Editor’s Note: This post was written by our healthy living contributor, Heather Caplan, R.D., a registered dietitian from healthy living destination Spright, which offers simple, helpful everyday eating and fitness guides.
It’s easy to give snacks a bad rap with the plethora of manufactured food products lining convenience-store shelves, ready for you to grab quickly and eat on the go. Packaged chips, crackers, candies, and even bottled smoothie drinks are accessible without needing to give them much thought. These often provide little to no nutritional value, and will rarely actually satisfy whatever need you are looking to meet. Instead, they provide relatively empty calories that add up quickly—but still leave a lot to be desired, sending you on the hunt for more snacks!
We know that even crispy kale doesn’t have quite the same satisfying crunch as a fried potato, but you can get all the same flavors with a lot less saturated fat and starch. Bake your own, or let someone else figure out the baking and flavoring for you. DIY your own with OSG’s 6 tips for flawless kale chips.
Brad's Raw Crunchy Kale Naked Chips ($7)
If you’ve ever checked the ingredient list on gummy candy, you’ll see one thing first: sugar. And then sometimes more sugar in another form. There’s nothing else to list, really, and definitely nothing nutritionally redeemable—it's just pure sugar, flavored with something, molded into some shape. I love gummy bears, but I’m not about to argue that they have any nutritional value whatsoever. Dried fruit is often pure sugar as well, but it’s natural sugar (or should be*) and comes with a side of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Obvious win. DIY your own with a Nesco Snackmaker Dehydrator.
*There are also many dried fruits with added sugars, which is usually indicated in the name of the product (e.g. "sweetened dried mangoes"), and/or on the ingredient list. Always check!
Nature's All Foods Organic Freeze Dried Apples ($5)
It’s easy to find trail mix that includes chocolate, or chocolate candies, and salted nuts, which is essentially peanut M&Ms, right? The argument could be made, but the health benefits of these sorts of mixes vary widely. Making your own trail mix is easy, and it ensures you get more healthy fats and nutrients, with less sugar and less of whatever the many other things found on the candy ingredient lists are (probably not things in your pantry). You can find healthy trail mixes on the shelves, too, if you’re in a rush. Try a few of my favorite healthy trail mix recipes.
Trader Joe's Omega Trek Mix ($12)
While it’s refreshing to see healthier snack bar options like Larabar-Uber or Pure bars hitting the shelves, the healthiest option is still to go with something fresh. Nut butter is easy to make on your own, but not all of us have high-powered blenders or that much patience, so store-bought natural options work, too. (Think: very short ingredient lists that include the nut—peanut, almond, etc.—and maybe salt.) And when can you go wrong with fresh fruit? Never. Slice up an apple, pear, banana, celery, or carrots, and dip in 1-2 tbsp. of natural nut or seed butters for a healthier snack that’s also pretty easy to pack up. Learn about how to make your own nut butter.
Maranatha Organic Creamy Peanut Butter ($9)
Tortilla chips are far from the least healthy snack option, but they’re not much other than a vehicle for salsa or guacamole. Nutritionally, their profile is similar to that of potato chips: fried in fat and salty. Popcorn can provide the same satisfying salty crunch with more fiber and fewer overall calories per serving. To add in some healthy fats, mix the popcorn with some chopped or sliced nuts or a side of trail mix. Make your own popcorn with a coconut and lemon twist.
Good Health Half Naked Popcorn ($5)
Greek yogurt is high in protein, and its neutral-tasting base allows you so much freedom and creativity. To mimic your ice cream craving, throw in a few fresh fruits along with honey or maple syrup for extra sweetness. Leave it in the freezer for about 15 to 30 minutes to get a cold chill and a partial freeze. Remove it from the freezer and finish up with more of your favorite toppings. Try this yummy recipe for Greek yogurt drops.
Siggi's Icelandic Style Skyr Strained Non-Fat Plain Yogurt ($21 for 12)
Time is often of the essence when it comes to snacks, so it’s tempting to go with conveniently pre-packaged foods. But that doesn’t have to mean unhealthy options! Take our picks and use them as a guide—either for new things to try, or what you should be looking for on ingredient lists and nutrition labels. If you’re up for experimenting, make your own, and you’ll realize how simple healthy snacking can be!
Visit Spright for more healthy everyday eating and fitness tips.
What healthy snacks have you tried and liked? Tell us below.
Opening photo: Jennifer Medhurst