The difference between a snack that has staying power and one that leaves you hungry an hour later? Protein. This nutrient is a hunger-busting powerhouse because it slows digestion and keeps blood sugar steady, and research shows protein helps keep cravings at bay. "Protein can help you lose weight because it increases satisfaction, and when you feel satisfied from your eating plan, you're better able to stick with it," says Alexandra Oppenheimer, RD, of Ambitious & Nutritious. But it's not like you can cook up a chicken breast and eat it in the car, so we've rounded up 7 protein-packed snacks that you can take with you anywhere.
1. Single-serve cottage cheese
Protein: 20 grams per 5-ounce serving
Think Greek yogurt is the be-all-end-all for high-protein dairy snacks? Think again: A single-serving container of nonfat cottage cheese boasts 3 grams more protein than a typical serving of Greek yogurt and is just 110 calories. Plus, it gives you 125 milligrams of bone-building calcium. (Keep in mind, though, it runs high in sodium, supplying 20 to 30% of your daily quota.)
Health.com: 14 Non-Dairy Foods That Are High in Calcium
2. Hardboiled egg
Protein: 6 grams per egg
Eggs used to be considered a nutritional no-no due to their high cholesterol content. Today, though, most nutritionists agree that they're a powerhouse breakfast or snack when enjoyed in moderation. In addition to protein, the humble egg gives you a hearty dose of vitamin D and vitamin B-12 for just 77 calories apiece. Best part: they're easy to take on the run—just remember to peel them before you go to make eating them on your commute a snap. Even better: some convenience and grocery stores sell hardboiled eggs in packages of two, so they're a snap to snatch up when traveling.
3. Peanut butter pack
Protein: 8 grams per 1.15-ounce pack
You probably wouldn't throw a jar of peanut butter into your handbag, but for convenience and natural portion control, you can carry individual squeeze packs of nut butters, like those from Justin's, alongside your wallet and mobile phone. A single-serving portion of Justin's peanut butter contains 190 calories and is made with just peanuts and palm fruit oil—no added sugars here. Smear on a banana to up the antioxidants and fiber, suggests Oppenheimer.
4. Mini cheeses or string cheese
Protein: 6 to 8 grams per serving
Personal packages of cheese like Mini Babybel wheels or Sargento sticks are great because they're individually wrapped for easy toss-in-your-purse portability—and they won't get squished, either. If you're trying to lose weight, choose one that says "part-skim" on the label, advises New York City registered dietitian Martha McKittrick. "You can still get some satiating fat but will save calories," she says.
5. Single-serve oatmeal packets or cups
Protein: About 4 grams per packet or cup
Just add hot water, stir, and you've got a warm bowl of protein- and fiber-packed oats in minutes for 150 to 200 calories per serving (depending on which flavor you choose). Quaker, Dr. McDougall's, N'Joy, and other companies sell single-serving cups of oatmeal, but you could also simply carry a packet with you—you can ask for a cup at any fast-food place or coffee shop. For times you need a little something extra to fill you up, slice a banana into your oats or toss in a few almonds.
Health.com: The Best Foods to Eat for Breakfast
Protein: 8 grams per half cup
In addition to belly-filling protein, a 90-calorie microwave package of edamame (soybeans in their pods) supplies 3 grams of fiber. The combo of protein and fiber is potent against hunger. Got a crunchy craving? You're in luck: one serving of dry roasted edamame has even more protein: 14 grams.
7. Roasted chickpeas
Protein: 7 grams per quarter-cup serving
For only 120 calories per serving, these beans offer 5 grams each of protein and fiber. Better yet, a daily serving of dietary pulses like chickpeas (as well as beans, lentils, and peas) can lower LDL cholesterol levels, according to research in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Make your own by mixing rinsed and drained chickpeas in a bowl with olive oil and your choice of spices (we love chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper) and then baking them in an oven preheated to 425 degrees for about 45 minutes.