It's great when we have the time to plan ahead with homemade snacks, but when we're juggling crazy schedules, and last minute things come up, it's not always realistic. Choosing packaged products can be challenging as many are loaded with excessive sodium, saturated fat, and sugar. Although none of these ingredients are the end all be all (see 3 Reasons to Stop Hating Sugar), too much of each has been linked with many chronic diseases. Although they aren't worth obsessing over, they are things to keep in mind when reading nutrition labels.
When reading nutrition labels, there are a few things to look for. If a certain brand does not meet each guideline listed below, that does not mean you should not buy it. Use your best judgement to determine if it seems more like a treat food or something you would consider a healthy snack (What is 'healthy' anyways?).
Even when foods are labeled healthy, natural, no added sugar, low sugar, low fat, low calorie, etc. - they're not always what we expect, so be sure to read labels and find what's important to you.
Here are a few guidelines when choosing healthy snack brands:
1. Simple Ingredients
2. 3+ grams/serving of fiber
3. 4+ grams/serving of protein
4. Less than 8g of sugar
5. Less than ~200mg sodium
6. No artificial sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame)
Thankfully, there are plenty of 'healthy' options to choose from. I asked a few of my dietitian friends from across the country what they love to snack on. Here are a few of our faves.
A huge thank you to Nazirber De La Cruz, RD, Grace Farren, RD and Cynthia Miranda, RD (here too) for their awesome insight and keeping me posted on all the coolest snack food trends. Their ideas are scattered throughout this post. Be sure to check them out on Instagram for more food and nutrition inspiration- the girls are geniuses!
Nuts & Nut Butters
Nuts are a great option - high in protein, fiber, and good-for-you fats to help fill you up and keep you full until your next meal. I usually buy nuts in the bulk section and choose raw with either no salt or lightly salted. If you buy in bulk you can portion out a 1/4 cup serving in reusable containers or ziploc bags to grab when you need it. When buying nut butters, read the ingredients. I prefer it to read just nuts and possibly salt. Many brands have extra added sugars and oils which, to me, aren't necessary for a good peanut butter. For natural peanut butters, try storing your jar upside before opening for the first time. This helps spread the oil throughout to make stirring it easier. After opening, storing your jar in the fridge will prevent the oil from rising to the top.
1. Artisana Organics Nut Butters
If someone in your family has a peanut allergy - this brand has a ton of options! They have almond butter, cashew butter, and pecan butter all available in squeeze pouches.
2. Justin's Almond Butter & Peanut Butter Squeeze Pouches
3. Wild Friends Classic Peanut Butter (also available in squeeze pouches)
4. Brazil Nuts - amazing source of magnesium!
5. Adam's Natural Peanut Butter - this is what I have near me, I ALWAYS have a huge jar in my fridge
There are SO many granola brands these days! Keep in mind fiber (at least 3g) and sugar (less than 8g) when choosing a brand.
- Love Grown Granola
- WholeMe Single Serv Granola
- Purely Elizabeth Granola
- Bear Naked Granola
- Nature Valley Granola Crunch
- Kashi bars
You may notice the first 2 are quite high in sugar. However, they're made with only 4-6 whole food ingredients. They're also a great source of fiber and protein, which can help to slow the digestion of sugars in our bloodstream, to maintain stable energy, moods, and fullness.
- KiiNOA Puffed Quinoa Snacks (Grace says cinnamon is the best!)
- Nutterly Single Serve Cookie Snaps (I wish I could get these near me!)
- Seapoint Farms Dry Roasted Edamame or Frozen Edamame (they taste different, try both!)
- Biena Snacks Roasted Chickpeas - LOVE these! easy high protein snack
- Larabar Bites
- Fruit Bliss Dried Fruit Snack Packs
I love the apricots and figs. I also buy dried fruit in the bulk section, just be sure to read the ingredients, sugar should not be listed, fruit is naturally sweet!
- Boom Chicka Pop popcorn
- Skinny Pop popcorn
- Sabra Hummus Snack Cups
- siggi's dairy Icelandic-style Skyr - more protein than sugar! I love their drinkable yogurts too.
*Disclaimer: I am NOT affiliated with any brands. I included Amazon links for the image and more information on each product. The links are affiliate links so if you do choose to purchase, I do receive a small compensation from Amazon. However, I only link to brands I truly support and recommend.