Crunchy Snack Solutions, Plus Butter Alternatives!

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Hi Hungry Girl,

I'm a college student, and when it's crunch time for a paper or a test, I like to CRUNCH on snack foods. However, most of my favorites are loaded with fat and calories. What crunchy snacks do you recommend?

College Cruncher

Hi College Cruncher,

There's something VERY satisfying about munching on crunchy foods, isn't there? And while you might ace that paper, you don't want to fail at your food endeavors by letting the snacking get out of hand. Play it smart with my guilt-free crunchy snack picks...

If you have a fridge (or mini fridge), keep a jar of pickles around. They're crisp and delicious, and they're really low in calories. (Just stick with a few at a time -- they're pretty high in sodium.) Precut raw veggies are also great because you really can't overdo it with them -- they're perfect if you're prone to mindless munching. Baby carrots are classic, but add some variety with sugar snap peas, jicama sticks, and sliced bell peppers. Then keep a jar of salsa on hand for dipping! And keep a few wheels of The Laughing Cow Light cheese wedges in your fridge -- that stuff is amazing on high-fiber flatbread-style crackers. Wasa Crispbreads give a nice crunchy bang for your calorie buck.

No fridge? No problem. Baked or popped chips are a satisfying crunchy snack. Just stick with portion-controlled options like 100-calorie bags of Popchips (BTW, the new Tortilla Chips ROCK), or portion out a larger bag into single-serving plastic baggies ahead of time so you don't accidentally eat an entire multi-serving bag at once. I'm also a fan of Quaker Popped rice snacks. So many awesome flavors -- Cheddar Cheese, Sweet Chili, Ranch, etc. -- and 140 calories or less per serving (13 - 18 pieces). If you're all about volume snacking and if you have microwave access, 94% fat-free microwave popcorn is the way to go. You can have about FIVE cups for 100 calories, and popcorn's packed with fiber. If you're a sucker for nuts, it's really important to keep portions in check, because the calories and fat grams can add up quickly. That's why I like 100-calorie packs of almonds, like the ones from Blue Diamond and Emerald.

Have a sweet tooth? Quaker makes delicious dessert-y flavors of those rice snacks, like Caramel Corn and Vanilla Créme Brulee. So good! Another sweet 'n crunchy favorite? Mini boxes of cereal. With around 100 calories each, they're perfect for stashing in your dorm, car, or backpack, and they taste great straight from the box without milk. If you do add milk, choose something light like Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Breeze. Also stock up on freeze-dried fruit. Unlike calorie-dense dried fruit, freeze-dried fruit is light and crispy, so you get a nice serving size with a low calorie count. Funky Monkey makes some amazing flavor blends. And of course there's crunchy fresh fruit, like Fuji apples! Sweet, crisp, and 100 percent guilt-free. 

If you find yourself without any emergency snacks and you have to turn to a vending machine, look for mini bags of baked chips or pretzels. Crunchy granola bars, like the ones from Nature Valley, are another pretty good option. Happy crunching! 

Dear HG,

What is the deal with Brummel & Brown? Every Hungry Girl recipe calling for reduced-calorie butter recommends B&B, which is hard to find. What is the next best thing?

Butter Me Up

Hi Butter Me Up,

Okay, so my love for Brummel & Brown is no secret. HG recipes that call for light whipped butter or light buttery spread suggest B&B because it's THAT good. It's made with yogurt and tastes just like real butter -- maybe a little sweeter. But the big selling point? It has just 45 calories and 5g fat per tablespoon (PointsPlus® value 1* -- SmartPoints® value 2*). That's half the fat and calories of regular butter. Sure, there are some fat-free spreads out there, but the light kinds taste SO much better.

If you can't find B&B, there are MANY other options out there with nearly identical stats. Smart Balance makes several light buttery spreads, including an omega-3 blend and one with extra-virgin olive oil. And Land O'Lakes makes a great light butter.

In general, look for light butter in a TUB as opposed to the kind that comes as a solid stick. A little goes a LONG way with the tubbed spreads, and it's easy to measure them out -- you can literally just stick your measuring spoon into the tub, and scoop it out. It's perfect for French toast, grilled cheese, desserts, and more.

Consider yourself buttered up!

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Today, December 19th, is National Oatmeal Muffin Day. Enjoy a growing oatmeal bowl for breakfast and a Yum Yum Brownie Muffin for dessert!

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