From the mid-morning munchies to the afternoon crash, we all get snack cravings. And when hunger strikes, it’s tempting to reach for something sweet like cookies or candy. These sugary treats may be convenient, but they’re high in calories and low in nutrition. The "empty calories" also won’t help you feel full for very long. Plus, too much sugar can increase your risk for diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
If you’re going to snack, the key is to snack smarter. Whether you’re packing for a picnic in the park or heading out to visit friends and family, you may want to prepare a healthy snack for the road ahead. At home or on the go, try these options for a tasty and healthy fix.
Eating more fiber can help lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes,1 and can help keep you full longer.2
High-fiber foods include fresh fruits (pears, strawberries, apples, oranges) and vegetables (carrots, broccoli, beets, cauliflower). Try a fruit or vegetable medley for an easy snack at home or on the go. Simply mix slices of apples and oranges with some sweet cherries. Or combine carrot sticks with broccoli and cauliflower heads. You can be as creative as you like.
Beans are another excellent source of fiber. A single cup of canned chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) is half of your daily recommended dietary fiber.3 Try roast chickpeas with seasonings for a healthy snack. Chickpeas are also in hummus, which is a healthy substitute to rich dressings or dips.
Spiced edamame is another option. One cup has 8 grams of fiber.4 Steam them in the microwave and add chili powder or pepper flakes for extra flavor. Or you can try edamame hummus for a healthy dip.
Foods that absorb water
Known as hydrophilic foods, water-absorbent foods contain a powerful ingredient called soluble fiber. When you eat them, the fiber slows down your body’s processing of carbohydrates. In other words, you’ll feel full longer.
Chia seeds are a great option. You can sprinkle them on anything from yogurt to salads. You can even make a matcha coconut chia pudding for a midday snack.
Other choices include oranges, pears, barley, and, yes, chickpeas.
Seaweed is very nutritious, with lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.5 Plus, the crunchy texture makes it a great substitute for potato chips. Get creative and try a hand-held snack like teriyaki tofu musubi.
Roasted vegetables are another chip replacement. Kale chips are the most popular, but you can also try okra or Brussels sprouts to create a crispy and healthy snack.
Protein is an important building block for your body. Every cell uses it to rebuild and make new cells.6 Protein-rich foods are not only nutritious but can help curb your hunger.
Greek yogurt is a convenient snack, and it has twice the protein as regular yogurt.7 It’s also nutritious, with calcium, phosphorus, and probiotics. You can eat Greek yogurt with your favorite berries and honey for an antioxidant boost. Or add flaxseeds — rich in omega-3s, antioxidants, and fiber — and chia seeds. A strawberry, yogurt, and granola parfait is a great snack, too.
Peanut butter and other nut butters are good sources of protein and are easy to turn into tasty snacks. You can eat them with sliced apples, carrots or celery sticks, and whole-wheat crackers. For an easy snack, try making no-bake energy bites. Mix your favorite nut butter with granola, flaxseeds, honey, oats, or whatever you like! Or, for a pre- or post-workout snack, try a banana nut butter crunch.
Another high-protein food is cottage cheese — one cup has about 25 grams of protein.8 You can eat it on its own or add fruits and nuts for a sweet and savory mix. Cottage cheese is very versatile and can also be the base for a delicious kale dip.
The key to healthy snacking
While some people prefer to stick to 3 meals a day and avoid snacking altogether, you never know when you might need a healthy snack. Set yourself up for success by stocking your home with nutritious foods. That way, when cravings strike, you can grab something healthy. For more ideas on good-for-you foods, look to our Food for Health recipe blog.