5 snacks a dietitian eats on the Mediterranean diet instead of processed foods

5 snacks a dietitian eats on the Mediterranean diet instead of processed foods
  • The Mediterranean diet offers healthy snacks to eat instead of processed food, a dietitian said.

  • Snacks like string cheese and Greek yogurt provide protein to keep you full and energized.

  • Snacking on foods like hummus, nuts, and honey is also linked to benefits for health and longevity.

You don't have to give up snacking to follow one of the healthiest eating plans in the world. Simple snacks from the Mediterranean diet can help you cut back on processed food like potato chips, according to a dietician.

The Mediterranean diet is all about focusing on moderation and nutrient-dense food instead of restriction, said registered dietitian and food writer Sheela Prakash, author of "Mediterranean Every Day: Simple, Inspired Recipes for Feel-Good Food."

"It's not depriving yourself," she told Business Insider. "It's enjoying everything but enjoying more of the wholesome whole grains and vegetables and fruits and all of that delicious stuff."

Snacking doesn't have to be off-limits on the Mediterranean diet, but reaching for whole foods with a healthy dose of protein and fiber can be a more energizing option than processed foods. One of the health risks of processed food is often doesn't have the nutrients to fuel your body and can cause you to overeat without realizing it.

Prakash shared the go-to Mediterranean diet snacks that provide all-day energy and are delicious enough to distract her husband from junk food cravings.

"I'm constantly trying to get him to stop reaching for the bag of potato chips," she said.

Hummus is versatile and protein-rich

One of Prakash's favorite snacks is also a Mediterranean classic: hummus. The chickpea-based dip is a tasty way to eat more veggies and goes well with options like whole-grain pita chips.

Hummus is also a snack-friendly way to get a dose of beans, which are considered a longevity superfood because they're packed with healthy fiber and protein.

For extra convenience, you can buy pre-made hummus and prepped veggies so there's no work needed. Making your own flavorful hummus is a great step into easy Mediterranean cooking.

Nuts are a great source of healthy fats

Prakash said nuts are one snack that's always in her pantry, offering both convenience and good nutrition.

"Nuts are just as easy to grab as the potato chips and are so much more packed with energy, more protein, more fiber," she said.

Whether you opt for almonds, walnuts, or cashews, nuts are calorie-dense because they're full of healthy fats, which can help you stay full with just a handful. The fiber in nuts is also great for managing appetite as well as maintaining a healthy digestive system.

String cheese offers a quick protein source

It may be a staple in kids' lunches, but don't let the whimsical format of string cheese distract you from the serious benefits, according to Prakash.

String cheese is quick, portable, and high in protein, as well as minerals like calcium.

"It's just fun to eat," she said.

High-protein Greek yogurt can help you stay full

Another protein-rich Mediterranean snack is Greek yogurt, which Prakash said she eats almost every day.

She enjoys it with berries (a nutritional powerhouse that can help protect your brain health) and granola for long-lasting energy.

Adding high-protein foods to your diet can help with weight loss, if that's a goal, by keeping you full, other dietitians previously told BI.

Homemade granola provides energizing carbs with less added sugar

Prakash said one of her staple snacks to prep ahead of time is homemade granola to eat as an accompaniment to Greek yogurt or just on its own.

"It is so simple to make and it's a fun way for me to use up a lot of the ingredients in my pantry," she said.

Typical recipes include some combination of nuts, oats, and honey, which together provide carbohydrates for energy with fiber for balanced blood sugar. Prakash is a big proponent of honey as a natural source of sweetness — it's also one of the longevity-boosting foods popular in Blue Zones, areas of the world where people live the longest, healthiest lives.

Granola also needs some type of fat to bring it all together, and Prakash uses olive oil, which adds a unique flavor and is linked to lower risk of illnesses like heart disease and dementia.

"It's really so full of good fats, so it's making my granola better for me," she said.

While it takes a bit more effort up front, prepping healthy snacks at home can make it easier to stick to a healthy diet long-term than more extreme measures like cutting out snacks completely, according to Prakash.

"I think if you are on a quick fix diet that's hard to sustain, eventually you're going to tire of it, you're going to maybe feel deprived because you've cut out things that you enjoy, and that's not what the Mediterranean diet is," she said.

Read the original article on Business Insider