized

  1. Apple & Almond Butter

Camilla Lee R.D.N., owner of Bloom Wellness, munches on this crunchy, creamy apple-and-almond butter combo when she has a hankering for something sweet and satiating. It packs antioxidants from the apple in addition to healthy fat, fiber, and protein from the nut butter. A small, peeled apple with two tablespoons of almond butter makes for a balanced snack when your inner hunger monster is really rearing its head. The combo clocks in around 265 calories, with seven grams of protein, 14 grams of fat, six grams of fiber, and 23 grams of carbs.

Related: 4 Deliciously Sweet Snacks That’ll Help Stop Cravings In Their Tracks

chicken salad sized

  1. Protein & Produce Bento Box

A container of fresh veggies and pre-made protein can help you tackle hunger when you’re on-the-go, says Julie Stefanski, MEd, R.D.N., C.S.S.D., L.D.N., C.D.E. Stefanski recommends packing chunks of grilled chicken or cheese for your protein, along with produce like avocado (which pack heart-healthy fats that may reduce cholesterol levels), and grape tomatoes (which are rich in the antioxidant lycopene).

PB carrots sized

  1. Baby Carrots & Peanut Butter

Carrots are an excellent source of beta carotene, an antioxidant that’s essential for eye health, while peanut butter provides decadent, healthy fat and protein to keep you feeling full, says Lauren Manganiello, M.S., R.D., C.D.N. A combo of 12 baby carrots with two tablespoons of peanut butter is about 250 calories, with 9 grams of protein, 18 grams of fat, 4 grams of fiber, and 16 grams of carbs.

blueberry yogurt sized.jpg
photo: Mary Ellen Phipps
  1. Blueberry Pistachio Frozen Yogurt

The pistachios’ healthy fats and blueberries’ light sweetness really jazz up the Greek yogurt in this recipe from Mary Ellen Phipps, M.P.H., R.D.N., L.D., owner of Milk & Honey Nutrition. This sweet snack (or dessert!) is 235 calories, with 18 grams of protein, 12 grams of fat, three grams of fiber, and 18 grams of carbs. Just make sure to read your labels and go for the Greek yogurt with the lowest sugar count, she says.

egg salad veggie sized
photo: Trish Casey
  1. Egg Salad With Veggie Sticks

Eggs are budget-friendly proteins that supply lutein and zeaxanthin (nutrients that promote eye health), among other important vitamins, like vitamin D. This four-ingredient egg salad from Trish Casey, MS, RDN, LDN, co-owner of Advanced Nutrition Consultants, makes a great dip for veggie sticks, like baby carrots, celery, or raw zucchini. A serving of the egg salad is just about 100 calories, and provides 10 grams of protein, six grams of fat, and five grams of carbs. It’s a great (and unexpected!) high-protein, low-carb snack.

nut bites sized.jpg
photo: Amy Gorin
  1. Almond Pistachio Bites

These flavorful nut bites from Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D.N., are the perfect make-ahead snack for when you need to satisfy your sweet tooth in a pinch. Each bite contains oats, nuts, and seeds, and is flavored with vanilla extract and unsweetened cocoa powder—no added sugar! One bite clocks in at 180 calories, with six grams of protein, 13 grams of fat, five grams of fiber, and 12 grams of carbs.

Related: Find a low-carb protein bar for grab-and-go nutrition.

 Pin this handy infographic for the next time you need a healthy snack idea in a flash: 

Low Carb Snacks.jpg

Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday HealthBetter Homes & GardensWomen’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award.