10 Snacks to Eat if You're Watching Your Cholesterol

Full Frame Shot Of Almonds and Cashews
Photo: Anastasiya Parshina / EyeEm / Getty Images

Snacking provides an opportunity to incorporate healthy food choices into your diet, rather than empty calories, artery-clogging fat, and heaps of sugar. Indeed, paying attention to the quality and quantity of ingredients in snack foods is important, especially if you're trying to avoid unhealthy fats, such as saturated and trans fats. Both are known to increase low-density lipoproteins (LDL), a type of cholesterol linked to heart disease and heart attacks.

"It's important to consider the type and amount of saturated and trans fats in foods that can impact blood cholesterol levels," explains Marisa Moore, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Atlanta, Ga. and nutrition consultant and owner of Marisa Moore Nutrition.

When it comes to what you nibble on between meals, there are plenty of cholesterol-friendly options: "Plant-based snacks are ideal when you're looking for foods that are naturally cholesterol-free," Moore says.

"Only animal-based foods contain cholesterol," adds Stacey Krawczyk, MS, RD, registered dietitian for the Grain Foods Foundation and president of FoodWell Strategies.

But it's important to know that nutritional needs will vary, depending on the person, says Jenna Amos, RD, a registered dietitian and nutrition manager at Freshly. "Nutrition is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Everyone's body reacts differently and at different paces to dietary changes!"

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the snack options at the store, you're not alone. It helps to have a few guidelines to help you narrow your picks: "Selecting snacks that are lower in overall sodium, sugar, and saturated fat are key," Krawczyk says. Packaging and labels can be misleading, so it's important to not take marketing jargon literally and assume any health reference automatically gives it the green light

"Just because a food package is labeled as cholesterol-free does not mean it is necessarily healthy," explains Holly Klamer, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist, nutrition consultant, and founder of My Crohn's and Colitis Team. "Fried snacks like chips are cholesterol-free but still higher in fat and/or low in nutrients."

Many low-cholesterol snack foods are easy, simple, and quick to prepare at home. Some are even available as pre-made items at the grocery store.

Here are 10 different low-cholesterol foods to consider for snack time.

01 of 11

Raspberries

Raspberries in blue cartons
Bob Stefko/Meredith

Indulge in the magenta berries in the summertime when they ripen on the vine, or enjoy them frozen when they're out of their growing season and not readily available in the produce section.

According to Amos, "Half a cup of raspberries packs four grams of fiber, plus immune-boosting vitamin C." If you love raspberries, you may prefer to eat them by directly popping them into your mouth. But if you want more creative ways to incorporate them into different snacks, Amos suggests, "Add them to smoothies, top yogurt, or mash on to toast with peanut butter for an elevated PB&J."

02 of 11

Pears

Green Pears on Wooden Board
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Juicy and crisp, pears are a great way to get a serving of fruit during snack time. Pears are convenient because they are portable — bite right into just like an apple, or slice it up.

"Pears are high in fiber, which not only helps with feeling full but are a sweet snack option," Moore says.

Amos adds, "Be sure to leave the skin on for the full fiber impact."

03 of 11

Apple Slices With Nut Butter

High Angle View Of Apple Slices In Plate
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Apples are a fun, easy grab-and-go snack. But you can also jazz up this fruit by pairing it with a nut butter, such as almond, cashew, hazelnut, peanut, or walnut butter. You'll have "fiber from the apples and heart healthy fats and protein from the nut butter for a heart healthy, satisfying snack" Klamer says.

"Dietary fiber from fruit, as part of an overall healthy diet, helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower the risk of heart disease," adds Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition consultant.

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Avocados

Avocado halves on blue background with lime wedge and sea salt
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A single serving is half of an avocado, which can be served up sliced, mashed up in a dip, such as guacamole, or spread onto whole wheat toast or crackers for a filling snack. "Avocados are effectively the only fruit that contains monounsaturated fat, which can help reduce LDL or bad cholesterol levels in your blood, which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke," Bannan says.

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Vegetables and Seed Butter

tahini sauce

Eating more vegetables is always a healthy choice, as is sneaking more into your daily diet to ensure you eat sufficient servings. "Vegetables contain a myriad of nutrients, including plant sterols that can help play a role in reducing bad cholesterol," says Sara Haas, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist, consultant culinary nutritionist, and author of Taco! Taco! Taco! & Fertility Foods Cookbook. She likes to mix veggies with tahini dip: "Half a cup sliced cucumber, 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, one ounce whole-grain pita chips and one tablespoon tahini. Drizzle the tahini over the veggies and pita chips, or use the tahini as a dip," Haas says. "And bonus: tahini, a "butter" made of sesame seeds, has also been shown to help reduce blood cholesterol levels," she adds.

06 of 11

Greek Yogurt

Greek Yogurt on a Table
YelenaYemchuk/Getty Images

You can serve yogurt up in different ways so that you're never bored. Although dairy has cholesterol, "a snack-size serving of Greek yogurt, five to eight ounces, can be a healthy, satisfying, low cholesterol snack," Klamer explains. If you want to make it more interesting or varied, she suggests, "Choose plain Greek yogurt for lowest sugar content, and add a teaspoon of honey, jam, or some dried fruit to add natural sweetness."

07 of 11

Beans

Pressure Cooker Black Beans
Buckwheat Queen

You may not consider beans as part of a snack routine, but they can be simple to use in a dip or spread on a wrap or tortilla. Beans are full of protein and fiber and will keep you feeling full until your next meal. Haas recommends making a snack taco: "Enjoy two tablespoons of refried black beans in a warmed corn tortilla topped with fresh cilantro and prepared salsa or pico de gallo," she says. "You'll be getting a huge fiber boost from every ingredient, which is amazing because fiber, especially soluble fiber, plays a key role in lowering blood cholesterol."

Another way to enjoy beans as a snack is making a bean dip using black beans, kidney beans, or white beans and slicing up vegetables to scoop it up. "Carrots are a crunchy snack loaded with fiber and vitamin A," Amos says. "Pair with two tablespoons of bean-based dip like hummus or black bean dip for a more complete and satisfying snack."

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Hummus

A small white bowl of parsley-topped hummus surrounded by pita squares
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This chickpea-based dip mixed with tahini, or sesame paste, raw garlic, lemon and spices can be a great way to add fiber and protein while snacking. You can dip whole grain crackers or sliced vegetables, such as cucumbers, carrots, celery, or even zucchini. "Eating hummus as a snack is an easy way to get beans into the diet," Klamer says. "They are not only naturally cholesterol free but a good source of soluble fiber, which can help lower blood cholesterol."

09 of 11

Popcorn

freshly popped popcorn sits in a white stoneware bowl on a white counter with white subway tiles behind it
Jessica Furniss

Making your own popcorn by heating up kernels at home is a nutritious snack, and you can make it savory or sweet by what you sprinkle on top. You can keep your palate entertained with different seasonings every time you make a batch. "Air-popped popcorn is a whole grain which means it provides a punch of fiber," Amos says. It's important to consider what you're tossing on your homemade popcorn, however. Avoid toppings like melted butter and cheese, which can cancel out all the benefits of popcorn and turn it into a cholesterol-raising food.

10 of 11

Nuts

Full Frame Shot Of Almonds and Cashews
Anastasiya Parshina / EyeEm / Getty Images

Almonds, cashews, peanuts, pistachios, and walnuts, are a great snack that will make you feel satiated between meals because they are a good source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. "A handful of nuts can be thrown in a bag for a healthy, portable snack on the go," says Klamer.

Take for example the benefits of almonds: "Almonds not only help maintain your blood cholesterol levels, but also have six grams of plant-based protein to keep you energized, and contain four grams of filling fiber to curb hunger," Moore says. "Studies show that almonds may help maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease."

Or consider a small serving of pistachios: "A one-ounce serving of pistachios provides about three grams of fiber," Amos says. Although nuts can be delicious and nutritious to munch on, you also don't want to go overboard. "Be sure to watch your serving size with nuts since they are calorie-dense," adds Amos.

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