Snacking between meals not only helps keep blood sugar and energy levels stable throughout the day, but it also provides an opportunity to fill nutrient gaps in your diet. (And sometimes it just becomes a great way to break up the monotony of workday hours, right?) Snacking smart means being knowledgeable of appropriate portion sizes as well as pairing nutrients to maximize satiety.
An important snack tip: mix proteins/fat with carbohydrates to combine quickly available nutrients with others that are more lasting and satiating. This will also give you a variety of macronutrients and micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. A few examples of these pairings: roasted nuts with dried fruit, raw carrots with hummus, or apple slices with cheese.
These common snacks and popular pairings will satisfy cravings, provide high-quality nutrients, and keep your appetite happy until the next meal rolls around. In general, try to think of “snacks” (noun), instead of “snacking” (verb) — which often means grazing instead of mindfully choosing healthy foods and pairing nutrients to keep you satisfied.
Nuts (raw or roasted) are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, healthy fats, and protein.
Serving size: One ounce. Or in real-people numbers, it’s ~ 1/4 cup:
- 24 almonds
- 18 cashews
- 35 peanuts (of note: peanuts are not a tree nut; they’re technically legumes)
- 12 hazelnuts
- 19 pecan halves
- 14 walnut halves
- 49 pistachios
Dried fruit is an easy way to satisfy the sweet tooth, and sometimes more convenient way to get in a serving of fruit. But beware of added sugars and flavors! Go for pure, simple, just dried or dehydrated.
Serving size: ~¼ cup, but may vary by fruit type (e.g. it’s hard to get ¼ cup of those big dried mango strips). Check nutrition labels.
Dips (e.g. hummus, nut butter, dressings) can be an added protein or fat to complement starchy chips, crackers, fruits, or low-calorie/high-fiber raw vegetables. Go for bean, nut, or oil-based options like hummus, nut butter, pesto, or vinaigrettes.
Serving size: Two tablespoons for most. If you don’t have a measuring spoon, use an actual spoon; it’s generally the same size. Again, check nutrition labels for specific brands.
Tortilla or potato chips aren’t a generally healthy snack, but they’re popular go-tos. If you’re craving a salty crunch and these present themselves, at least be aware of how to stick to one serving!
Serving size: About ten to 15 chips (depending on size). Yep, that’s it! Again, check nutrition labels on the package for more accurate counts by product type.
Cheese is another good source of protein and fat to pair with starchy snacks such as fruit, wraps, or crackers. Softer cheeses (e.g. feta), also a good source of protein, are generally lower in fat and calories.
Serving size: One ounce. An easy way to eyeball this: compare to the size of four rolling dice.
Popcorn is an excellent high-fiber, light and airy snack that could be paired with chopped raw or roasted nuts (remember, protein/fat + starch!). On its own, popcorn can be a healthy option, but processed and packaged options may have a lot of added things to be conscious of. Pop your own for a naturally low-calorie, high-nutrient, no-added-stuff option.
Serving Size: Three cups popped.
Experiment with snacks to see what fills you up!