Although snacks have gotten a bad reputation, they can be an important and healthy part of your day. Snacks can provide energy between meals or when you exercise. A healthy snack can help decrease your hunger and help you from overeating during meals. They can increase your healthy nutrient intake and actually improve the quality of your diet. Of course, we know that snacking on junk food can lead to weight gain and other health problems. Eating junk food can fill you up on foods devoid of much nutritional value and crowd out the healthy foods that can provide essential nutrients, help us feel more energized, and contribute to overall better systems functioning and wellbeing. Snacks can prevent extreme blood sugar dips and help stabilize your energy. Preparing snacks ahead of time can save you time, help you choose the healthy snack over grabbing a quick but unhealthy snack, and help you consume more nutrient dense foods throughout the day. Many quick snack foods available today are high in refined carbs and sugar, which can leave you feeling unsatisfied, cause blood sugar spikes and dips, and leave you craving more food.
Personally, I love my snacks and depend on them to help me sustain my energy and feel good throughout the day. I lean toward focusing on whole foods as much as possible. I also don't want them to take a lot of time, and they need to be ready to go. I find that it's easy to get into food "ruts" where I find myself bored from the same foods. In the spirit of inspiring some snack variety, or maybe bringing to mind some old favorites that you'd like to come back to, here are some of my current personal favorite quick fix snacks that are ready to grab whenever I need a pick me up.
1. Veggies and nut/seed butter
Veggies are my favorite for snacking but they’re not very high in protein on their own. You can increase your protein intake by pairing them your favorite nut or seed butter. I think I have tried just about every butter there is! There are so many good options, and of course you can also make your own. I’ve played with making my own but ultimately like to grab the already made versions to save time. There’s almond butter, cashew butter, and even the more exotic barukas nut butter for the nut lovers. Pumpkin seed butter is delicious, as well as tahini (sesame seed paste which I use just like nut/seed butter) and sunflower seed butter. So many good choices. You can also find single-serving nut butter packs at the store. Spread on some celery, use as a dip for carrots, or make your own veg/butter combo of yum.
2. Trail mix
Trail mix is often a combination of dried fruit and nuts that is sometimes combined with
chocolate bits and grains. It’s often a good source of protein but can be high in sugar depending on how much dried fruit is involved. I like to make my own style of trail mix by throwing together my favorite nuts, seeds, and a little dried fruit. When you batch make your own, you can tailor it to your tastes and dietary needs. I like to stick to unprocessed foods as much as possible, so I tend to stick with the basics. I like to make my own carob chips to throw in (one part carob powder, one part melted coconut oil then freeze until they set up—once set, break into chip chunks and keep in the fridge)
Tuna is loaded with protein and makes a very healthy and convenient snack. One cup contains an impressive 39 grams of protein.
Additionally, tuna is high in various other nutrients, such as B vitamins and selenium, and contains a considerable amount of omega 3 fatty acids. I love throwing it in with some veggies, putting on big romaine lettuce leaves for lettuce cups, and using as a dip for veggies. You can even grab the quick ready to eat pouches that have just the right amount.
4. No-bake energy bites
Energy bites are a delicious, high protein snack made by combining a variety of ingredients, such as nut butter, oats, and seeds, and then rolling them into balls or squares.
The best part about energy bites is that they don’t require baking. You can prepare a batch ahead so that you have a snack available when you need to grab one and go. They are like trail mix in little pre-portioned nibbles.
Here’s one quick recipe version: ⅔ cups Nut/Seed Butter, ¼ cup chocolate or carob chips, ¼ cup dried fruit, 1 cup Old Fashioned Oats, ½ cups Ground Flax Seeds, 2 Tablespoons Honey or alternate sweetener or skip it. Mix together and roll into 12 bites. Store in fridge.
5. Handful of nuts or seeds
Straight up. Easy. Filling. One ounce of almonds provides 6 grams of protein, in addition to high amounts of vitamin E, riboflavin, trace minerals, and healthy fats. I like to experiment with a variety of nuts as well to get in different nutrients and to keep it interesting. Brazil nuts, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, macadamia nuts, and my favorite special treat, Barukas nuts. One ounce of pumpkin seeds contains 5 grams of protein, as well as a significant amount of fiber, magnesium, zinc, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Furthermore, their protein and fiber contents make them a great snack to curb hunger until you’re able to eat a full meal. They can be eaten raw, or you can try roasting them with some spices.
6. Hummus and veggies
Hummus is made from cooked and mashed chickpeas that are blended with tahini or olive oil, then used as a dip or spread. You can very quickly make your own in the blender with a can of chickpeas and even experiment with different beans and seasonings. Don’t have tahini? You can skip it and still have a great dip. I like to throw in some lemon or lime juice as well and some seasonings like paprika, salt, and pepper. Dip your favorite veg or use as a salad dressing or sauce. Versatile and fab!
7. Fruit with nut butter
Yes, there’s a trend here with the nuts and butters. This time with fruit. Pears are my current favorites, but you can choose your own adventure here. Oranges, berries, bananas, apples – easy, portable, healthy, and combined with nut/seed butter gives you the protein boost and additional nutrients to go with it. Don’t like them with butters? Just add the handful of nuts from above to help fill you up and keep blood sugar stable.
8. Canned salmon
Like the tuna, canned salmon is an excellent high protein snack that you can take with you wherever you go. There are even handy pouches for even easier snacking. Just 1 ounce provides 8 grams of protein and high amounts of a few other nutrients, including niacin, vitamin B12, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids.
You can eat canned salmon on its own or add some extra flavor with a little bit of seasoning like salt and pepper. It’s great when paired with crackers (you can make your own here also but I haven’t tried this yet), homemade bread, or chopped veggies.
9. Chia pudding
I love my chia pudding. Sometimes it’s my breakfast, sometimes a snack, sometimes dessert. In addition to being high in protein, it’s delicious and healthy.
There are 4 grams of protein in 1 ounce of chia seeds, and they provide some other nutrients, such as calcium, phosphorus, and manganese as well as high omega-3 fatty acid content.
To make chia pudding, soak 3 tablespoons chia seeds in ½ cup of your favorite milk for a few hours or overnight until it achieves a pudding-like consistency. If you don’t have that long, even 15 minutes will give you a nice pudding. Then add flavorings like vanilla and cocoa powder, berries or cinnamon, coconut flakes or nuts and seeds. Endless options to make your version for what sounds good in the moment. One of my favorite ways to chia is a smoothie bowl – the chia thickens the smoothie to a scoopable consistency, and you end up with a real treat.
10. Lentil salad
A lentil salad is a great snack. It’s highly nutritious and a great source of protein. In fact, 1 cup provides 18 grams of protein, along with high amounts of iron, folate, and manganese. Lentils also have a good amount of fiber which helps fill you up.
To make lentil salad, combine cooked lentils with chopped veggies, spices, and a dressing of your choice. It tastes great when topped with a simple balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
11. Overnight oatmeal
Overnight oatmeal is easy to make, portable, and nutritious.
Oats are high in protein and loaded with many vitamins and minerals including fiber. The protein and fiber can help fill you up.
To make overnight oatmeal, mix a 1/2 cup of your choice of milk with 1/2 cup of oats. For extra flavor, add some nut butter, fruit, cinnamon or chia seeds. A bunch of recurring rock stars! Place in a covered jar in the fridge overnight, and it’ll be ready to grab and go as a healthy snack the next day.
The bottom line
Healthy ready to eat snacks are important to have around when hunger hits between meals, as they keep you full and satisfied. There are plenty of healthy and portable options that you can enjoy even when you’re crunched for time. Did any of these inspire your snacking routine? Some old favorites that you'd forgotten about?