Healthy Snack Foods Dietitians Say You Should Be Eating
Yes, you should eat snacks. Despite popular dieting beliefs, eating a snack can be a great way to enhance your overall health goals and help you maintain or even lose weight. How is that possible? By treating your snack like a small meal rather than mindlessly snacking on a bowl of chips, you'll get more satisfaction from your snack that will keep you feeling full until your next main meal.
"Snacks are an important part of a healthy, varied diet," says Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RDN of Bucket List Tummy. "Firstly, they help bridge the gap between meals and allow individuals to not go too long without eating, which can help with energy levels, balancing blood sugar, cravings, and prevent overeating at meals. Snacks are also a great opportunity to add in extra nutrients that may be lacking in meals."
It's all about choosing the right type of snack to enjoy. Ensuring that your snack contains the main elements of a meal that help you feeling full—protein, fiber, and fat—your body will feel nourished and satisfied, and you won't feel the need to reach for the chip bag while you're cooking dinner.
We spoke with a few registered dietitians to determine some healthy snack foods to stock up on for moments when you're starting to feel hungry. Here are the snacks they recommend—and for even more meal ideas, be sure to check out our list of 100 Easiest Recipes You Can Make.
Yogurt with Honey
"Low sugar, high protein yogurt with a drizzle of honey makes for a good snack because of the protein and beneficial probiotics found in the yogurt," says Maggie Michalczyk, RDN from Once Upon a Pumpkin. "The protein will help you feel fuller for longer and the probiotics are beneficial bacteria that our gut needs for optimal health. I recommend topping your yogurt with honey for an even more gut-friendly and delicious snack because honey may function as prebiotics, which is essentially food for the good bacteria (aka probiotics in the gut)."
Speaking of the gut, here's The Best Way to Eat for Your Microbiome and Improve Gut Health.
Fruit & Nut Butter
"Fruit contains fiber plus beneficial vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants," Michalczyk says. "Pairing it with unsweetened nut butter can help make this snack more satiating thanks to the healthy fat and protein in the nut butter. Most fruits and nut butter can be very portable, which is great for taking on the go. My favorite combinations include blueberries and almond butter or banana and peanut butter."
"In terms of snacks, I like those with heart-healthy fat, protein, and fiber. Trail mix is one of my favorites," Jinan Banna, PhD, RD says. "I often feel like something sweet as a snack, but I choose sweet snacks with fiber and other nutrients to keep me full."
Make it yourself with our Quick and Easy Macadamia Nut and Pepita Trail Mix Recipe!
"Hummus is the perfect snack, as it contains protein and fiber as well as vitamins and minerals. There are so many ways I enjoy it," Lisa Young, PhD, RDN says. "I love hummus and whole-grain crackers, or hummus and red peppers or carrots, and roasted chickpeas."
Not a fan of hummus? Roasted chickpeas could be the answer!
"Chickpeas are a good source of plant-based protein and fiber—two things important for satiety," Michalczyk says. "Roasting gives them a nice crunch, and you can season them with nearly any combination of spice for a good flavor. Another plus is that chickpeas are very budget-friendly and available at nearly every grocery store. Drain and dry the chickpeas well before roasting at 400 degrees for 25 minutes with avocado oil and spice of your choice."
"[A] chia pudding snack has less than 200 calories," says Shannon Henry, RD from EZCare Clinic. "Chia seeds are full of fiber and can be added in all types of diets as well, as they are high in antioxidants that help to reduce inflammation and improve heart health."
Prep a few jars of chia pudding by using our Customizable Overnight Chia Pudding. Top with nuts and fruit to give it some extra flavor!
Nuts & Seeds
"Nuts and seeds are full of healthy fats and fiber that help keep you full for longer," Young says. "Adding nuts and seeds to your diet is a great way to boost your intake of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids (walnuts, flax seeds) that can benefit the heart, brain, and skin. They also contain the antioxidant vitamin E."
"Energy bites make the perfect grab-and-go snack," says Mackenzie Burgess, RDN, and recipe developer at Cheerful Choices. "I love how they provide a healthy balance of fiber and plant-based protein to provide long-lasting energy. Skip the store-bought stuff and make your own customizable bites. Add rolled oats alongside nut butter and add-ins of your choice like mini chocolate chips, raisins, or coconut flakes."
"Dark chocolate is a great option for [a] snack," Henry says. "It contains flavanols compounds that can reduce blood pressure and prevent heart diseases."
While dark chocolate can be a delicious (and nutritious) treat to have, without other elements to your snack, it won't feel as filling. You can easily turn this sweet treat into a snack by pairing it with something else, such as these Dark Chocolate Dipped Bananas or Dark Chocolate-Covered Almond Clusters.
When in doubt, always look for protein & fiber.
"The key to a good snack is having a high fiber carbohydrate and protein to give you energy and help keep your blood sugar steady," says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook. "Some of the best snack examples are cheese and whole-grain crackers, Greek yogurt and fruit, and peanut butter on whole-grain bread. All are satisfying, blood sugar-stabilizing, and nourishing. If you are looking for an all-in snack on the go, go with almonds or pistachios. High in fiber and protein, they are a snack in one."
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