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Years ago while kicking my cigarette habit, I chowed down like crazy on carrot and celery sticks to keep from gaining all those pounds so often put on by ex-smokers. This worked so well, I pretty much continued on with slimming snacks to keep unwanted fat at bay. In addition to low calories, these snacks had the advantage of being healthier and less expensive than the highly processed snacks laced with sugar, salt, and chemicals I had consumed when less enlightened.

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All these years later those celery and carrot sticks are still at the top of the low-calorie, low cost snack pyramid. Right up there with them are cucumbers spears and tiny grape tomatoes. All four veges, in plastic bags, make good travel companions.

Equally good low cost, slimming travelers among fruits are whole apples, pears and plums along with chunks of refreshing watermelon, cantaloupe and pineapple sealed in plastic containers.

Apple slices, sprinkled with cinnamon, a few cloves and a little sugar make both a yummy snack and desert. Boil this combo with a little water till the apples soften and you’ve got a delicious quick bite to store in the fridge for days.

For snacks with more gusto (and a few more calories), combine apple slices with paper thin shavings of Romano cheese. And when you’re absolutely starving, a few dried apricots should fill the bill nicely. Packed with vitamins, plump, and intensely flavored, the dried apricots I currently eat are from Turkey and in no way related to those rock hard, flavorless apricots I remember from my youth.

Yogurt in 32-oz tubs is the most economical size you can buy. The low fat, plain flavor has the least amount of calories, but it’s a little too dull for my taste. For a visually appealing snack and dessert treat, I like vanilla yogurt combined with berries. For a straight snack I usually eat about four tablespoons of strawberry or vanana yogurt (a fabulous Trader Joe marriage of vanilla and bananas). For variety, a few tablespoons of low fat cottage cheese will also keep you on the straight and narrow slimming path.

Calorie counts – which varies from list to list – can be odd in other ways too. One list tells me a raw egg is 15 calories. Boil that egg and it’s 75 calories. Big difference, considering nothing was added to it except a little fire. I always keep a few hard-boiled eggs in the fridge ready to be gobbled down when serious hunger pangs strike out of the blue. A big fan of eggs as a powerhouse protein source, I wrote about their versatility in Cheap Rich Proteins

In the carb department, the square imported rice cakes I find in dollar stores and grocery stores in more ethnic neighborhoods are both cheaper and lower in calories than their flavored American counterparts.

Instead of consuming it as a breakfast cereal, I snack on puffed wheat at all hours. Extremely low calorie, it has a nutty flavor and satisfying crunchy texture. It also costs way less if bought in a health food store, instead of a super market cereal aisle. Popcorn that you pop yourself is another satisfying crunchy. Unsalted, a cup is 30 calories. For a big splurge, when you want to go crazy and say the heck with those 25 extra calories, sprinkle your popcorn with salt, plump up your couch pillows and munch to your heart’s content while enjoying the latest movie or newest, over-the-top reality show.

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