HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Almost calorie-free savory snacks? Quitting smoking.

  • c

I'm quitting smoking for the second time in 38 years. The last time was in May, when I quit for two months while dieting and exercising, and gained 20 pounds. I'm ("we're", this time) using Chantix, which helps a bunch with the withdrawal.

I'm not into sweets. I'm not smoking, not drinking, and...not eating, almost, at the same time. (Husband, who is quitting with me this time, says don't worry about the food/drink, but the weight gain was part of what made me start again last time.)

Here's what we're trying (neither of us is hugely into sweets, though he is more than me):

Fat free pretzels
In-shell sunflower seeds
Celery, Carrots and Cauliflower
Dip (salsa or Hidden Valley fat free ranch)
Tomatoes with balsamic v. and kosher salt
Green grapes

Yeah, a lot of salt there, but better than lotsa calories and better than smoking. lol.

Every recipe I'm thinking of for dinner includes LOTS of butter and cream. (Though tonight it's shrimp, artichoke hearts, tomatoes/onions/peppers/garlic/herbs all from the garden, lemon juice, EVOO, whole wheat pasta and a little parmesan. :P)

I am positively DYING for fat, which at this point, I'm mostly getting one seed at a time in sunflower seeds. I think if what I was eating was *interesting* enough, I wouldn't want the fat so bad. And if it's something that requires a lot of hand-work, so much the better. (I'm off work for the next five days. lol.) Actually, if something took long enough to make, it could even be higher in calories, provided it was keeping my hands busy making it. I'm outta ideas.


I'll try anything at this point.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I chewed a LOT of cinnamon gum. Worked great for me!

    1 Reply
    1. re: weezieduzzit

      Cinnamon gum is actually the kind of gum we're chewing. I also have cinnamon candy (doesn't work too well) and lemon drops (which kinda work). I'm sort of looking for something non-sweet.


    2. Cucumber slices....really high in water and VERY low calorie...leave a little peel on it for added fiber...really...cucumber slices are awesome!

      10 Replies
      1. re: Val

        Great idea, Val - we love cucumber. (Zuch would be a good snacky thing, as well...)

        I wonder if I could use non-fat cottage cheese or yogurt or sour cream to fake some tzatziki?

        1. re: Cady

          Any of those toppings or dips sound great...non fat Greek yogurt might be best...and then there's hummus...I only use veggies for hummus dippers anymore.

          1. re: Val

            I've had hummus several times, and haven't liked it several times, but we were just talking about it around the ol' homestead and thought maybe it was worth another try.

            I used to make tzatziki, but I forget what went into it - cucumber, yogurt, dill, garlic...???

            (I did a quick search, but the recipes are pretty varied. I don't think I used sour cream, but most of the recipes I just looked at, do.)

            1. re: Cady

              I quit 19 years ago and gained about 45 lbs... my doctor told me it would be healthier to weigh 300 lbs. than to smoke. I never got that high but, now with weight watchers I'm finally losing that and the 'baby weight'. Not easy either.
              My suggestions are... take up knitting or crocheting, drink tons of water and make 'veggie bags'. I cut up cukes, red peppers, kohlrabi, radishes, carrots, cauliflower... whatever is on hand and prepare a quart bag for each day. If I put a paper towel in with them to absorb moisture, they're good for about 4 days. So handy and I'm not tempted as much by other things.

              1. re: debbypo

                @debbypo, yes RADISHES...another savory munchy-crunchy with very little calories! Also if you get a good batch, have some heat to them...

                1. re: Val

                  jicama is great too - with lime and your choice of heat

                  1. re: Val

                    I agree with radishes...but they're better with butter.....smile....

              2. re: Val

                but hummus contains tahini -- ground up sesame seeds.
                isn't there a whole bunch of fat in the seeds?

                1. re: escargot3

                  true, most hummus does contain tahini...here's the info' on the kind of fats in sesame seeds (healthy fats!):

                  "The fat in sesame seeds is 38% monounsaturated, and 44% polyunsaturated which equals 82% unsaturated fatty acids."

                  but if you're talking calories, yes, the tahini will add calories...but if you just dip the veggie in the hummus, you are only getting a little fat...if you are SCOOPING the veggies in the hummus, different story. Just trying to put it in perspective.

            2. re: Val

              Agree on the cukes. And if you have smoked salt, try sprinkling a bit of that on. Delicious and helps keep them interesting. If you're looking for something to pick at for a while, you can slice them extra thin.

              It sounds like (below) you like pickles but with cheese-maybe other picked vegetables? Beets, green beans, okra. Gardiniera might be worth a try.

              I really like most roasted veg at room temperature, and I'll happily snack on halved brussels sprouts (love these with orange zest, aleppo, and minced garlic stirred in for the last 5 minutes or so), cubed beets, cauli florets, etc that have been roasted. You'll have to add some oil but you can get by with less than you might think.

              Baby carrots-not as flavorful as whole carrots, but hard to beat the convenience. The crunch is really satisfying.

            3. Do you like spicy? Maybe something like Kimchee, miles of flavor!

              3 Replies
              1. re: Quine

                Hmm. You know, I've only had kimchee as a flavoring (and I don't buy "flavored" stuff very often) and I'm not sure we actually HAVE it here. (I live in a county in Idaho with 9000 people...a lot of things missing here unless you drive 65 miles north or south.)

                I've really liked that flavor in stuff though, so I'll look into it. (And yeah I love hot, my husband, only a little.)


                1. re: Cady

                  You might look into the 6th taste umami. It is my must have.
                  KimChee is a product. I live at the NJ shore, which sounds cool, but CHoundish shopping it isn't.
                  I drive a just a bit more to make my Asian and Whole foods run, about every 6 weeks or so.

                  Give your taste buds a new explore area, I am sure a google search will give you tons of umami info. Also try a CH search.

                  1. re: Cady

                    Oh, and it's easy to make. You could buy the Korean chile flakes online and probably find the rest local (can you get fish sauce?) Salt, some kind of veggie and/or fruit, tons of garlic, some form of fermented fish, chile flakes, let it sit. Not something I grew up with, but it's really growing on me as something to have around. Fun to make, fun to figure out ways to use it up.

                2. If salt isn't a big issue, I'd think the sharp flavors of pickles might help. Good luck to you, it's a very hard thing to do, but oh so worth the effort!

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Jeri L

                    Thanks, Jeri. If salt were also an issue (I'm killing nicotine, alcohol and fat) I'd give up. lol.

                    I love pickles, but my favorite pickle snack is with pickles/cheddar cheese. (Not into fake cheese.)

                    I may play with a dab of cream cheese, and pickle on a Triscuit or something (double bonus - keeps my hands busy) and that might do the trick, with only a *little* bit of fat).

                    I do think that you guys are right - sharper, stronger flavors will probably distract me better than a carrot stick. lol. And distraction is the name of the game.

                    1. re: Cady

                      since you like spice, i'd make dips for your veggies with low-fat yogurt and hot sauces or salsa, and/or soy sauce. also chop up green onions very fine, mix in granulated garlic or onion powder, maybe some paprika, or again, for heat, chili powder - upping the flavors is the best idea.

                      1. re: Cady

                        If you do the cream cheese thing, be sure to use neufchatel instead of regular cream cheese, lower fat and hard to tell the difference. Also, I like raw vegs, esp cucumber or carrots, dipped in hot sauce (Cholula is especially good for this). If you are seriously craving fat, have some good fat like avocado or nuts. Almonds are great for healthy snacking. Someone mentioned the fat free greek yogurt - fage is SO good, so thick and creamy you really feel like you are eating something sinful. Good luck!!

                        1. re: Cady

                          There's also a WW product - I think it's called something like Weight Watchers Reduced Fat Cream Cheese Spread. Despite the name, it's actually pretty good, tastes like cream cheese, and is much lower in fat.

                          1. re: arb

                            Agree that the WW cheese stuff is good, as is Laughing Cow, especially the chipotle one. Great with veggies or crackers.

                      2. High calorie dips become low calorie when small amounts are eaten on large ribs of celery. Gives your hands something to hold as you digest the roughage too.

                        1. What about popcorn? You can either pop the corn with little oil or get the lowfat microwave kind and add spice blends and maybe a light sprinkling of grated hard cheeses like parmesan. You have to eat a lot of popcorn to get a lot of calories. It really gives your mouth something to do.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: septocaine_queen

                            Ooh, popcorn. Didn't even think of that. We don't have a microwave (we live off grid and that'd suck a bit too much power) but we make it a lot in a pan, and with very little oil. If I could make myself eat it one kernel at a time (as fast as I can move one kernel at a time to my mouth - lol) I'd probably *still* be low cal on it. (And weirdly, it's one of the things I'm not huge on for butter. Go figure.)

                            1. re: Cady

                              There are lots of yummy alternatives to butter on popcorn. I think there may be threads with ideas. I have recently discovered "Bacon Salt" (which has no actual animal in it) on popcorn.

                              1. re: Cady

                                LOL eat popcorn with chopsticks! Sounds funny but really does double up on the hand to mouth craving.

                                1. re: Quine

                                  lol. Yeah, that sounds absolutely wack-job, but also sounds like it might work! It's like the work of a sunflower seed in it's shell, without having to spit. :D

                                2. re: Cady

                                  One of our coworkers brings in an alternative to popcorn that she learned to make in Peru. It's called cancha (maiz cancha chulpe para tostar is what's printed on the bag). It looks like the corn kernels that get left at the bottom of the bag, but they are puffy and soft when you bite into them.

                                  She says you just heat a small amount of oil in a pan and toast the kernels until they are puffed and golden brown. Really delicious served with salt!

                                  Here is what it looks like:

                                  1. re: ForFoodsSake

                                    Those are awesome! they offer them as a free appetizer at our local popular Peruvian restaurant, Inca's Kitchen, here in Naples...very different and delish!

                                1. I've been trying to mix it up myself lately so maybe these will help...

                                  --Fish tacos (cajun spiced grilled fish, shredded purple cabbage w/apple cider vinegar, guac, spicy mayo)

                                  --Greek salad, e.g., diced cukes, tomatoes, red onion, feta, olives, diced banana peppers, red wine vinegar, olive oil, a little lemon juice, s&p

                                  --Roasted chicken. I love roasting a chicken on a Sunday while the game is on. Possibly with side of sauteed spinach, garlic, red pepper flakes, s&p. Or sauteed mushrooms with shallots, splash of red wine, thyme, beef broth, s&p. Or roasted cauliflower. Roasted potatoes....

                                  --Make a pizza with lots of vegetables

                                  --Sometimes a bacon, egg and cheese on english is just what you're in the mood for, then you can get back to eating healthy later.

                                  Good luck, you can do it!

                                  1. kale chips
                                    roasted chilled veggies
                                    hearts of palm with balsamic and a dash of soy and onion powder
                                    egg white and veggie frittata muffins - make ahead and store in fridge/freezer
                                    spiced gazpacho
                                    potato skins - toasted and filled with veggies or salsa and low or fat free cottage cheese
                                    hard boiled sliced egg whites dipped as you like or tossed with tomatoes, onions and balsamic

                                    good for you!! you can do it!

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Emme

                                      Kale chips are such a fab idea. Every time I make them I think I should make them more often. They're just what Cady was looking for and healthy AND tasty! I am making a mental note to buy kale this weekend...

                                      1. re: Vetter

                                        Kale chips are awesome! Wash some kale and dry it, put on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper and put in 350 oven for about 10 minutes.

                                        1. re: MyNameIsTerry

                                          We have tons of kale left in the garden and have only had kale chips once this summer. Hmmmm...

                                    2. Raw sugar snap peas or mangetout are really good, quick and snappy.

                                      1. I chewed on whole licorice roots--kept my hands & mouth busy and they taste very sweet &have other health benefits. Of course it helps to like licorice flavor. Look for the big fat roots, I found them in an Italian market, they give them to children to chew as treats. Worked for me, haven't smoked in16 years & I quit with someone else in the house smoking all the time. Good luck!

                                        1. I have reduced sugar Tropicana, coffee with fat free 1/2 and 1/2, low fat Laughing Cow Cheese on light Wasa flatbread for breakfast. It keeps me going until lunch. My husband loves low fat Ranch Dressing and he puts it on brocolli for his fatty reward. We have made mac and cheese using an old recipe from the Calorie Commando TV series that uses low fat cheese and 1% milk with Wondra Flour mixed in a slurry and has broccoli florets mixed in. Tastes great but low fat cheese doesn't reheat well so not a good leftover.
                                          I joined an exercise class to take my mind off food and fill in the time when I did it the most smoking- after work and before dinner. The class gave me free calories, improved my breathing and became a way of life- highly recommend trying this to buy some free ice cream eating!
                                          We also have a cheat meal every Sunday night.
                                          Good luck!

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Berheenia

                                            Fat free half and half? Sigh... Perhaps the Easter Bunny came from that same lab.

                                            1. re: PommeDeGuerre

                                              good one!
                                              ps like your moniker as well...

                                          2. be careful since lots of those snacks are high carb. always better to do a carb WITH a protein even if it ups the calorie count a bit since it helps your body process it better for less insulin spikes and less weight gain.
                                            light string cheese. the cabot 50% less fat cheddar snack size cheese things are fabulous. the blue diamond oven roasted sea salt 100 calorie packs of almonds are great too.
                                            low fat smoked turkey lunch meat either with lowfat cream cheese rolled in it or with spicy mustard rolled in lettuce.
                                            fat is NOT your enemy. low fat is good. but make careful that it's not fat free and replaced with carbs. extra bad.

                                            oh and for recipes (not snacks): mushrooms are pretty much free food. one of the tricks i learned when dieting. mushrooms with a bit of lowfat chicken broth, poultry seasoning, and fresh thyme tastes great and rich and meaty. i can pretty much eat half a container of buttons and half a container of baby bellas next to with grilled chicken and green beans or broccoli or something one night and then cook up the other half of the packages with cilantro and squash and zucchini and maybe some salsa if i have it the next night with chicken and it tastes TOTALLY different and super healthy and low cal both times. keep my weight down that way. :)

                                            oh and good luck. that's awesome!!!

                                            1. Cups of hot bullion or cold jellied consommé, nice and savory.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: blue room

                                                i agree! that was another diet trick. eat chicken bouillon/broth before a meal... it slows you down and fills you up!

                                              2. I'm addicted to another brand of these, sold by the case at Costco... Almost no calories, very tasty:

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: mcf

                                                  good one, mcf--I also love seaweed & seaweed snacks...those individual packets seem like too much packaging & waste (for me) so I've been just using sheets of nori, cut into a salad, or added to broth or just torn up and eaten plain.

                                                2. 1. GOOD LUCK!
                                                  2. You don't need too much luck if you really want to quit
                                                  3. As you've heard from others, I suspect, if I can do it, anybody can.

                                                  4. I quit 4 years ago, and weight gain was pretty hard to avoid. I ate everything in sight, and inevitably gained a few. Just a suggestion for you - maybe it may appeal to you, maybe not. In season fruits. Right now, things like Honeycrisp apples are showing up everywhere. For me, that is a perfect quit smoking type of food. Super crunchy, takes effort to eat (not just throwing a handful of things in your mouth,) not a sugar bomb, no fat, not a salt bomb, I think they have some kind of fiber, and imo, better than a bag of doritos. Just a thought. I'm not talking about just eating "apples" - I'm talking about finding something special within a healthy choice. Sure there's a red delicious, or a mcintosh or whatever variety of apple, but those don't even cross my mind. I'm saying for me specifically, a bag of Honeycrisps might take my mind off of eating junkier alternatives because I think they are just as good.
                                                  5. You can do it. Whenever you think it's hard, that's the tobacco talking talking in your head.
                                                  6. Let it out. I swore like a sailor and told everyone before a conversation started. "Listen, before we start talking, I gotta tell you, I'm quitting smoking, and my potty mouth might slip, please don't take any offense." Usually, it was quite a conversation starter, and ppl definitely understood and always gave words of encouragement.
                                                  7. Remember, you can do it. The cravings just get easier and easier. I still sometimes think about smoking - like after eating a really good meal, or after being stuck in traffic for an hour, but now, those thoughts fade after a few seconds, and I just know that it easier for EVERY FACET OF MY LIFE to NOT smoke. Have you seen the PRICES of cigarettes, these days? Do the math- that's enought to make you wanna quit right there if the health issues don't scare you.
                                                  8. You can do it.
                                                  9. You can do it.
                                                  10. You can do it

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: gordeaux

                                                    You said it really well gordeaux. I remember flailing myself onto the ground in a parking lot outside a 7-11 where we had stopped for cold drinks during the family vacation that came a few weeks after I had quit. My 5 and 9 year old daughters looked on in horror. After that, I picked myself up, bought 3 flavors of gum and chewed like a maniac for several days. I went for pretzels... my fave salty snack... and did indeed gain but, I feel so much healthier as an ex-smoker that I've almost never even thought of starting again. Now doing weight watchers and eating many of the healthy snacks mentioned here. One more... chewy sun dried tomatoes.

                                                  2. *Stuffed baked mushrooms (I use the little low cal rounds of goat cheese from TJ's).
                                                    *Roasted cauliflower - takes on a variety of seasonings.
                                                    *Steamed edamame - drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a blend of sea salt and Lapsang souchong (wiz the salt and tea together in a mini processor)
                                                    *Use itty bitty spoons and forks for snacks - creates more bites and more hand-to-mouth action.

                                                    The first month is the hardest.

                                                    That's what kept me from backsliding - knowing I'd have to go through the beginning again!

                                                    Keep it up - you will be so glad you did.

                                                    Non-food, but games that use your hands such as pick-up sticks, dominoes and cards are helpful. Keeps the hands occupied and requires enough concentration to keep the brain from drifting.

                                                    1. Ka.me rice crackers. They're shatteringly crisp, 16 is considered a serving for 110 calories. They come in flavors, and I like the spicy hit of the wasabi. Just nibble away at them. They're a nice snack. Seedless grapes are good frozen. Good luck!

                                                      1. I know you're going for low calorie, but if you go with some foods that pack a flavor punch you can eat just a little and get a lot of satisfaction. Your list looks so boring, it's no wonder you're crying out for help.

                                                        It sounds like you could easily redirect your smoking habit into a culinary habit. What about learning about cheeses instead of cigarette brands? There are many cheeses that are so good but so strongly flavored, you don't want more than a tasty bite or two. A small cheese platter with some grapes or other fruit could be tasty as well as adventurous.

                                                        Middle Eastern food is really interesting, and there's a lot of flavor to be found. Start with tabbouleh; it makes a great healthy low calorie snack, you can develop your own recipe that includes the flavors you like most. Then get into cooking with dried limes and other extremely tasty ingredients.

                                                        1. some ideas we like:
                                                          sliced fennel (so delicious compared to celery)
                                                          sliced jerusalem artichokes
                                                          hard boiled eggs w/ seasoned salt or Bragg's Liquid Amino (delicious flavor booster)
                                                          popcorn tossed w/ Tamari
                                                          triscuits NO; low/non fat rye crisps or matzoh better

                                                          japanese/chinese dressings that use soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and other options (dash sesame oil,lemon juice, dash sugar, chili flakes, madras curry powder)

                                                          1. You can do it -- you've done it before! :)

                                                            -cherry tomatoes -- love the way they burst when eaten
                                                            -leaves of romaine -- separate, wash, dry, store; use like crackers with a tiny bit of low-fat dip
                                                            -sprinkle nutritional yeast on popcorn
                                                            -gazpacho -- even a small serving, chilled and veggie-full, can take the edge off
                                                            (example from yesterday: I blended 5 oz V8, 1 whole peeled cucumber, 1 cup mixed lettuce -- made a cup and a half of gazpacho/green smoothie, for about 60 cal total)

                                                            Go to firemountainbeads.com, order some cheap jewelrymaking supplies, and make some stocking stuffers. It's hard to munch while you're chasing tiny beads around. :)

                                                            1. Nicotine patch and toasted almonds.

                                                              1. I've quit smoking many times in my life & almost always gained weight each time -- sometimes more, sometimes less. The first time I gained a whopping 30 lbs. within 2 months. Ouch.

                                                                The next time I quit was when I moved to the US. Despite doing WW online AND working out 5-6 days a week, I could not lose those damn 15 lbs. I put on that time around.

                                                                I smoke *very* rarely now (maybe 1-2 cigs with booze at the occasional party or gig), but I usually regret it the next day - it absolutely kills my sinuses & makes me feel like crap.

                                                                I've recently lost a good 12-15 lbs. by eating smaller portions, *cutting out* snacking at night almost completely (trust me, that's where most of that weight gain comes from), and don't eat a lot of carbs these days -- I'm certainly not religious about it (had pasta twice in a row last week), but I've cut down on bread, sugar, pasta, rice, etc., and it seems to have made quite a difference.

                                                                If you *must* snack, I'd say go for full-fat cheese -- if you can control your intake, it's highly satisfying and satiating, or nuts.

                                                                The fat you're eating won't make you fat, but full. The carbs, otoh, will go straight to your hips.

                                                                Good luck, and keep at it.