Sticking to a diet can be difficult. A reduction in calories, changes to eating habits, and missing out on treats can all make it tough to maintain. Cravings for something to eat between meals can often be a tripping point, especially when the only snacks available to buy are unhealthy and full of sugar and bad fats.

Certain times of the day can be particularly difficult. Mid-afternoon is a common time to feel hungry, as blood sugar and energy levels start to drop as the work day winds to a close. This is when there is a tendency to desire a pick-me-up, a craving for something full of carbohydrates and sugars, to boost the blood sugar levels. Cakes, candies and cookies are common culprits when breaking a diet, as they contain high levels of what the body is craving. The trick to avoid failing with the diet is to have a prepared list of great tasting, healthy snacks that will satisfy the cravings but that are also easy and convenient alternatives to the sugar laden treats.

Here are 9 healthy snack ideas that will satisfy your hunger between meals while keeping your diet on course.

1. Bananas

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Naturally healthy and low in fat, bananas are filling snacks. Wrapped up in their ‘carry case’ they are a perfectly designed take-with-you snack. Bananas are rich in potassium which is essential for good heart function and they are also full of fiber for a healthy digestive system.

2. Nuts

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Nuts have a variety of nutritional benefits, so a handful of mixed nuts will provide you with many different vitamins and minerals and they are also packed with essential oils, fiber and protein. Just a handful of nuts can stave off hunger, releasing energy slowly and leaving you satisfied for longer. Nuts are an ideal snack to keep in your bag or on your desk, to tuck into whenever you get hungry between meals. Avoid the salted or flavored varieties and instead choose nuts in their natural form to gain the benefits without the additives.

3. Korean sesame seed and seaweed snack

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These are very low in calories and fat and full of nutrients so are a tasty alternative to potato chips. Research has shown that seaweed slows down gut transit, releasing its energy slowly which makes you feel fuller for longer. Sesame seeds contain oleic acid which helps lower bad cholesterol, as well as being full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

4. Popcorn

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Popcorn can be a healthy, filling snack as long as you avoid pre-prepared options coated in salt or sugary coatings and prepared in lots of oil. Either look for organic, low fat alternatives or better still, make your own in a pan or in the microwave. Just remember not to add any high calorie ingredients. Enjoy freshly popped and warm; they taste great just as they are!

5. Low fat yogurt lollipops

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A great treat for hot summer days! Buy plastic lollipop molds, fill with yogurt, and pop in the freezer. You’ve now got a tasty treat to enjoy, that you can grab from the freezer whenever you fancy.

6. Oatmeal

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Oatmeal, or porridge, is a popular breakfast staple but can be enjoyed at any time of the day. It is easy to prepare in a couple of minutes in a microwave, and you can either make it with low fat milk or water. You could add some fresh fruit or honey. This a snack that can be enjoyed at home or work and is an ideal choice in the cold months of the year when cravings for warm stodgy foods are stronger. It is a great food for the immune system and lowering cholesterol and it’s also full of antioxidants and helps stabilize blood sugar which reduces the cravings for snacking on sugary foods

7. Veggie batons and low fat cream cheese

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For a tasty treat that gives you all the benefits of fresh vegetables; cut carrots, cucumbers, sticks of celery, red bell peppers and spring onions into batons and dip into low fat cheese. The bright colors of the vegetables are an indicator of high levels of phyto-chemicals which are believed to help prevent cancers and cardiovascular disease. For a healthy vegan alternative, replace the cheese with low fat humus. For a heart friendly choice, choose a salsa dip. Tomatoes are full of an antioxidant called lycopene, which may help prevent cardiovascular disease. Make your own salsa to avoid the higher levels of salt and sugar found in many manufactured brands.

8. Smoothies

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Make your own smoothies easily at home with just a large glass or jug, a cheap handheld blender and your chosen ingredients. Just add pieces of frozen fruit to a glass of fruit juice, add a banana to thicken and blend together. The result is a refreshing, tasty snack that will satisfy a hungry appetite, and is full of healthy fruit. These are easy and quick to make, and there is a never ending variety of different fruit flavors and combinations to try. For a creamier alternative, you could add low fat yogurt.

9. Homemade vegetable soup

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To make homemade vegetable soup, mix stock to water, add an onion and your favorite vegetables (peeled and chopped) to a saucepan or slow cooker and cook. When done, blend the contents, and you can now enjoy your homemade soup. You can cook larger amounts and freeze into portions, so you can have them available quickly and easily and avoid reaching for an unhealthy option. Soup is an ideal snack for work as you can take straight from the freezer and microwave when required, or heat up and pour into a thermos flask to take with you.

Most of us would like to adopt a healthier eating program in order to lose weight, feel better: How to Eat Healthy Foods and Save Money at the Same Time

Featured photo credit: fruits via Shutterstock

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