Healthy snacks are essential for maintaining a balanced diet and optimal performance. Not only do they fill the gap between meals, but they can also provide quick sources of protein and essential nutrients to power you through the day.
Here are our top picks for healthy snack ideas!
Fruits are an ideal food choice due to their nutritional content. Not only are they high in fiber which aids with bowel health and blood sugar regulation, but they’re also packed with antioxidants which may help protect against disease.
Fruits also provide a wealth of vitamins and minerals. Furthermore, many have a low glycemic index as well as being relatively low in calories.
Although it’s best to limit added sugar intake, you can still enjoy a small piece of fruit occasionally for nutritional benefits and to help keep your blood sugar stable. Fruits contain natural sugars like fructose and glucose which have a low glycemic impact on blood sugar levels and help you feel satisfied for longer.
Eating fruits and vegetables daily can reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other illnesses. Plus they’re packed full of essential vitamins A, C and E as well as potassium and magnesium for maximum wellbeing.
As a general guideline, it’s recommended that you consume at least two servings of fruits daily. However, this number may differ based on your age, sexual preference and level of physical activity.
Nuts make for a nutritious snack, providing high amounts of protein, healthy fats, fibre and vitamins. Not only that but they may help regulate weight but they may also protect you against chronic illnesses like heart disease.
They provide an abundant supply of arginine and plant sterols, both beneficial for lowering blood pressure. Furthermore, they boast numerous antioxidants which promote health by decreasing inflammation within the body.
When eating nuts, be mindful of portion sizes as they can be quite calorically dense and may contain extra sugar or salt.
A serving of 30 grams – or a handful – of nuts is recommended as part of an adult’s healthy diet.
Nuts can be a nutritious and filling snack, but it is essential to select only healthy varieties. For instance, steer clear of salted or flavoured nuts that have been dry-roasted or toasted in the oven and are coated in fat or sugar.
Almonds, pistachios and walnuts are nutrient-rich nuts that can be included in a nutritious diet to support heart health by lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as protecting blood vessels.
Seeds are nutrient-rich, microbeads that provide essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Furthermore, they’re an excellent source of fiber and healthy monounsaturated fats; making them beneficial for weight loss, digestive health and blood sugar control.
Seeds consist of three primary parts: the embryo, seed coat and endosperm. The endosperm provides all essential nutrients for germinating and growing into a complete plant.
The seed coat is a protective covering that shields the embryo from environmental conditions that could hinder germination. Furthermore, this outer layer shields seeds from fungus and other pests which could harm them.
Many seeds, such as sunflower, hemp, chia, flax and sesame, are nutritionally dense and can be easily added to snacks or meals for a nutritious boost. Hemp, chia and flax seeds in particular are packed full of omega 3 fatty acids, fiber and protein – perfect for adding them to your snacks!
Eating a diet rich in whole grains has been linked to lower risks of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. Not only that: They also enhance digestive health, promote weight loss, fight inflammation and help regulate blood sugar levels.
When selecting whole grain snacks, read the nutrition label carefully and look for words such as “whole grain” or “whole wheat” at the beginning of the ingredient list.
But be wary: Many foods labeled as “whole grain” may actually contain refined grains, according to Keri Gans, RD and dietician in New York City. Examples of refined grains include breads, pastas, rices, breakfast cereals and tortillas.
Be wary of food labels that say “multi-grain” or “100 percent wheat.” These may not be whole grains and may contain added sugars.
Another way to identify a whole grain product is by checking for the “whole grain stamp” from the Whole Grains Council. These stickers can be found on thousands of products, and you can find more specific info about them on their website.
Whole grains provide numerous health benefits, not least of which being fiber which keeps you fuller for longer and supports healthy digestion. This prevents diverticulosis (an issue when pouches form in the colon wall and cause inflammation, constipation, diarrhea or pain). Furthermore, whole grains contain lactic acid which feeds beneficial bacteria in your large intestine and aids in better absorption of essential nutrients.
If you’re a fan of meat and looking for some delectable snack options, lean meat makes for an excellent option. Not only does it provide essential nutrients, but it can also keep you full until your next meal. Meat also has low fat content and provides ample amounts of protein.
Meat also contains essential vitamins and minerals that support good health. For instance, lean beef provides vitamins A, B6, C and E as well as zinc and iron.
Selecting lean meats is important to reduce your risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancer. When selecting cuts of meat, look for labels that say at least 90% lean. Furthermore, opt for organic or grass-fed options which typically have healthier fat profiles and antioxidant levels.
Cooking lean meats properly will keep them tender and juicy. You can do this by using a slow cooker, oven, smoker or pot.
If you’re looking for a protein-packed snack to take with you when traveling, jerky or bars are an ideal choice. These treats are minimally processed, made with quality meat sources, don’t contain added sugars, and taste satisfying.
Cheese is an incredibly nutrient-rich snack that can be used in many dishes. It pairs perfectly with various fruits, veggies and meats; plus its range of flavors makes creating nutritious snacks fun for everyone in your family a treat!
Cheese is packed with protein, essential for muscle growth and repair. Plus, its slower digestion rate compared to carbohydrates means you’ll stay fuller for longer.
Cheese has another health advantage as it contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which may reduce the risk of certain cancers. CLA also boosts immunity, improves bone health and decreases body fat.
However, be mindful that cheese is an incredibly energy-dense food; thus, it should be eaten alongside less calorically dense items like fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, keep in mind that cheese contains high levels of saturated fat which may have detrimental effects on heart health.
Finding the ideal cheese for you depends on your goals and dietary preferences. For instance, if you’re trying to build muscle and strengthen bones, look for a cheese that is rich in calcium. Conversely, if weight control is an issue for you, opt for cottage cheese or other low-fat options with controlled calories.
Carbs are an essential component of a balanced diet, providing sustained energy throughout the day. Unlike sugar which spikes and drops rapidly, carbs digest slowly, helping keep blood sugar levels under control.
Pasta is high in carbohydrates, but it also contains protein and fiber – helping you feel full for longer and reducing the likelihood of overeating. Plus, it’s packed full of essential minerals and vitamins like magnesium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, potassium, thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin.
Many pastas are made with whole wheat, which has numerous health benefits like decreasing the risk of stomach and colon cancer. Plus, it contains fewer calories than white pasta and provides more essential nutrients like vitamins B6, C, E and K.
Another advantage of pasta is its high resistance starch content, which aids fat burning and reduces body fat storage. This occurs due to the way pasta cooks down and cools, altering its carbohydrate structure. As a result, pasta acts more like fiber in the body, leading to lower glucose spikes and improved control over blood sugar levels.