“I always recommended protein and fiber-rich snacks to help keep you energized and satisfied. It’s a bonus if those snacks are plant-based and portable,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, RDN, author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club.
But let’s face it: eating foods like hard boiled eggs—the traditional go-to for easy protein—can get old, fast. While there are a bunch of other good healthy snack options that are high in protein (think Greek yogurt, string cheese, nut butter packs, and more), I was surprised to find that there was one food that every dietitian I know says is an excellent choice for mid-afternoon hunger pangs.
No, it wasn’t a protein bar. It was roasted beans.
Wait, why do experts recommend beans as a snack?
Surprised? So was I. But all of the RDs I spoke to said that they’re a big fan of the roasted beans trend—which includes chickpeas, broad beans, and edamame—because it’s a near-perfect healthy snack.
For starters, beans and legumes in general are high in protein and fiber, which helps fill you up, keep blood sugar levels stable, and satiate you until your next meal. They can be incorporated into a variety of eating plans, making them a good option for vegans, vegetarians, Med dieters, and tons of other people. And given the easy availability of beans, you can prepare them yourself or buy ready-made snack packs for convenience and portion control.
Harris-Pincus is partial to chickpea snacks (one of our trends for 2020). “A one-ounce serving—about 50 chickpeas!—packs six grams of plant based protein and six grams of fiber for only 110 calories. And the best part is the variety of delicious flavor options from savory to spicy or sweet,” she says.
There are tons of brands that sell crispy, roasted chickpeas, such as Biena Chickpea Snacks ($26 for six) or The Good Bean ($19 for 10), both of which have high-quality ingredients and dietitian approval. So much so, “that I just grab them at the store usually and I like to eat them solo with a piece of fruit on the side, or mix with pumpkin seeds and other nuts,” says Kelly Jones, MS, RD.
Check out some other healthy proteins that are vegan- and vegetarian-friendly:
Edamame is another great option if chickpeas aren’t your thing. These whole, immature soybeans are available shelled, in the pod, fresh, or frozen depending on your snacking needs. “With up to 14 grams of high quality protein per serving, it’s satisfying and pairs well with dried fruit to store in your work bag, gym bag, or purse without a worry of it spoiling,” says Jones.
What’s more, “they’re lower in total carbs compared to other legumes, like beans and chickpeas, making them the perfect snack for anyone following a lower-carb diet,” adds Charlotte Martin, RDN.
“If you need something on the go, I also love Crunchamame ($13 for eight),” says Ilyse Schapiro RD. “I love this freeze-dried edamame. It is great for on-the-go [snacking], and I love that it has a good amount of protein plus fiber, and it’s low in carbs and sodium,” she says. Another great brand to check out: Seapoint Farms Dry Roasted Edamame ($11 for 12).
You can go with broad beans, too. “Broad beans, also known as fava beans, are rising the ranks in popularity thanks to their protein and fiber content,” says Alex Lewis, RD, LDN, a dietitian for Baze. “Popular in Middle Eastern, South African, and Asian cuisines, one way they are hitting US shelves in the form of roasted broad beans for snacking,” she says.
Like edamame and chickpeas, “there are many flavor varieties available [of broad beans], both salty and sweet. They definitely fulfill that ‘crunch’ you may look for in a snack,” Lewis says. She recommends Enlightened Bada Bean Bada Boom ($18 for 24-count variety pack).
How to DIY beans for snacks at home
Of course, you’re not limited to store-bought options if you want to save a little money or get creative at home. All the RDs say you can easily replicate the magic of roasted beans at home by doing it yourself. “If I have time to meal prep, I’ll make a big batch of crunchy roasted chickpeas, which are super simple to make,” says Natalie Rizzo, RD.
Here’s her method: “Combine one can of chickpeas, one tablespoon of oil, and one-half teaspoon of salt and bake in a 375- degree oven for 35 minutes.” Maggie Michalczyk, RD, who also roasts her own chickpeas, recommends draining and rinsing your canned chickpeas as well as removing as many of the skins as possible before roasting. And don’t just limit yourself to salt if you want to (literally) spice things up. “My recommendations include everything but the bagel seasoning, curry powder, or chili power,” she says.
And edamame? Unlike other soybeans, edamame are edible without having to be processed, making them perfect for a snack food. “One of the easiest and tastiest ways to transform edamame into a tasty snack is to roast the pods with a bit of olive oil, garlic powder, Parmesan, and salt,” says Martin.
“You can make [edamame] crispy at home like restaurant style but with less sodium by buying a frozen bag at the grocery store and roasting them on a sheet pan with a little bit of salt, pepper and olive oil at 350 for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through,” adds Michalczyk.
So the next time you’re in a healthy snack rut, give the humble bean a chance. It can be good for so much more than hummus and dip.
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