You most likely enjoy a snack in between meals. However, the snack can do much more than add flavor to your day. Snacks, when chosen carefully, can help you receive critical nutrients, satisfy hunger, and stay energized and focused throughout the day. Recognizing what constitutes a healthy snack and learning some examples might help you improve your snacking routine.
How to Select a Healthy Snack
There is no universal suggestion for how many snacks to consume each day. However, snacks, in general, should be smaller than meals and comprised of nutrient-dense foods low in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium.
It’s also a good idea to choose snacks containing various food categories. This way, you’ll get more than one macronutrient (protein, carbohydrate, and fat) and fiber, vitamins, and minerals. For example, a cup of strawberries with a hard-boiled egg provides fiber, nutritious carbs, vitamin C, potassium, protein, and a little fat to keep you energized and satiated.
Healthy Snack Options
Snacking accounts for over 30% of Americans’ daily calorie intake. Many of these snacks are high in calories while being low in nutrients.4 Although highly processed snacks such as chips, cookies, muffins, candy, and sweet drinks are widely available, they rarely satisfy hunger, leading to overeating, weight gain, and other health issues.
On the other hand, eating healthy meals with protein, fiber, and whole grains has been shown in studies to boost satisfaction and diet quality.
Try these 10 healthy, filling snack ideas to help you stay energized throughout the day.
Yogurt and Berries
Yogurt is high in protein, calcium, and potassium. Many yogurts also contain probiotics, which are beneficial gut bacteria. Look for yogurts with beneficial bacteria, such as Lactobacillus bulgaricus or Streptococcus thermophilus.
Berries are a good source of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
The combination of yogurt and berries is unusual because it is supposed to affect health synergistically. The two provide more health benefits when consumed together than when eaten separately. Yogurt and berries are both related with:
- Weight gain has been reduced.
- Reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Better gut health
When avoiding or limiting processed or added sugars in foods, fresh berries to yogurt can also add naturally sweetened flavors.
Popcorn and Nuts
Popcorn is a fantastic snack since it contains fiber and provides a larger quantity for fewer calories; 3-4 cups of popcorn include the same calories as 15 potato chips.
You’ll receive more fiber, minerals, and healthy (unsaturated) fats if combined with a few unsalted or mildly salted nuts or seeds.
You can serve the popcorn alongside the following:
- Almonds Pistachios
- Cauliflower seeds
- Seeds of sunflower
With calories in mind, the combo snack should consist primarily of popcorn with only a few almonds or seeds.
Fruit and roasted beans
If you’ve never tried roasted chickpeas, broad beans, or edamame, you should. The savory nibbles paired with fruit such as grapes or mandarin oranges provide a terrific portable snack that is sweet, salty, and crunchy all at the same time.
Beans are high in soluble fiber, which slows digestion and keeps you satisfied for longer. Soluble fiber also aids in managing cholesterol and blood sugar levels, which can help manage or prevent type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Whole Grain Crackers and Cheese
The combination of crackers and cheese is an easy on-the-go snack, but watch how much you use. Individually wrapped cheeses are pre-portioned for you and easily transported in a purse or backpack.
Read the nutrition label and seek whole wheat or whole-grain flour as the first ingredient when selecting whole-grain crackers. Then, divide the number of crackers listed as one serving into equal parts.
Vegetables and Hummus
For a light yet satisfying snack, combine a variety of veggies such as baby carrots, celery sticks, sliced cucumber, sugar snap peas, and sliced bell peppers with 1 to 2 tablespoons of hummus.
The fiber and vitamins in the vegetables and the healthful fat, carbs, and protein in the hummus can improve nutrition while keeping you satisfied until your next meal.
Apple Slices With Peanut Butter
Apples are high in fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants. Peanut butter contains healthful (unsaturated) lipids, vitamin E, and magnesium. It’s a naturally sweet and filling snack combo that will satisfy you.
Whole-Grain Cereal With Milk and Fruit
This fantastic snack is high in nutritious carbohydrates, protein, and fiber. In addition, whole-grain cereal with milk and fruit is also high in vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, and vitamins B, C, and D.
Cereal has a reputation for being highly processed, but this is entirely dependent on the variety. Search for grains that:
- Are low in added sugars
- Contain dietary fiber
- List whole wheat, oats, quinoa, or whole grain blend as the first ingredient on the nutrition label
- List 100% Whole Grain on the package
Fruit with Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is high in minerals such as protein, calcium, and vitamin B12. In addition, the fruit provides natural sweetness, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals.
Combine cottage cheese with tomatoes and cucumbers or leftover roasted veggies for a tasty between-meal snack if you prefer savory to sweet.
Hard-Boiled Egg and Cherry Tomatoes
This combination is ideal for when you need a quick snack. For example, you can swiftly wash a cup of cherry tomatoes and peel an egg at home, in the car, or at work.
Eggs are high in protein, choline, vitamin D and B12, and antioxidants, to mention a few. Tomatoes will provide fiber, vitamins A and C, and antioxidants to a quick snack to satiate an empty stomach.
Avocado on Whole Grain Toast
When making toast, choose bread with few added sugars and made from whole grains. For a heart-healthy, brain-healthy snack, mash some avocado, stir in salsa and lime juice, and spread on top of whole grain toast.
Bread’s entire grains supply fiber and B vitamins. Avocados’ healthful fats are essential for heart and brain health in the long run and a full stomach in the short run.
Tips for Healthy Snacking
To make healthy snacking more accessible, use these suggestions and strategies.
Plan Ahead of Your Grocery Store Trip
Before you go to the grocery store or order online, consider what healthy snacks you’d like to have on hand for the coming week, make a shopping list of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and proteins to keep in the fridge, freezer, and pantry.
Meal planning has been found in studies to promote dietary diversity and diet quality. Food planning ahead of time has also been linked to decreased body weight.
Eating before your shopping excursion should be part of your preparations. According to research, going food shopping while hungry can lead to purchasing higher-calorie meals.
Prepare Your Snacks in Advance
Wash and cut fresh fruits and vegetables once you’ve loaded your kitchen with snack foods. After that, could you place them in reusable containers? Preparing snacks in bulk ahead of time makes it easy to choose a nutritious snack at home or when you’re on your way out the door and need an on-the-go snack.
Combine Food Groups
You’ll obtain a broader range of nutrients from your snack if you combine foods from two or more dietary categories. For example, instead of just almonds or a piece of fruit, combine smaller amounts to get a wider variety of nutrients and better absorption.
Fill a bowl or plate with your snack. Eating directly from a package or large container may result in overeating. Start with the serving size on the nutrition label to figure out how much to eat. Another helpful method is to buy single-serving snacks such as popcorn, nuts, and carrots with hummus.
Use these graphics to measure one portion of fruits and vegetables:
- A baseball is the size of one cup of chopped raw fruits or vegetables.
- A tennis ball is the size of one medium apple or orange.
- A golf ball or a tiny handful of dried fruit or nuts equals a one quarter cup.
- Four huge leaves (Romaine lettuce) constitute one cup of lettuce.
- A computer mouse is one medium baked potato.
Distracted eating is often less gratifying and can lead to eating more than necessary. Stop what you’re doing and concentrate on the scent, taste, and enjoyment of the snack for a few minutes.
The Advantages of Healthy Snacks
There is disagreement over whether it is healthier to consume snacks in between meals or simply eat meals. One thing is certain: the type of snacks is important.
Highly processed snacks are linked to weight gain, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Choosing healthy snacks, on the other hand, can have numerous advantages.
If you have a mid-afternoon energy dip, a healthy snack with carbohydrates and protein can deliver nutrients to help you power through the rest of the day. Snacks might also provide you with an energy boost before or after you exercise.
Excessive hunger can lead to overeating at lunchtime for some people, so a nutritious snack between meals may help reduce hunger and prevent overeating later. In one trial, a high-protein soy snack not only reduced hunger but also enhanced mood and cognition in adolescents.
Another small study discovered that mixing protein and carbohydrates reduced appetite and daily calorie intake.
Enhances Diet Quality
Diet quality refers to the variety and quantity of nutrients obtained from foods that promote overall health. Although more research is needed, some studies show that healthy snacks can provide important nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein that would otherwise be lacking if not snacking or eating only highly processed snacks.
Aids in Weight Management
Snacking has been linked to weight growth and weight loss. What you nibble on can make or break your day. Snacking may be a valuable weight control tool if you choose nutritious foods that boost your energy levels and help you stay full longer.
Learn more: How to Make Vegetable Galettes