35+ mix-and-match RD approved snack options with protein, carbs and fiber that will satisfy hunger in between meals.
After spending most of the last year inside, it is no surprise that snacking has become a more prominent part of each day. Whether out of boredom, stress or just plain hunger, people are turning to snacks more than ever before.
And since the word “snack” is synonymous with junk food, many people tend to think of snacking as a bad thing. But there are times when hunger strikes before you’re ready to prepare another full meal, and this is when the snack becomes important.
Yes, snacking is a healthy part of the diet. As a matter of fact, I encourage people to include snacks in their day to help them meet their nutrient needs and ward off hunger. But, there is a lot to consider when choosing a healthy snack that will keep you full throughout the day.
Is snacking healthy?
Simply put, yes. Having a snack between breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner can help curb your appetite and prevent overeating at meal time. Not to mention that snacks provide much needed energy for the brain. If you find yourself unable to focus because all you can think about is eating, then you may need a healthy snack.
There is no reason to force yourself to wait for the next true mealtime to eat. Honor your hunger cues and satisfy the need to have a snack mid-day.
The question around the “health” of snacking truly depends on the types of food you reach for in those times. Just like mealtime, certain foods are better to choose over others.
What makes a healthy snack?
There are two things to consider when choosing a snack. First, you want a snack that’s going to fill you up and curb your appetite. Second, the snack should also add nutrients into your day.
Protein, fiber and healthy fats are the three main nutrients that satisfy hunger. Most processed snacks are high in refined carbs with very little protein, fiber or healthy fats. That’s why they don’t fill you up and often contribute to weight gain.
For plant-based eaters, snacks can also help you reach your macronutrient goals during the day. If you aren’t able to get enough protein at mealtime, a snack can add more protein to your overall diet.
Are there a certain amount of calories to aim for in a healthy snack?
Although there is not a hard calorie limit on a snack, I recommend aiming for around 200-300 calories; this is enough to fill you up without making you too full. If a snack is closer to 500-600 calories, that can be a signal that it might be time for an actual meal to satisfy your hunger.
Something as easy as a handful of nuts will be enough (since it can provide a lot of calories in a smaller serving size), whereas other days you might need that plus pretzels and hummus. When choosing more calorie-dense options (like nuts), take a glance at the food label to understand the portion sizes.
For example, snacks that are high in healthy fats, like avocados or nuts, are smaller in portion sizes than protein rich snacks, like yogurt or hummus. One ounce of nuts equate to a small handful and usually contains about 200 calories.
Should snacking only happen at certain times of day?
Although there are more common times to snack (like between meals or late at night), there is no set time for when you can or cannot snack. The timing of your snack may vary day-to-day depending on your schedule, so focus more on what foods you’re eating rather than when you’re eating.
If you do snack at night, choose something that has protein. Not only will protein keep you full, it will help your muscles recover from a workout while they are at rest.
What are some healthy and filling snack ideas?
Mix and match from the protein, fiber and healthy fat options to build your snack. If you’re looking to grab something on the run, choose one option from the protein column.
Here are some protein options:
- Cheese stick
- Cottage cheese
- Peanut butter
- Greek yogurt
- Cashew butter
- Almond butter
- Bean dip
- Roasted chickpeas
Here are the fiber options:
- Bell peppers
- Whole grain bread or pita
- Whole grain crackers
Here are some healthy fat options:
- Cacao nibs
- Macadamia nuts
Here are some snack combinations to try:
- Pita bread, bell peppers and hummus
- Apple and peanut butter
- Cottage cheese and berries
- Greek yogurt, berries and granola
- Avocado on whole grain bread
- Banana and almond butter
- Guacamole, carrots and pita bread
- Trail mix with cacao nibs
- Roasted chickpeas and grapes
- Edamame and crackers
- Dates and almond butter
No matter what you choose as a snack, keep in mind that there is no right or wrong when it comes to snacking. You will want to choose a snack you will enjoy. It can help you feel more satisfied throughout the day and meet any nutrient goals you may otherwise be lacking.