In times of comfort snacking, there are plenty of fulfilling options that are actually good for you.
Need snacks? Suddenly, a whole lot of people are working from home or not working at all, and being asked to limit their time outside. Which means we have entered an uncharted era of … snacking. Whether from stress or boredom or a general need for comfort, snacking has become a surprise entry into the strange zeitgeist of our pandemic times.
Snacking is not a new phenomenon, but historically snacks were natural foods that needed little or no preparation – things like grapes, figs and apples. Fast-forward to 19th-century America, and snacks shifted from good things to commercial foods rife with sugar and salt. Nowadays, many commercial snack foods are, basically, an abomination of refined ingredients and artificial trans-fats that have little nutritive value, but a lot of health risks.
That said, healthy snacks are great. And by eating a little bit every three or four hours, snacks can help stabilize blood sugar levels and keep you from getting too hungry. (All of which you can read more about here: 8 rules for the perfect snack.) So with all of that in mind, we present a long list of our favorite healthy snacks.
Ants on a log
This may be a kid favorite, but really, few things are more satisfying than crunchy celery, salty peanut butter, and sweet chewy fruit. Bonus points for fiber, protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants.
Ants on a log, cheese edition
You can also mix up the ants by swapping in a soft cheese – like your favorite nut cheese, goat cheese, or cream cheese – and trying different kinds of dried fruit.
Apple and cheese
This classing pairing is classic for a reason, it’s quenching and delicious, and provides a little savory decadence to the “apple a day” routine. Plus, apples store well so it is easy to always have some on hand.
Apple and nut butter
Another classic way to amp up an apple: Add nut butter. My grandmother used to core the apple, stuff it with crunchy peanut butter, and then slice the apple crosswise in rings so that the discs had a creamy center. So good! But the stacking method has great potential as well.
Avocado toast: It’s not just for Millenials! This Generation Xer has been eating avocado toast since long before the Millennial era began, and for good reason. It is perfection. For the fun size version above, try it with crackers. For a previous story on getting more fiber, I wrote about the GG Scandinavian fiber crispbreads shown here. The sunflower seed version has 3 grams of fiber per cracker. Per calorie, it has much more fiber than whole wheat bread and much fewer net carbs. The avocado cracker snack above has around 11 grams of fiber for about 170 calories.
All the other toasts
Toast is obviously a gift from the gods and goddesses. See “20 things I love to put on toast” for my treatise on the topic.
A baked potato may not be an obvious snack choice, but I am here to advocate for it. Potatoes are cheap, easy to store, can be popped in the oven with little preparation, and when done, are a super satisfying thing to eat. Among other things, potatoes are a potassium powerhouse; a medium one with skin has 941 mg potassium for 163 calories. Obviously, be careful with the butter and sour cream; I love them with olive oil and Maldon sea salt. (And just for kicks: Yep, this is the best way to make a baked potato.)
Banana and homemade nutella
Katherine Martinko makes a homemade version of chocolate hazelnut spread that uses honey instead of refined sugar and most importantly, does not contain ethically-dubious palm oil. Make some, keep it in the fridge, and smear it on bananas or other fruit, crackers, toast, a spoon, et cetera.
I think my love for tapioca pudding made my conversion to chia pudding pretty easy – I adore it. Chia seeds are a remarkable source of nutrition and their talent for thickening things make them a natural in the pudding department. Margaret Badore provides this recipe, from her post, 9 vegan ways to make chia seeds part of your diet:
Coconut Chia Pudding
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 2 tablespoons shredded coconut
- 1 cup coconut milk (you could also use almond milk, for a milder flavor)
- 2 teaspoons agave or honey
Stir all the ingredients together and refrigerate for about two hours. Makes two servings.
Chickpea faux-tuna salad
When I make tuna salad using chunky mashed chickpeas in place of the fish, my kids don’t believe that it’s not tuna and think I am trying to trick them – it’s almost freaky how similar it tastes to tuna. Use a fork, masher, pastry cutter, or pulse chickpeas in a blender and use the chunky mush in any tuna salad recipe. We like the classic: The chickpeas along with vegan mayonnaise, chopped celery, chopped dill pickles, lemon, salt and pepper.
Because chickpeas are the magicians of the food world, they somehow go deliciously well with chocolate. Here is how you can make chocolate hummus in five minutes flat: Chocolate hummus is shockingly good (recipe + nutrition facts). Once you’ve made it, eat it with fruit, biscotti, in a tortilla, with chips or pretzels for the salty-sweet adventure, with rice pudding, oatmeal, in a smoothie, et cetera.
Cucumbers with lemon and salt
I know, I know. What kind of awful person suggests cucumbers for a snack, when what one really wants is potato chips? But hear me out. When you slice up cucumbers – in circles or spears – and dress them with lemon and salt, they become something entirely different, like really fresh pickles. Add more herbs and spice if you want. They may not be that filling, but they are surprisingly satisfying.
Cup of oatmeal
Oatmeal is such a humble superfood, it never brags and boasts, yet has so many health benefits of which to be proud. I love it for my mid-afternoon snack when what I really want is cookies. A small cup of oatmeal with a sprinkle of sea salt and a spoonful of miraculous blackstrap molasses is comforting, sweet, and salty – in other words, a perfect snack.
Dark chocolate and fruit
Thank heavens that scientists figured out that dark chocolate is full of health benefits. Breaking up a bar into a few chunks and eating them with fruit – berries or tangerines or whatever your pleasure – is not only delicious, but this: Eating chocolate more than once a week can make you smarter.
Dry cereal in a little bowl
Crunchy and easy to pick on, a bowl of healthy dry cereal can give you a serving of whole grains and it’s just really satisfying, even if it does seem a bit spartan. So what do I mean by healthy? Not Cap’n Crunch. I love something like Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Cereal, with its ingredient list of organic sprouted wheat, organic sprouted barley, organic sprouted millet, organic sprouted lentils, organic sprouted soybeans, organic malted barley, organic sprouted spelt, filtered water, sea salt.
Edamame (which are young soybeans) makes a superb snack, especially since it is primarily purchased frozen and a portion can be taken out, heated up, salted, and then there you are. It is low in calories and high in calcium, iron, and fiber. It is also a good source of protein, healthy fats like omega-3, vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K and folate.
Endive leaves and something dippy
That time I tried the keto diet as an experiment was when I started eating endive leaves instead of crackers and guess what I realized? For many things, I prefer the leaves! They are sturdy, have a great crispiness to them, and their flavor compliments many others. They are perfect for hummus, guacamole, the faux-tuna salad above, and many other dipping needs.
Fresh pear with cheese
This isn’t much different from apples and cheese, but I often think that pears are forgotten when it comes to snacks, and that’s a shame. Pears are wonderful with aged cheese as well as surface-ripened cheeses like Brie, or bleu cheese or goat cheese or nut cheese, et cetera.
Take a whole-wheat tortilla, spread some yogurt or plant-based cream cheese on it, add fresh fruit, roll it up, commence snacking. For flavor ideas, see: 7 fruit wraps to make for breakfast.
Guilt-free cookie bars
Katherine calls these “Healthy Fudgy Energy Bars,” and says that “they are a favorite with my family and get devoured almost as soon as they’re made.” The internet is chock-full of healthy cookie and bar recipes, and we think they make for the perfect snack.
Handful of nuts
Look at that, nuts are so healthy! And they are a snack that satisfies, for sure. They are also caloric, which is a bummer because they are so addictive. The chart above shows the nutritional information for one-ounce servings. What does that look like? According to Heather Caplan, R.D., at MyDomaine, a one-ounce serving is roughly equal to: 24 almonds, 15 to 20 pecan halves, 18 whole cashews, or 14 walnut halves.
It is likely that not everyone will think, “Kale, what a wonderful snack…” But when you coat it with olive oil and flavor it with good things and then apply heat, it is just that, a wonderful snack. Here’s Margaret’s recipe for curry kale chips.
Nuts and fresh and/or dried fruit
I have a penchant for cashews eaten together with clementines, which may not be the most intuitive combination … but fruit and nuts make such good partners, it’s actually hard to go wrong.
Olives and marinated vegetables
Think “antipasto” without the cheese and meat.
Pea pesto with pita or tortillas
This one may seem strange, but it came about as an alternative to chips and guacamole. Making pesto with peas is surprisingly easy and delicious; it really doesn’t taste like peas and the texture is great. Also, peas are one of the freezer’s great friends, so having them on hand is easy. (We have a simple and delicious pea pesto recipe here.)
Pickles and Swiss cheese
Is it weird? Yes. Is it delicious? Yes! This is the strange favorite pairing around my house. (The vegans at home do it with nut cheese.) A slice of pickle, a slice of cheese, and a dab of spicy mustard, repeat. Chef’s kiss.
Popcorn isn’t just for movies! It’s a wholesome whole grain snack that is cheap and easy to make. See our guide to all the ways to accessorize it here: 10 ways to perk up your popcorn. And if you’re feeling adventurous, there’s always this: How to cook any whole grain like popcorn.
Raw vegetables and hummus
Predictable, you say? Well ok, but it doesn’t have to be. If you make your own hummus, you can add all kinds of fun things, like pesto, avocado, roasted peppers, beets, spinach, ginger, artichoke hearts, Hatch chilis, Sriracha, chipotle peppers, et cetera – and pro tip: you can add those things to store-bought hummus too. You can also boost store-bought hummus with a splash of good olive oil, sea salt, and lemon zest.
So many things to do with chickpeas, so little time. But one thing you should for-sure do is try roasting some. Through the magic of dry heat, they become crispy on the outside, tender in the middle; just like a snack should be. See the how-to here: 20 things to do with chickpeas.
As long as we are talking about roasting odd things; have you ever tried roasted radishes? They are a revelation! They have a little less bite than their raw counterparts, are slightly sweeter, and roast into the best texture. I usually cut them in half, toss in olive oil and salt, put them in a cast iron pan, and roast them cut-side down at 450 degrees F for about 12 minutes, or until brown on the edges.
I had a root vegetable freak-out last fall and took a deep dive into all things sweet potatoes. I bought every variety I could find in New York City, and endeavored to get to know each one. The result was not only truly enlightening, but delicious! The best part was that I ended up eating sweet potatoes for days on end, and found that they made a fabulous snack. My favorite way to eat them ended up being roasted halves that spent the night in the fridge. Eating them cold next day they are somehow sweeter and a bit denser, and just so good. For more, see: Which sweet potatoes should you buy?
Ok, that’s a start. What are some of your favorites? We’d love to see more ideas in the comments.
In times of comfort snacking, there are plenty of fulfilling options that are actually good for you.