West Valley Medical Center - September 02, 2019

Snack time tends to be the worst time for healthy eating—hunger can make you reach for the first greasy food you come across, despite your better judgment. Even if you plan ahead, it’s hard to come up with healthy, satisfying snack ideas.

We worked with Jessica Hargroder, an HCA Healthcare registered dietitian nutritionist, to create a list of irresistible snacks that are actually good for you. You’ll think you’re indulging, but these tasty bites are guilt-free and may even add years to your life.

Keep skin youthful with savory salmon

Pairing a protein-rich food like salmon with a fiber-rich food like a multigrain tortilla is one of the core principles of healthy snacking. The combination keeps you full because it takes longer to digest, explains Hargroder.

Pairing protein and fiber also keeps your blood sugar stable, preventing unpredictable blood sugar spikes, which cause inflammation. Because inflammation leads to the breakdown of collagen, a protein that gives skin its youthful appearance, smart snacking can help you both feel and look younger, says Hargroder.

Thanks to omega-3 fatty acids, salmon’s also heart-healthy and may boost your memory.

Mix up your yogurt routine for a healthy gut

Choose unsweetened Greek yogurt over “light” yogurt for fewer artificial ingredients, plus more protein and probiotics. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that may prevent gut infections, ease allergies and help treat conditions like Crohn’s disease.

Add these superfoods to transform your yogurt into a nutrition powerhouse:

  • Almonds: Mixing nuts with yogurt gives you another filling, protein-fiber combination, says Hargroder. Almonds may also help lower your heart disease risk.
  • Berries: Contain flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that may improve memory and slow the effects of dementia.
  • Chia: These tiny seeds are loaded with fiber, calcium and omega-3s.

Avoid sun-damaged skin with matcha tea

Matcha tea is a soothing beverage made from whole green tea leaves that are ground up and mixed with hot water. Matcha may reduce stress and has been used in meditation for centuries. Many people who drink it report feeling alert, but relaxed—possibly due to its combination of caffeine and theanine, an amino acid with calming effects.

Matcha is a great source of antioxidants, says Hargroder. Antioxidants repair cell damage from toxic compounds called free radicals. By repairing your cells, antioxidants help to protect against many conditions, including heart disease. Some experts believe the antioxidants in matcha may even curb weight gain and help shield your skin from sun damage.

Repair skin while indulging with dark chocolate

“Dark chocolate is another food that reduces inflammation—which ages your skin and increases your risk of heart disease. But not every chocolate bar is good for you,” says Hargroder. “Instead of milk chocolate, which is high in sugar and fat, choose dark chocolate that’s at least 70 percent cacao.”

Reaching for a small square of dark chocolate when you’re craving sweets can help you stick to an overall healthy diet. Since being overweight puts you at risk for a long list of conditions including diabetes, this simple swap may add years to your life. Plus, dark chocolate may help to lower both high blood pressure and LDL, or “bad” cholesterol.

Keep your heart healthy with homemade hummus

Hummus is high in protein and tastes great with many fiber-rich vegetables, says Hargroder. If you need a nudge when it comes to eating veggies, try smothering them in rich, creamy hummus. This trick can up your fiber intake, which may help lower your cholesterol.

Don’t love hummus? Try making it at home — the taste difference will amaze you. Store-bought hummus often comes with preservatives and cheap oils that change its taste, explains Hargroder. To make your own, just throw these ingredients into a blender:

  • 2 cup chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • Olive oil, garlic and lemon to taste

Protect pores with dressed-up apple slices

Staying hydrated is necessary for glowing skin and good overall health. Every organ needs water to function properly — including your skin. When you don’t drink enough, your skin gets dry and flaky; wrinkles and pores become more pronounced.

Drink a large glass of water before every meal and snack on hydrating fruits like apple slices. Spread walnut or cashew butter on your slices to add protein and omega-3s. The protein will keep you full and the omega-3s may help your cells absorb water more effectively, explains Hargroder. Sprinkle heart-healthy flax seeds on top to up your omega-3 intake even more.

This content originally appeared on Sharecare.com.