14 Plant-Based Snacks For On-the-Go Nourishment
There's no denying that plant-based eating is all the rage these days. But despite its popularity, there is still widespread confusion surrounding what a plant-based diet actually is. While the nutrition and diet community has yet to come up with an agreed-upon definition, that shouldn't stop you from shopping for the best packaged plant-based snacks.
To make your life simpler (don't we all want that?) and so you can hop on the plant-based bandwagon immediately, we've put together an expert guide for how to shop for plant-based snacks along with 15 of our dietitian-approved favorite products.
What is a plant-based diet and why should you follow one?
Let us clear up the most common myth about plant-based diets right off the bat: following a plant-based diet does not mean you have to become a bonafide vegan.
While there's no clear definition, experts generally agree that a plant-based diet means you should simply focus on eating mostly plant foods and less processed sugar, refined grains, and meats. Yes, you can still eat meat!
Follow a plant-based diet, and your health wins. The health benefits of a plant-based diet include lowering blood pressure, risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and cognitive decline, and shrinking your waistline.
The minor problem with plant-based snacking.
While grabbing nature's original fast food (here's to you, bananas and apples!) is a cinch, running out the door with a head of broccoli or an ear of unshucked corn isn't so graceful. We all know that plant-based foods are extremely nutrient-dense, but there's no denying that taking the time to wash and prepare legumes, produce, and whole grains isn't as hassle-free as opening up a package of processed nacho cheese chips or a jerky stick. And this lack of convenience is why we often pass up wholesome, delicious, vegetarian foods in favor of their ultra-processed counterparts in the grocery store.
Luckily, food companies are making it easier to eat plant-based on the go. More brands are offering packaged plant-based snacks that provide a long-lasting boost of energy and are made with nutrient-dense, whole-food ingredients.
How do you shop for plant-based snacks in the grocery store?
At the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo 2019 (FNCE), many food brands showed off their best new plant-based products that make life in the herbivore lane even merrier.
Many of these brands recognize that while dubbing apples and other whole foods "plant-based" is easy, deciphering whether certain packaged foods are plant-based isn't always clear cut. As we mentioned earlier, no one has currently agreed on a definition for "plant-based," and there's no governing body ensuring that foods that claim to be "plant-based" meet certain criteria.
However, there are ways you can ensure that your food is plant-based.
Look for the Plant-Based Food Association (PBFA) seal. Most leading health experts would agree that if a plant-based food meets the conditions established by the PBFA, it's a good choice. If a packaged food sports the seal, you'll know:
- It's 100 percent free from animal ingredients (independently verified by a third-party organization)
- The food is made of plants
- It contains only up to 5 percent artificial additives, which still must be vegan but don't necessarily come from a plant
- Look for the Certified Vegan label. Although plant-based isn't synonymous with vegan, looking for this seal is a good guide for plant-based shopping. The vegan seal indicates a product doesn't contain animal products or byproducts and has not been tested on animals.
- Shop in the produce department. Of course, whole food fruits, veggies, and pulses are all fair game as plant-based snacks. There are also packaged plant-based snacks that are found in the produce aisle, like refrigerated protein bars, dried bean snacks, and bottled smoothies.
The best plant-based snacks to buy in the grocery store.
After tasting and learning more about the amazing companies producing plant-based packaged foods at FNCE, we're so excited to share our favorite 15 plant-based snacks for on-the-go eating.
Swipe right! Eating pulses (legumes) like chickpeas are one of the common lifestyle characteristics of people who live in the world's "Blue Zones": places where people often live to 100 and that are associated with longevity. A can of beans can get a little cumbersome in a gym bag, but luckily, you're not limited to that option when you want to get plant protein.
Sabra's convenient snack package is a delicious way to get a filling combination of protein and fiber from chickpeas, and a crunch from pretzels, to tide you over until your next meal. With 10 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber, you'll get more protein then you'd get in a 4-piece Chicken McNugget and five times more fiber. As a bonus, consuming this chickpea-based spread has benefits including reducing blood markers of inflammation, slashing heart disease risk and promoting the growth of good bacteria, while suppressing harmful bacteria.
If busy mornings have you banishing breakfast altogether, we have a plant-based solution for you. These single-serving oatmeal cups offer a nutritious combo of gluten-free whole grains, seeds, nuts, and fruit to help you power through your morning, animal (free) style.
Simply add hot water and you've got a portion-controlled, good source of protein (8 to 9 grams) and fiber (8 grams) to keep you satisfied for hours. The nuts and seeds will also give you a boost of iron (10-15 percent DV), which many people who avoid meat fall short in. The antioxidant-rich whole grain oats contain the soluble fiber beta-glucan, which has been shown to reduce LDL and total cholesterol, increase feelings of fullness and increase the growth of good bacteria in the digestive tract.
Whoa, easy potato chip lover! Sure, potatoes come from the ground, but potato chips are far from a score when it comes to plant-based snacks. Plant-based eating celebrates plant foods while reducing refined ones. (Sorry, but that potato has been stripped of its fiber and accessorized with a lot of fat and salt—it doesn't count.)
If you're craving something salty, these surprisingly tantalizing seaweed snacks will tame your cravings and leave you feeling light and satisfied with only 30 milligrams of sodium and 25 calories per serving. To put that in perspective: a serving of most snack chips contain approximately six times more calories plus a hefty dose of artery-clogging fat. For even more benefits, consider this: research shows that seaweed's natural fiber, alginate, may suppress fat digestion in the gut and contribute to weight loss. One study found that ingesting even a small amount of the seaweed fiber blocked fat absorption by a third.
You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to find a sweet snack bar that doesn't contain animal ingredients. But when it comes to finding one that isn't loaded with sugar, artificial sweeteners, and artery-clogging fat, having a PI badge is in order. Or, just heed our advice and pick up a KIND Nuts & Spices bars. With flavors like Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt and Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Pecan, this seemingly-indulgent snack is made with real ingredients like whole nuts and delicious spices.
Clocking in with only 5 grams of sugar or less in each bar and no artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols that can cause intestinal distress, you don't have to worry about bloat or tummy trouble. They're a needle in a plant-based stack of sweet snacks with most of their fat coming from good-for-you nuts. Plus, they're non-GMO and have the winning combination for long-lasting energy: protein (5-6 grams in each bar) and fiber (4-6 grams).
If you live for the o-live, and you secretly wish you could enjoy this food when you're standing on a subway platform or after a sweaty workout, plant-based life just got a bit sunnier for you. Olives To Go! are single-serve, liquid-free, easy-to-open cups of olives. Coming in varieties like Pitted Black, Pitted Kalamata, Pimiento Stuffed, Italian Herb, Taco and Sriracha, each cup ranges from 30 to 80 calories, depending on the flavor. Research shows olives have many health benefits, ranging from improved heart health to improved bone health and cancer prevention. Rich in the antioxidant oleuropein, which fights against free radical damage, olives are perfect for helping your muscles to recover more quickly after a vigorous workout, so toss a To-Go! cup in your gym bag.
If you want an easy way to transport this plant-based protein and healthy fat combo while not being tempted to eat an entire jar, this pre-portioned, on-the-go walnut butter will be your new PFF (Plant Friend Forever). It's made with raw nuts, rather than roasted nuts, so you don't have to worry about the healthy fat becoming oxidized, the nutrients being compromised, or harmful acrylamide being formed.
This organic nut butter is made mainly from walnuts, the omega-3 top dog of the nut world, so it packs an anti-inflammatory punch and has been shown to reduce the risk of some cancers and heart disease while supporting good brain function and weight control. Walnuts also have been found to increase the good bacteria in your gut, including bacteria that produce butyrate, a fat that promotes gut health and nourishes the gut.
Now that it's common knowledge that the gut microbiome plays a critical role in overall health, everyone seems to want to improve their digestive health, and without dairy products, getting some of the most common good-for-your-gut probiotics is more challenging. This organic, vegan-friendly probiotic drink solves that problem. It can be sipped on the go, sports 10 grams of protein in only 90 calories and is an easy way to boost your gut health with 10 live and active cultures per serving. If you're looking to balance the good-for-you bacteria in your digestive tract, boost your immune system or even possibly lose a few pounds and lift your mood, keep this in your fridge so you can grab it and go.
These portion-controlled, already shelled pistachios are quick, easy and convenient. Since you don't have to shell them, you can literally walk into your afternoon meeting as you munch. They're delicious with a satisfying crunch, a creamy texture and a rich flavor, but you don't have to worry about overdoing it, since they come in 110-calorie packs. Pistachios contain the better-for-you mono and polyunsaturated fat and provide a protein-fiber-fat trio to help keep you full longer. Their unique green and purple hues are a result of their lutein and anthocyanin content and their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities, like other powerful plants. If you want to mix it up, try the Chili Roasted or Honey Roasted varieties.
For those days when you need fuel, but you're just too busy to sit down and enjoy a meal, meet Huel. A plant-based meal in a bottle and an alternative to whey protein ready-to-drink meal replacements, this non-GMO drinks' main ingredient is pea protein, a top choice protein powder for vegans. Thanks to the pea protein, this 400-calorie meal sports 20 grams of satisfying protein, as well as iron. Pea protein is also a score if you're looking to lose a little weight because it may aid in weight loss, even when calories aren't restricted.
Unlike most beverages, HUEL contains 6 grams of gut-healthy soluble and insoluble fiber, in the form of oats and chicory, as well as flaxseeds, which are rich in the omega-3 fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid, and have been linked to reduced inflammation in the arteries, reduced cancer risk and reduced risk of stroke.
Beef Jerky, you've met your match. This baked tofu bar isn't your flavorless, unappealing messy block of tofu. Rather, this portable snack comes in tasty varieties like Orange Teriyaki and Hickory Smoke. With 5 grams of protein and only 60 calories bar, you can have two if you want and it will tide you over until your next meal. Unprocessed soy foods like those found in tofu, contain phytonutrients, plant sterols, and the isoflavones daidzein and genistein and may help lower cholesterol and improve fertility.
Moooove over dairy yogurt. Kite Hill's Greek Almond Yogurt sports 11 grams of protein, gut-friendly probiotics and sans the intestinal bloating, gas and discomfort that many people experience from dairy. While many non-dairy yogurt alternatives lack protein and calcium, Kite Hill is different. Made with almonds, this yogurt alternative provides 10 grams of protein and 10 percent of the daily value for calcium.
If you're trying to slip into your jeans more easily, look no further than Brami Lupini Beans. Think of these beans as a Mediterranean version of edamame (minus the soy), that are dreamy for weight loss hopefuls. These beans pack in a whopping 7 grams of satiating plant protein and 5 grams of filling fiber in only 60 calories. Plus, they have even more protein and fiber than any other pulse.
Just as plant-based eating is intended, these beans celebrate the whole food and offer benefits like helping to lower blood pressure, improve blood lipids and insulin sensitivity and even provide good-for-your gut prebiotics to favorably alter the gut microbiome. Keto diet devotees can even dig in because these beans have no net carbs.
13. Love Beets
If you're looking for an athletic win, start snacking on beets before a workout. Beets increase nitric oxide levels, which help blood vessels to dilate. This increases blood flow to the muscles during exercise and decreasing the amount of oxygen muscles need. As a result, muscles can work more efficiently and move faster. Beets can also improve lung function and strengthen muscle contraction for improved endurance and performance.
If you're looking for a tasty, unprocessed snack that contains a handful of simple ingredients, Go Raw has your back. Made with sprouted seeds (flax, sunflower, and sesame), you'll get a leg up on digestive health, as well as an extra boost of vitamins and minerals compared to conventional grains. With 5 grams of both satiating protein and fiber, you won't be hitting the vending machine an hour after eating.