Small Meals That Pack a Nutritional Punch

Are you someone who prefers to eat smaller meals throughout the day, but find yourself feeling hungry all the time? Or, maybe you’re short on time and need quick and easy ideas to throw together. This post contains 20+ small meals that pack a nutritional punch -nutrient-dense and higher in protein and fiber to keep you fuller for a longer period of time.

A picture of a Greek yogurt parfait and a picture of the cucumber, feta and bean salad for small meals that pack a nutritional punch featured image.

Sometimes, when you’re in the thick of motherhood, there’s only time for quick, small meals. These ideas would also be helpful for those who have a poor appetite or get full very quickly.

This post was actually a request from a teacher friend of mine who prefers to eat small meals throughout the day, but often complains that she’s still hungry. I said to her “well that’s probably because you’re not eating enough” or at least not focusing on the right macronutrient composition. So, I have tried to come up with ideas that will help to fill in nutritional gaps and stave off hunger til the next small meal!

Benefits of Small Meals Throughout the Day

There are some potential benefits to consuming small meals throughout the day, but will depend on various factors – like the powerful combination of protein and fiber. Both nutrients help to slow down the digestion of our food, which may result in reduced hunger cravings and overall lower caloric intake.

With the right macronutrient composition, small meals may improve satiety, reduce hunger levels, balance blood sugar, and reduce indigestion.

Some studies suggest that small, frequent meals can assist with weight loss and maintenance.

The key to small meals is to have a number of ideas up your sleeve that you can 1) easily throw together or 2) meal prep in advance for quick and easy options.

Examples of Small Meals

It should be substantial, nutrient-dense, and yet the right balance of calories depending on individualized goals. For most women, I would say a small meal consists of 350 calories or less.

1. Greek Yogurt Parfait

Greek yogurt in a glass topped with chopped nuts and fresh fruit on a counter.

Greek yogurt contains 15 grams of protein per 1/2 cup serving and is relatively low in calories. Increase the fiber content by adding some fresh fruit on top (raspberries contain 8 grams of fiber per serving) or sprinkling on chia seeds.

Healthy fats like chopped walnuts or sliced almonds add some nice crunch while also providing some additional protein and fiber. Cottage cheese is a great substitute as well, with a similar nutritional profile to yogurt.

For a dairy-free option, try a higher protein dairy-free yogurt like Kite Hill Greek-Style Yogurt.

2. Hard-Boiled Eggs with Whole Wheat Crackers

A hard-boiled egg provides about 6 grams of protein and is an easy, portable option for a small meal. Add in some whole wheat, high fiber crackers and a side of fresh fruit.

You could even combine hard-boiled eggs with 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt for an egg salad option that contains over 20 grams of protein.

3. Hummus and Cottage Cheese Flatbread Wrap

The cottage cheese flatbread is going viral on TikTok – for good reason! Just one wrap contains at least 15 grams of protein and only 80 calories (depending on the size). It’s versatile enough to dip into hummus or make a small wrap.

Use it to replace a traditional pita bread and fill it with options like tuna salad, chicken salad, slices of deli meat, or just dip it into hummus. Be sure to add some veggies in there, too!

To make the cottage cheese flatbread: blend 3/4 cup of cottage cheese in a blender with 1 egg. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder (or Everything But the Bagel Seasoning). Pour the mixture onto parchment paper that has been greased, and bake at 375 degrees F for 30-40 minutes. Watch it closely because it does burn easily! Let it cool before peeling it off the parchment paper.

4. Nut Butter Sandwich

Sometimes it can be as simple as making a nut butter sandwich, as nuts are packed with antioxidants, protein and fiber. Compare food labels to find a higher fiber bread. There are even lower calorie, higher fiber options available.

5. Egg Bites

3 egg white bites stacked on top of each other on a plate. the top one with a bite taken out of it.

A super easy, high protein option? These baked veggie egg white bites (Haute & Healthy Living) with 62 calories and 7g protein per each bite! All you need is a muffin tin and it’s easy to store the leftovers in the freezer for up to 3 months.

To increase the fiber content of this small meal, pair it with fruit and veggie-packed smoothie, sliced fruit, or a slice of high fiber bread.

Another option is something like these healthy pesto egg breakfast sandwiches which have 20 grams of protein and only 326 calories. Plus, you can make a bunch and store them in the freezer for a quick grab-and-go breakfast.

6. Cucumber, Chickpea and Feta Salad

Diced cucumbers, feta cheese, and garbanzo beans in a bowl on the counter.

One of my favorite combinations is diced cucumbers, 3/4 cup of chickpeas and feta cheese with just a light vinaigrette dressing (usually I do olive oil and vinegar). Add in some Barilla Protein Plus noodles for some extra protein and to make it even more filling. Top with chopped walnuts – again, for some texture and protein/fiber!

7. Protein Smoothie

A thick and creamy pineapple protein smoothie with kombucha in a glass with two straws in it.

It’s hard to deny the convenience of a quick smoothie, although they are digested more quickly since all ingredients are broken down. Greek yogurt, cottage cheese and protein powder with the additions of chia seeds and fresh fruit make for an easy smoothie packed with nutrition.

Smoothie Ideas for Inspiration:
Dark Cherry Cottage Cheese Smoothie; 245 calories, 15g protein, 6g fiber.
Pineapple Protein Kombucha Smoothie; 287 calories, 20g protein, 3g fiber. This smoothie incorporates kombucha to also increase the composition of your gut (while masking the taste of it).
Strawberry Protein Smoothie (Feel Good Foodie); 309 calories, 21g protein, 4g fiber.

8. Avocado Toast

Spread some avocado on a high fiber piece of bread. Top with seasonings of choice and mashed chickpeas for added protein and fiber. You could even dice up some leftover chicken as well or top with smoked salmon. A super easy option to throw together on a busy day.

9. Lentil Salad

Lentil salad with chopped walnuts and bell peppers in a glass storage container.

Lentils are a nutrient-packed, plant-based protein source. They’re also high in fiber!

Try something like this Lentil Salad from Two Peas & Their Pod as it’s lower in calories, with 10 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber! Plus, it’s easy to batch cook and have prepared for one of your small meals for a few days.

10. Protein Energy Bites

A couple of these No Bake Energy Bites from Gimme Some Oven could make for a healthy and nutritious small meal. With whole grains like oats, protein from the peanut butter, and omega-3 fatty acids and fiber from the chia seeds and flaxseeds.

11. Protein-Packed Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad

Basically, this is just adding Greek yogurt in replace of mayo when preparing chicken or tuna salad. Eat with a high fiber wrap or whole wheat crackers and pair with a side of veggies! The Greek yogurt adds some additional protein and calcium but still maintains the “small meal” principle.

12. Chia Seed Pudding or Chia Breakfast Bowl

A close-up of a chia breakfast bowl on a yellow and white striped towel.

This chia breakfast bowl contains 22 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber. It is on the higher side at 400 calories, but it’s super easy to meal prep the night before.

This 4-ingredient chia seed pudding recipe from Real Food Whole Life is just 297 calories, and 30 grams of protein with the addition of protein powder!

13. Broth Based Soup

Soup is the perfect vessel for a nutrient-packed small meal. While mostly broth, it’s easy to throw in antioxidant-packed veggies and fiber sources like beans and legumes.

Soup Ideas to Try:
White Bean Soup (Nora Cooks)
Chicken Vegetable Soup (Dinner at the Zoo)

14. Adult Lunchables

4 high protein and fiber adult lunchables on a kitchen counter.

Adult lunchables are essentially putting together nutrient-dense, lower calorie options in a Bento Box – which usually amounts to a lower calorie small meal. Even if it’s just cheese, crackers, raw veggies and sliced turkey!

I usually recommend at least 20 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber for a well-balanced lunchable. An example would be:

  • 6 cracker cut salami slices (120 calories, 6g protein)
  • Baby Bel Cheese (60 calories, 4g protein)
  • 6 100% Whole Grain Triscuit Crackers (120 calories, 3g fiber, 3g protein)
  • Raw veggies (about 2-3g fiber)
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt + Everything But the Bagel Seasoning + garlic powder (90 calories, 15g protein)

Check out my guide on how to make high protein and fiber adult lunchables for more options.

15. Salad

A well thought out salad can be very filling with the addition of protein sources, like chicken, shrimp, or hard-boiled eggs. They’re the quintessential high volume, low calorie meal – packed with veggies. It could be as simple as buying a salad kit from the store, topping with rotisserie chicken, and only using half the dressing packet or making your own homemade dressing.

Meal-prep friendly salad ideas to try:
Thai Chopped Salad (Nourished by Nic)
Fresh and Healthy Meal Prep Salads (Ambitious Kitchen)

16. Fruit and/or Veggies & Greek Yogurt Dip

Will this idea keep you really full? Probably not. But it’s nutrient-dense and packed with protein.

All you have to do is get creative and come up with your own Greek yogurt dip – either sweet or savory – with flavors that you love. Pair with raw veggies or fruit to dip in it. Sprinkle the yogurt with hemp hearts or chia seeds for some healthy fats and fiber.

I often take just a 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt and add some Everything But the Bagel Seasoning in it for a quick and tasty dip.

You could also make a high protein taco dip, like this cottage cheese taco dip I created (that’s just like a 7-layer dip with black beans).

A cottage cheese taco dip topped with sliced olives and green onions on a cutting board with tortilla chips.

17. Veggie Edamame Bowl

For a delicious plant-based protein bowl, just microwave some frozen veggies with edamame and toss with an Asian-style dressing. Even incorporate 1/4-1/2 cup of quinoa (or use microwaveable packets) for a more well-balanced meal.

18. Black Bean Quesadilla

A black bean quesadilla, quartered, and stack on top of each other on a plate.

Select a high fiber tortilla (like Mission Low Carb Tortillas, which are only 80 calories) and add some black beans and cheese for a quick, low calorie and nutritious small meal option. Serve with a side of avocado or guacamole for some healthy fat and additional vitamins and minerals.

Leftover or rotisserie chicken? Dice it up and throw it in, too!

19. Turkey Lettuce Wraps

Turn your romaine lettuce into a wrap and add in some chicken or low sodium deli turkey, cheese, beans and avocado for extra fiber!

20. A Bowl of Cereal

You can’t beat the convenience of a bowl of cereal – and there are many choices that are high in protein and/or fiber. For example, shredded wheat contains 8 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein per serving. Add some protein powder to you milk and you have a healthy, well-balanced breakfast (that could still be considered a small meal).

There are many high protein and fiber cereals available which you could top with fresh berries and fruit or eat with protein sources like milk or Greek yogurt.

Read more about the best breakfast cereals.

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