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. Below are a few of our favorites.
Thank you to Nazirber De La Cruz, RD, Grace Farren, RD and Cynthia Miranda, RD for their insight and keeping me posted on all the coolest snack foods. 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 for a healthy snack. They are high in protein, fiber, and good-for-you fats to help fill you up and keep you satisfied 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. If you choose to buy natural peanut butters, try storing your jar upside before opening for the first time. The oil will naturally separate and storing it upside down will help to disperse the oil throughout to make stirring easier. After opening, store your jar in the fridge to prevent the oil from rising back 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 jar in my fridge
6. SunButter - This is great for those with nut allergies. It is made from sunflower seeds and tastes great!
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’s Path Organic Granola
Nature Valley Granola Crunch
Gorp Energy Bar These are the best! The come in resealable wrappers to save for later. This are my go-to bar to bring on the chairlift. This company also makes an energy bar mix to make your own at home.
You may notice numbers 2 and 3 are higher in sugar. However, they're made with only 4-6 whole food ingredients so these are natural sugars not added sugar. 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!)
Seapoint Farms Dry Roasted Edamame or Frozen Edamame (they taste different, try both!)
Biena Snacks Roasted Chickpeas - LOVE these! easy high protein snack
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! Their drinkable yogurts are great too.
*Disclaimer: I am NOT affiliated the brands listed above. 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.