Healthy snacks are important for both children and adults. Eating nutritious snacks can help you stay energized during the day, and help keep you from overeating at regular mealtimes or resorting to junk foods when hunger strikes. You can also use a healthy snack to bolster your nutritional intake over the course of your day.
"You should think of a quick snack as a mini-meal,” advises Debra J. Johnston, RD registered dietitian and director of nutrition services at Remuda Ranch, a treatment program for eating disorders in Wickenburg, Ariz. “A healthy snack is a great opportunity to add the fruits, vegetables, fiber, protein, and dairy that you need in your diet. Mix your food groups and avoid unhealthy fats to snack smart."
10 Easy Snack Ideas
Here are healthy snack ideas that draw from different food groups to provide a good nutritional balance:
1. Up your dairy and fiber intake by mixing a 6-ounce container of plain, non-fat, Greek-style yogurt with 1/2 cup of berries and 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed, says Lanah J. Brennan, RD, a registered dietitian in Lafayette, La., and a nutrition blogger.
2. Make your own trail mix. Start with raw almonds, chopped walnuts, and pistachios — look for nuts without added salt or oil. Then add raisins or dried blueberries and cranberries; again, be sure to look for those without added sugar.
3. Mix 1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese with 1/2 cup of no-sugar-added applesauce and sprinkle with cinnamon for a tasty dairy and fruit combination.
4. Dip sliced cucumbers, radishes, and grape tomatoes in hummus. You can substitute raw carrots or any other favorite vegetable for a great high-fiber snack.
5. One of the best healthy snacks is popcorn, says Johnston. It’s low in calories and provides good dietary fiber. For variety, try spraying popcorn with low-fat, olive oil-based cooking spray instead of adding butter.
6. An old snack favorite that combines dairy, vegetables, and protein is “bugs on a log.” Spread peanut butter on a celery stick and then sprinkle with raisins or dried cranberries for a nutritious mini-meal.
7. Another quick and healthy snack is a half sandwich. Use whole-wheat bread and layer on some lean meat such as turkey for protein, a slice of cheese for dairy, and lettuce and tomato for vegetables.
8. For a snack you can carry in your pocket, a bag of toasted almonds can give you a quick boost that is loaded with protein, healthy fat, and fiber, advises Joan Salge Blake, MS, a registered dietitian and clinical assistant professor of nutrition at Boston University.
9. Healthy snacks can come from the freezer aisle, too. Frozen cubes of mango make a delicious snack. "Tropical fruit doesn't have to be just for vacation," says Blake. Frozen grapes and banana chunks are tasty, too.
10. Salsa is a great vegetable snack. One-half cup of salsa equals one vegetable serving. For a tasty salsa dipper, try whole-grain crackers.
Healthy snacks are not just a way to curb hunger during the day. A quick and easy snack can also be an opportunity to stick to your overall nutrition plan. "All foods can fit into a healthy meal plan when we incorporate balance, variety, and moderation," says Johnston.