Snacking can certainly be healthy. It’s simply a matter of being smart and strategic about your choices and timing. “The keys to a healthy and satisfying snack are protein and fiber,” explains Jo Bartell, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., head of coaching at Rise, an app that pairs users with personal nutrition coaches for healthy eating guidance and advice. “Both of these work to keep you feeling satisfied between meals so you’ll feel less inclined to graze throughout the day and less starving come your next real meal, which can lead to overeating.”
Bartell also mentioned that incorporating small snacks between meals is an easy way to add more nutrients to your diet by “sneaking in” different healthy foods that you might otherwise miss out on. “As a general rule, snacks should be 150 to 250 calories,” Bartell added. And she suggests choosing foods and food combos that have less than 12 grams of fat, three or more grams of fiber and five or more grams of protein. To help give you an idea of what fits this criteria, Bartell offered the following healthy snack ideas.
Bartell suggests pairing 1/2 cup cottage cheese with 1/2 cup berries, like blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and/or raspberries. “Cottage cheese is a super underrated food that is both versatile and jam-packed with protein,” she said. “For a sweet snack, it goes well with high-fiber and antioxidant-rich berries.”
Made with chickpeas and tahini and olive oil, Bartell said hummus offers plant-based protein and heart-healthy fats, both of which digest slowly to help keep you feeling satisfied. “Think out of the box with colorful veggie dippers,” she added. “More variety and color in the veggies means more beneficial vitamins and minerals.” Bartell suggests carrots, radish, jicama, celery, bell pepper, broccoli or endive leaves as nutritious “dipper” options. Measure out three tablespoons of hummus for a healthy snack serving size.
Bartell suggests pairing two slices of turkey each rolled around one ounce of cheese with a few lettuce leaves and tomato slices. “Turkey slices and cheese will be flavorful and packed with protein to fuel the afternoon while the lettuce and tomato are a good way to sneak in more veggies and add fiber,” she explained.
“Corn tortillas are whole grain and high in fiber, which is always a better choice than flour tortillas,” Bartell said. “Avocado adds heart-healthy monounsaturated fat that works to lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol.” She suggests rolling two corn tortillas each with two tablespoons of mashed avocado plus tomato and cucumber slices. “Also, oftentimes the fiber and protein content of avocados are overlooked, but they’re rich in both," Bartell added. “Add tomatoes and cucumbers for more nutrient-packed veggies and a satisfying crunch.”
For a quick and simple snack, top a brown rice cake with one tablespoon of almond butter (or your favorite nut butter), sliced strawberries and a sprinkle of cinnamon. “Eating whole grains throughout the day is important, especially if those whole grains are replacing their white, or refined, counterparts,” Bartell said. “The fiber-filled rice cakes will combine perfectly with vitamin-C-packed strawberries and healthy fat from protein-rich nut butter for a super satisfying snack.”
“Dark chocolate is not only delicious but it’s a great source of antioxidants called polyphenols and flavonoids that may decrease your risk for heart disease,” Bartell said. “But calories add up, so choosing individually portioned dark chocolate squares will help with portion control.” For a snack-sized serving she suggests doling out two squares of 70 percent dark chocolate and a small handful of raw almonds (about 15). “Almonds are rich in calcium, which is great for bones, and vitamin E, which is amazing for skin,” she added.
“Fruits covered in skin, like pears, are great sources of filling fiber,” Bartell said. “When paired with high-protein cheese, they make a great snack.” She suggests a serving size of one piece of fruit with a small amount of cheese, like mini Babybel, which comes in a pre-portioned package.
Drizzle olive oil over three cups of air-popped popcorn and then sprinkle it with Parmesan cheese and black pepper. “Popcorn counts as a fiber-filled whole grain and a whole three to four cup serving, which is pretty large, only sets you back about 120 calories,” Bartell said. “The high-bulk and low-calorie nature of popcorn makes it a filling and satisfying snack.”
“Crispbread crackers are packed with whole grains and fiber, plus they are great vehicles for many healthy toppings,” Bartell said. “Topping these with a sliced hard-boiled egg will add high-quality protein along with tons of vitamins and minerals.” She suggests a serving size of one or two egg-topped crispbreads (e.g. from Wasa) sprinkled with cayenne pepper or curry powder and says extra points are added for including sliced veggies, too.
Bartell suggests pairing 1/2 of a small cantaloupe with 1/2 cup shelled sunflower seeds. “Melon is a great choice because it’s sweet and packed with water, which means fewer calories for more volume and hydration,” she said “Cantaloupe is also a great source of beta-carotene, and sunflower seeds are packed with nutrients like healthy fat and protein and they are full of magnesium. Plus, keeping the shells on the seeds will help slow down how fast you eat them.”