Snacking can be the ultimate sanity saver. How else are we supposed to keep our energy levels up between marathon meetings, errands, exercise, and social engagements?
Of course, nutritionally-speaking, not all snacks are created equal; there are a few key things nutritionists say to keep in mind when it comes to picking the most satisfying, energizing, and nutrient-rich snacks. We chatted with Samantha Cassetty, MS, RDN, to learn more about what kinds of snacks are best for your brain and body, and get a few recommendations for the best healthy snacks that you might want to consider stocking up on next time you’re in need of a nosh.
How to pick the best healthy snacks, according to a registered dietitian
1. Pick snacks with whole food ingredients.
As Cassetty—and every other nutrition expert or medical professional—will tell you, snacks with whole food ingredients rather than processed ingredients are the healthiest to keep on hand. “For example, if you crave a good baked good, pick one with whole wheat, chickpea, or almond flour instead of refined white flour,” Cassetty says. These options will contain more protein and fiber than all-purpose and other forms of refined flour, which means they provide your body with more heart-healthy, satisfying nutrients.
Cassetty is a big fan of Quinn Whole Grain Sea Salt Pretzel Twists, which are made with whole-grain sorghum and brown rice flours, both of which are naturally gluten-free. Another hit? Seapoint Farms Dry Roasted Edamame, which has just two simple ingredients: soybeans and sea salt. We also love Festive Chickpeas, whose dried chickpeas contain zero preservatives, and are also non-GMO, soy-free, and are 100 percent vegan. Other great nut options come from Daily Crunch Snacks, a superfood infused sprouted nut snack that is non-GMO and women-owned. If popcorn is more your scene, try the delicious offerings from Pipcorn or Love Corn.
For breakfast, we recommend Yishi’s line of organic, Asian-inspired oatmeal. Flavors include Toasted Black Sesame, Taro Bubble Tea, Matcha Latte, Red Bean Berry, and Sweet Osmanthus, and all are gluten-free, plant-based, dairy-free, and organic with zero added sugar.
2. Find snacks with low amounts of added sugar.
Snacks that contain excessive amounts of added sugar (such as soda, pastries, and candy) are considered less nutrient-dense than those that contain zero sugar or naturally-occurring sugars, such as fruit. In product categories that offer an overwhelming number of options—think bars, cereal, and yogurt—Cassetty suggests that you check nutrition labels to find the ones that have fewer grams of added sugar higher amounts of protein and fiber.
Snack bars are the perfect example: Rather than reaching for options that are (basically) candy in disguise, try the That’s It. Fruit Bars, which contain nothing but real fruit. That makes this a sweet-tasting snack without any added sugar, which is an important attribute when gauging a snack’s healthfulness. Kind Bars, R.E.D.D. Bars, and RXBars are three other nutrient-rich options that taste delicious. If you’re looking for more fruit-forward snacks, check out Solely; their line of fruit jerky is totally free from added sugars.
3. Be sure your snacks offer some nutritional value.
“Snacking should be enjoyable, but it’s also a chance to supply your body with nourishing fuel,” Cassetty says. “Protein and fiber are, again, two important nutrients that help manage hunger, while healthy carbs provide you with even energy. And if you’re exclusively plant-based, you may also want to look for snacks fortified with nutrients that may be lacking on a plant-based diet, such as omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, iron, vitamin B-12, and protein.”
To that end, Cassetty says that ones of the best healthy snacks you can reach for is a simple handful of walnuts, which are high in the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid ALA. Walnuts also contain four grams of protein, two grams of fiber, and are a good source of magnesium, a mineral connected with healthy sleep. Another good option comes in the form of Jack & Annie’s jackfruit-based frozen nuggets. Jackfruit is a good source of fiber, protein, potassium, iron, and calcium, and has a deliciously meaty texture.
4. Opt for snacks without artificial ingredients, like sweeteners and preservatives.
The best healthy snacks, according to Cassetty, tend to be free from artificial sweeteners and preservatives. “These ingredients are a sign that your snack is heavily-processed, so it’s best to limit snacks with them.” A delicious snack made from whole food ingredients, Cassetty recommends, is Siete’s Cashew Queso Dip in Mild Nacho. “Even if you aren’t exclusively plant-based, this queso will win you over,” Cassetty says, “It’s filled with wholesome ingredients, like cashews, carrots, tomatoes, and bell peppers, and it doesn’t contain anything artificial or any gums or thickeners.” Try dipping some cut veggies, tortilla chips, or try the plant-based crackers from Ancient Provisions or Forager Project’s leafy green chips.
Have a sweet tooth? We still got you. Check out CADO Deep Dark Chocolate Avocado Frozen Dessert, which tastes decadent yet, according to Cassetty, has a “more reasonable amount of sugar for ice cream.” The first ingredient is pureed avocado, which is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Alternatively, you could reach for low sugar yogurt, like those from Icelandic Provisions. Their lineup of creamy skyr has up to 15 or more grams of protein per serving and no artificial sweeteners or preservatives. Some of our plant-based favorites include Siggi’s Plant-Based Vanilla-Cinnamon Yogurt and Dahlicious’ almond-based varieties.
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