Snacks can definitely be a part of a good diet and can even help you lose weight, but only if you snack on healthful food.  A snack is really just a mini-meal, something to stave off hunger until your next meal.  Very often I notice that people think of snack time as dessert time, or a junk food break.  It’s no wonder if you have seen what is labeled “snack food” these days:  fruit roll-ups, popsicles, cookies, chips, candy power bars.  Please!  Have you noticed that kids who eat these foods keeping saying “I’m still hungry.” Most “snack foods” tend to be processed, packaged, refined and devoid of any nutritional value.   It’s not real food.  I say we can do better.

Whether you’re at work and trying to make it to lunchtime without feeling weak, or you’re feeding your kids something after school because they’re “starving,” here are a few tips on how to come up with a high-quality snack:

  • Include Protein:  foods rich in protein (this doesn’t only mean animal protein) stabilize blood sugar and trigger satiety better than any other kind of food.  Protein can mean meat or fish, whole dairy, nuts, seeds, legumes and beans.
  • Never Eat Simple Carb Snack:  Carbs that aren’t paired with fiber or protein are digested too quickly and lead to spikes in blood sugar levels.  When blood sugar drops, you’re looking for quick energy to help bring it back up again.  It’s a vicious cycle.  Look for complex carbs containing protein, fiber and even high-quality fat.
  • Add Some Fiber:  Fiber is usually found in whole foods and will fill you up without being fattening.
  • Keep Sugar Low:  This is true of all meals, but particularly true for snacks since there’s nothing else to buffer the sugar from rushing through the bloodstream.
Think outside the box when coming up with snacks for yourself or the kids.  There’s no reason a small portion of last night’s dinner can’t be a good snack.  The other day I took a leftover chicken and vegetable kabob, chopped it up and turned it into a quesadilla for a quick after-school snack.  One of my favorite mini-meals is a cup of soup or stew from the night before.  Here are some other ideas that I rely on regularly, many of which can be taken “to go”:
  • unsweetened whole yogurt and granola
  • unsweetened whole yogurt and “faux granola” — top yogurt with unsweetened shredded coconut, chopped nuts, dried or fresh fruit and raw cacao nibs (my favorite)
  • veggies or whole grain pita bread and hummus or other bean dip
  • edamame
  • fruit and yogurt smoothie
  • apples or bananas and nut butter; sometimes I add a spoonful of granola for crunch.
  • whole grain muffins (see recipes for date-sweetened banana, zucchini-blueberry, pumpkin)
  • whole grain pancakes with fruit
  • whole grain toast with almond butter and honey
  • whole grain toast with avocado and sliced tomatoes or smoked salmon
  • homemade granola bars
  • stovetop popcorn
  • half of a sandwich
  • quesadilla (try a “pizza quesadilla” with tomato sauce and mozzarella between two whole grain tortillas, add leftover veggies if you have them)
  • sushi handroll — take a sheet of toasted nori, add cooked rice, avocado, cucumber, leftover fish or chicken from dinner, sprinkle with a few drops of rice vinegar and roll up
  • guacamole and baked tortilla chips
  • homemade nachos — take baked tortilla chips and layer with diced tomato, canned black beans or refried beans, grated cheese and broil until melted.  Dollop with guacamole.
  • do-it-yourself trail mix — my kids make their own with pecans or almonds, dried fruit and dark chocolate chips
  • whole roasted sweet potato or yam with a dollop of unsweetened yogurt (don’t knock it ’til you try it)
  • smaller portions of breakfast, lunch or leftover dinner!

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12 Comments

  1. To add to your great list:
    Tortilla with a little cream cheese, turkey, and a bit of jam (I like Mark & Stephen’s from grow because there is no sugar and they make unique flavors).
    Cottage cheese with fruit (kind of sweet and savory)
    GROW salsa with brown rice. (Salsa has black beans and avocado in it)

    • Salsa at GROW is awesome! Why did I not think of putting salsa on top of brown rice? I would totally love that!

  2. Recently I have had some health issues and I am so delighted with your website and suggestions for keeping me on the right road to recovery. Love the snack list!! Thanks.

    Jeanette

    • Thanks Jeanette. Planning your diet around whole unprocessed foods is one of the best things you can for yourself. Please stay in touch!

  3. Omg, this list is making me hungry–such great yummy ideas, as always, Pamela! The yogurt and granola, homemade fruit smoothies, and stovetop popcorn are favorites here at our house. We also enjoy plain old-fashioned hardboiled eggs (I keep ’em stocked in my fridge), and ever-so-simple cheese melted on whole grain crackers–Ak-Mak or the like. As you noted, protein and some nutritious fats are the way to go. Thanks for the new ideas!

    • Hard boiled eggs are perfect and I love that you always have them around. Good thinking! Thank you~

  4. These ideas are fantastic and I’m so inspired to get away from the packaged junk. I love the “faux” granola! One homemade snack that my kids really like is the english muffin or bagel pizza. I’ll try it with whole wheat next time. Thank you so much

    • Ah, the english muffin pizza takes me back. I probably ate those several times each week as a kid!

  5. I posted a similar list like this at GROW last week. We don’t have many processed things and parents have to be creative… like the items on your list. It really does make a HUGE difference, though. I forgot about guacamole 🙂

    • You hit the nail on the head. It’s really about getting a little creative, but not making too much work for ourselves, either. The small effort is TOTALLY worth it! Let me know if Grow has any great snack suggestions.

  6. Where were you when my kids were growing up??? They’re 20 & 17 now and I really could’ve used all these tips. Thank goodness they’re not overweight!!! You’ve helped me tremendously. Thank You! Thank You!

    • I was in college! As you know, it’s never too late to start eating (and snacking) well. Enjoy!


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