Healthy Snack Foods
June 7, 2005 1:01 PM   Subscribe

So I'm trying to eat better...and one thing I would love to get a better grasp on is the snack time between meals. What has everyone come up with concerning such snacks? There are the basics, such as celery with peanut butter, fruit, and yogurt(etc). What I am searching for are the snacks that are a bit more creative or outside the typical realm of what people think of when they hear "a healthy snack". I am interested in everything you got! Bring it on metaFreaks!
posted by matthelm to Food & Drink (35 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not really directly answering your question here, but try eating six small meals a day. You can avoid the boring snacks like carrot sticks etc, be less hungry all day, and lose weight. Works for me!
posted by dublinemma at 1:20 PM on June 7, 2005

I lost a lot of weight 4 years ago and one of my favorite afternoon snacks was a cup of low-fat, sugar-free chocolate pudding with a scoop of protein powder mixed in (it ended up having the consistency/flavor of raw brownie mix) with a handful of strawberries thrown on top.

I also kept a lot of zone or balance bars on hand for just in case.
posted by superkim at 1:24 PM on June 7, 2005

Protein powder is the key for me, it can turn a lightweight snack into something just shy of a meal. My favorite was this GORP-like substance my pal made out of peanuts, protein powder, a teensy bit of oil [to make the powder stick], some puffed rice and seeds [flax, sunflower, sesame] and some cocoa powder/vanilla sugar just for taste. Put it in little packages so you're not inclined to just eat a ton of it, but it takes the hunger edge off and gives you some energy.
posted by jessamyn at 1:31 PM on June 7, 2005

You could always make your own custom trail mix.

I am one of those people who has to eat every 3-4 hours to keep from getting really cranky. My main criterion is that things be portable, so my list might not be out of the typical realm of snacks, but I like to carry around:
fruit salad or just cut up fruit, which is easy, sliced raw veggies like snap peas, jicama, or carrots (look into jicama if you haven't ever had it), pretzels, slices of cheese, hard-boiled eggs, 1/2 cup of Jello or Jello pudding in a recycled yogurt cup, cottage cheese, raisins, dried cranberries, other dried fruits (in small amounts to avoid disaster), hummus in a dish and a cut-up pita ...
I also often will bring a yogurt cup full of leftovers, like beans & rice, chili, couscous, plain rice, salad, whatever is around; that kind of falls halfway between a small meal and a snack, and is, I've found, the most effective at keeping me from eating too much at real meal-time and also keeping me from crashing due to low blood sugar.

On preview, pudding with protein powder sounds bizarrely delicious.
posted by librarina at 1:34 PM on June 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

Well, fruit, of course. As it's summer, try picking up the chili-lime-salt available in Latin American markets and sprinking on any kind of melon (or mango, etc.)

Miso in hot water. It's not the same thing as the miso soup that you get in restaurants, but it's a nice broth. Sometimes have a light lunch of this with a to-go container of seaweed salad.

Lately I've been eating Wasa 5-grain crackers with some sort of spreadable cheese like Laughing Cow or Chavrie.

I find a small spoonful of ground coriander transforms cottage cheese into something compelling.
posted by desuetude at 1:35 PM on June 7, 2005

Toasted walnuts and gorgonzola cheese tossed with pear or apple slices. Doesn't take much of the first two to transform the fruit into a celestial experience.
posted by DawnSimulator at 1:42 PM on June 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

Well, Eric, mostly I just try to avoid the obvious super-baddies like refined sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and stuff with lots of trans fats. This still leaves me with some fairly conventional, easily obtainable snack foods: Fresh and dried fruits, nuts, even... Fritos.

Yep, Fritos. I'm not saying they're, like, actively good for you or anything, but check out the ingredients and you'll find they're a hell of a lot less scary than 99% of what's out there:

Whole Corn, Corn Oil, Salt. Period.

Just don't eat too many of 'em, 'cause they *are* loaded with fat and sodium....
posted by dersins at 1:43 PM on June 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

The most important thing (imho) about "a healthy snack" is that it's got to be something that you actually enjoy eating.

Also, it's not really clear what you mean by "eating better". Trying to cut back on processed, prepackaged foods? Eat less sugar/corn syrup/fat? Trying to cut back on sweet stuff in general?

I used to eat energy bars (Luna/Cliff and Odwalla) but I found them really sweet and actually made me crave more food instead of satisfying my munchies. Plus, they are expensive.

My favorite snack is trail mix that I make myself. I don't buy premade mix because every mix I've found always has at least one thing in that I don't like, and not enough of the stuff I do like. Trail mix is easy to make, you just throw a bunch of dried stuff together! I like a mixture of sunflower seeds and almonds, with some dried fruit (the sweet fruit goes really well with the salt). Raisins, dried cranberries, dried apricots, banana chips...all yummy.

Good luck!
posted by luneray at 1:45 PM on June 7, 2005

I've been eating yogurt with fresh berries, or carrots dipped in yogurt. Also advocate the protein powder. It can bulk up yogurt or oatmeal so that they're meals on their own.
posted by boo_radley at 1:58 PM on June 7, 2005

Frozen grapes are pretty great, edamame (soybeans) with plenty of salt, pickles, marinated mushrooms (you can get great marinated mushroooms in a jar - with no oil - at Sam's Club). A lot of sodium in some of those, but I don't take issue with that. If I just need SOMETHING, hot tea with splenda and a splash of milk will do it sometimes.

In the summer, I like to eat (plain, with no chips) a tomato and cucumber "salsa" - chopped tomatoes, chopped cucumbers, chopped onions, cumin, cilantro, garlic, salt, pepper, and a splash of lime juice.

Balsamic onions are a sweet little snack -- coarsely chop or slice a red or Vidalia onion, douse in balsamic vinegar, sprinkle with garlic salt, and microwave (covered) until tender-crisp. Chill the onions and eat cold.

If I want something more substantial, vegetables sauteed in really concentrated vegetable broth (use the cubes or the paste with just enough water to dissolve -- no oil necessary, though you might want to use nonstick cooking spray on the pan before you begin) make for a very lo-cal snack/meal.
posted by roundrock at 2:03 PM on June 7, 2005 [2 favorites]

Yep, protein is essential. I can eat a 200 calorie protein bar and feel satisfied for a good long while. I can eat a 300 calorie bagel and be hungry in an hour.
posted by 4easypayments at 2:06 PM on June 7, 2005

To hell with healthy snacks.

I'm ten pounds into a projected forty pound weight loss. What's worked for me? Exercise and small portions of good ol' junk food eaten slowly. Seriously.

Your average 1.69oz bag of M&Ms has 240 calories. I used to wolf down a couple bags of these in just a few minutes. Now I take my time. I can take half an hour to nibble through a single bag. I crack the candy shell gently with my teeth, peel it with my tongue, and only after the shell is gone to I let the chocolate melt in my mouth. Sounds stupid, I know, but it works like a charm. I get a bag of candy every day, and it's more satisfying than multiple bags ever used to be.

Or take potato chips. I used to eat a bag in just a sitting or two. Now I can make a single ounce (140 calories) last fifteen minutes. How? I eat chips with strong flavors (sea salt and vinegar is good). I eat the chips slowly, just a bite at a time. Again, it's very satisfying.

The key to snacking while dieting is to make it pleasurable and not a guild-producing activity. This is probably a good technique even if you aren't dieting.

As for healthy snacks: if you really must have something healthful, try carrot sticks dipped in salsa. Damn good (though not very filling), and nearly zero calories. Strawberries are good, too, in almost any form. They're mostly water. Sunflower seeds are another beautiful food when I'm trying to eat well. I can chew and spit the seeds for an hour and take in fewer than one hundred calories.

Another great option is to chew sugar-free gum. (The light-blue Extra seems to be particularly flavorful.) Chewing gum and drinking water help curb the munchies.

(Other thoughts: kalamata olives and a little blue cheese — delicious yet filling; tuna fish, tuna fish, tuna fish — I often eat it straight from the can with just a little seasoning.)
posted by jdroth at 2:12 PM on June 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

This snack is my solution for getting crunch which is a serious requirement of my eating life and if often missing when chips, etc. are verboten.

Sherwood's makes a microwaveable Indian Puppodum cracker that takes only 1 minute to puff and curl up and you can have four large discs for only 100 calories. They are no fat, some fiber and a good amount of protein. I find them widely available in the Asian food section of most supermarkets. I eat these with salsa or hummus.
posted by garbo at 2:14 PM on June 7, 2005

My new snack habit is green salsa and Baked! Tostitos. The Baked! Tostitos are so guilt free I don't even feel bad throwing a bit of cheese on there. Yum!
posted by geeky at 2:23 PM on June 7, 2005

Oh, also, if you must have a chocolate fix, I recently tried the sugar-free Godiva chocolate and I have to say it's pretty good! You can't really tell it's sugar-free. Not a cheap snack though :)
posted by geeky at 2:26 PM on June 7, 2005

I eat pretty much continuously all day. I'm very thin and have a fast metabolism. My current staples are fruit, nuts, dried fruit, and Balance Bars. (In my experience, the Balance Bars have more protein and complex carbs and fewer simple sugar than the other "energy bars" like Odwalla and Luna.)

Maybe not very creative, but it works for me.
posted by alms at 3:08 PM on June 7, 2005

Holy crap, geeky, I think you just saved my life. There are tortilla chips with just 1 gram of fat? And from Frito-Lay, so they're trans-fat free! I'm going to pick up a bag today - I love chips, but I always end up carefully eating just fifteen of them, because any more than that destroys my fat count at FitDay.

A favorite snack of mine is pita bread with a little dab of hummus and a lot of tabouli. Tabouli is very easy to make. Soak some bulgur wheat (available in the health food aisle) in warm water until it swells, and then drain it. Chop up some onion, tomatoes, and italian parsley, and combine all ingredients with some salt, pepper, lemon juice and a little olive oil. It's quite healthy as long as you're sparing with the oil.
posted by vorfeed at 3:14 PM on June 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

Hummus or Puck cream (a Lebanese kind of spreadable cream cheese substance) with pita or veggies is my favourite snack. I'm also fond of pickles, either the traditional dill or the more unusual Lebanese turnip pickles, Chaldean toshi (a kind of pickled cabbage thing) or such.
posted by QIbHom at 3:23 PM on June 7, 2005

A half-cup whole grain cereal with a splash of soy milk and an absolute shitload of raspberries, blackberries or strawberries.
posted by mischief at 4:00 PM on June 7, 2005

What is protein powder and where do you get it?
posted by Lynsey at 4:33 PM on June 7, 2005

Lynsey, it's protein isolated from soy, dairy or egg whites. You can find it at any health food store, vitamin shop or Trader Joe's.

I've found that even just a cup of broth or tea will stave off hunger for a bit.
posted by cali at 4:43 PM on June 7, 2005

Hapi Snacks Hot Wasabi Peas (damn, they look expensive compared to Oz - try your local Asian grocer). 130 calories, 3 grams fat in one-half cup serve. Great with a diet soda.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:07 PM on June 7, 2005

I recently lost quite a few's the skinny...
For breakfast, it's an egg beater omlette with laughing cow, turkey bacon, and coffee with cream or kashi go lean with skim. Snacks include almonds, cottage cheese with lawry's salt, lite popcorn, lots of pickled veggies (i'm a fan of pastene products), parmesano reggiano drizzled with balsamic vinegar, pirate's booty, and the thin granola bars that come in 2 packs. Dinner is whatever I feel like.
posted by dagnyduquette at 5:09 PM on June 7, 2005

Personally, I think snacks are a bad idea, period. I've never eaten between meals, and I've never been overweight. The urge to graze and the easy availability of grazing material seems to me to be part of the reason for the disproportionate amount of obesity in the west. I have read articles which recommend the "little and often" approach to diet and frankly I'm dubious, although that would certainly be better than eating full meals and snacking between them.

You need to honestly assess how much fuel you need based on your size, your metabolism and your lifestyle. If you have an active, physical job you need more calories and more carbs. If, like me, you have a sedentary job, you don't need more than two decent meals a day, and you should take regular exercise. Adjust where appropriate. But snacking is asking for trouble, seriously. And the less active you are, the more trouble it is asking for.
posted by Decani at 5:41 PM on June 7, 2005

I like what Jack Lalanne once said. "If man made it, don't eat it." So that rules out stuff like protien bars and corn chips. It includes wonderful foods like oranges and apples and celery and carrots. Adopting a plant based diet is eating healthier.
posted by snowjoe at 5:51 PM on June 7, 2005

Everyone is different, but I snacked on "healthy" stuff (fruit, yogurt, etc) for years and was always hungry and never lost any real weight. Switching to snacks of cheese (real, full-fat, but prepackaged so I only eat 1oz at a time), peanut butter, and other lower-carb higher-protein/fat snacks really made a difference for me. Note that I don't eat low-carb meals just when I'm eating less than a full meal I find it works better to have something more dense.
posted by ch1x0r at 6:42 PM on June 7, 2005

My South Beach Diet book recommends:

-mozzarella cheese sticks
-celery w/ Laughing Cow cheese
-turkey (or ham), lettuce & veggie rollups
-cherry tomatoes stuffed with cottage cheese
-cucumber rounds with salmon spread
-hummus with raw veggies
-hard-boiled egg
-low-carb yogurt
-granny smith apple with peanut butter

These are all low-carb snacks for between meals
posted by Doohickie at 7:51 PM on June 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

Woah! lots of tasty ideas, but why snack??? If you want a healthy diet, no reason to snack. Eat decent meals two or three times a day, plenty of variety, fruit, fats, carbs and protein. Snacking just leads your appetite astray, and rots your teeth. Ditto soft drinks including fruit juices, and most especially anything with artificial sweetener which destroys the appetite regulating mechanism.
posted by anadem at 8:06 PM on June 7, 2005

I fill up on vegetables.

Thin slices of peeled, raw kohlrabi (very mild, crispy vegetable similar to jicama) served with lo fat ranch dressing or homemade salsa for dipping.

Cucumber salad with sunflower seeds and chunks of turkey.

Vegetable soup made with carrots, cabbage, and summer squash. (You can eata as much as you want if it is made with non-fat chicken broth.)

Cold gazpacho soup with a sprinkling of crushed tortilla chips.

Thinly sliced deli meat wrapped around a chunk of non-fat cream cheese, lettuce, alfalfa sprouts and thin slices of broccoli or cucumber-- like a spring roll but with roast turkey!
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:10 PM on June 7, 2005

I'm like alms - skinny, and eat little bits of food all the time.

My latest snack treat has been a hard boiled egg, and/or some V8. With that, I'm not hungry for at least a couple hours afterwards. The salt in the V8 also quells any cravings I have for chips later.

Another thing I do - drink tea. I just started a new job, and got myself a little ceramic teapot (almost a Yixing style, but Japanese instead of Chinese) and some good quality loose leaf Oolong tea. I brew my first pot of tea around noon, and continuously brew tea out of those same leaves all afternoon. (On a good day, I can get 6-7 brewings out of those leaves!) I find the tea keeps me awake, is good to drink, keeps me hydrated, and also reduces the horrid cravings I used to have for sweet food in the afternoon.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:31 PM on June 7, 2005

A good low-cal but super filling snack I often use:
- a few spoonfuls of plain yogurt
- a few spoonfuls of applesauce
- a handful of cereal (mine has nuts and dried fruit in it)
- some preserved cherries and a splash of the juice.

Put it all in a bowl and your bowl should be nearly overflowing about now. :)
posted by ruelle at 1:54 AM on June 8, 2005

Woah! lots of tasty ideas, but why snack??? If you want a healthy diet, no reason to snack. Eat decent meals two or three times a day, plenty of variety, fruit, fats, carbs and protein. Snacking just leads your appetite astray, and rots your teeth. Ditto soft drinks including fruit juices, and most especially anything with artificial sweetener which destroys the appetite regulating mechanism.

If you *plan* your snacks and have nutritional foods on hand, you can easily reduce the size of the meals you eat. Part of the problem with people trying to lose weight is the temptation to snack in between meals. But to me, the most convincing argument in favor of snacking is that my diet dictates it. I like my diet; I was "obese" per the Body Mass Index charts on January 1, 2005. By snacking between meals, (along with other sensible diet strategies), I have lost 65 lb. and am now in the middle of the slim, healthy "normal" range.

For those of us that have put on a few pounds, we have to recognize that we can no longer just eat a random variety. By researching, then following a low-carb regimen, I've not only dropped the weight, but also gotten my cholesterol, blood pressure and triglycerides back into ideal balance and am weaning off medications (already dropping from 7 to 2 or 3 pills a day). The American diet is so carb rich that for many of us, it messes with our bodies' ability to regulate all this energy pouring into our systems, resulting in obesity, cardio-vascular disease and diabetes.

I agree with you about the sweet drinks, mostly because of the cheap & easy carbs that result in elevated blood sugar levels. I tried low fat with no success whatsoever; low car produced dramatic, immediate results (both inside and out). Artificial sweeteners do concern me a bit. I don't think they mess with my "appetite regulating mechanism", but I am still concerned that my kidneys have to filter out something that does not occur naturally. When I started on my diet, I embraced artificial sweeteners but have lately tried to cut back.

My latest snack treat has been a hard boiled egg, and/or some V8.

That is perfect because unlike carb-rich snacks (like candy bars or chips which give you a blood sugar spike then vanish, leaving you with another urge to snack almost immediately), eggs and vegetables stay with you longer and produce a sustained burn.
posted by Doohickie at 5:44 AM on June 8, 2005

The biggest trick for me was recasting my new diet as a permanent lifestyle. After about six weeks, my cravings have adjusted. When I want a snack, I want berries or a banana, instead of salty-crunchy. When I start thinking supper, I start thinking salad toppings and whether my dressing will based around olive oil or salsa, instead of meals based on potatoes, noodles or rice.

I'm into my fourth month of this and losing weight steadily. I am also on Lipitor, an anti-cholesterol, and now, if I eat anything high in fat, like a marbled steak or a bag of chips, it goes right through me, especially with all the roughage I already have in there.
posted by mischief at 6:48 AM on June 8, 2005

Complex carbs will stay with you longer and not generate the blood sugar spike that Doohickie mentions. Something like whole grain bread, etc. with your meals can reduce your urge to snack because you spend longer digesting it. Whole grain pasta is great for this; a little goes a long way, and both my wife and I feel that the flavor and texture is much better than the normal stuff. Same goes for unprocessed brown rice - nutty, filling, good. In the same vein, dry cereal (or cereal with some skim milk) makes a nice snack, relatively guilt-free.

I've also heard that sugar-free Jello powder sprinkled on fruit is a great snack. I like plain fruit, myself. Dried fruit is great if you can find it unsweetened. Figs for example are sweet, crunchy (from the seeds) and pretty filling - I eat three or four and I'm happy. They're almost too sweet to want to eat many. Raisins or currants too, you get the fruit and the antioxidants from the grape skins. Frozen blueberries are another long-time favorite - wild blueberries, when frozen, turn into these little blue dippin-dots of flavor. The farm raised ones are OK I guess (bred for size and color, not flavor!), but wild is infinitely better if you can get them. As with anything, eat slowly and savor it. Eating quickly makes it hard for your insides to tell your brain that you're full before you end up eating more than you should have.

Don't be afraid of oil in your hummus, or anywhere else for that matter. Olive oil is surprisingly good for you. Switching from butter to olive oil for everything made a huge difference for my wife and I. We also eat a lot of nuts, on the advice of the Harvard food pyramid, put together by doctors and nutritionists rather than by a bunch of meat and dairy industry lobbyists. Exercise, whole grains and vegetable oil (note: mostly raw oil here; fried still = bad!) plus fish oil from salmon, etc. should be the foundation of your diet. That is, if you want to believe a bunch of PhDs and MDs who study nutrition, and two people who have tried it with great results.

Ditto the above comment on wasabi peas - they rock.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:30 AM on June 8, 2005

I think it's kind of funny that everyone is assuming that matthelm wants to lose weight, when all he asked for was healthy snacks. I'm skinny, and I'm still interested in healthy snacks. Why? Because I want to be healthy.

Anyhow, unlike Decani, I am a big believer in snacking. Unless there is a work or social reason for a big meal, I almost never eat more than a single bowl of cereal's worth of food in one sitting. When I go out to dinner, I get sick if I try to eat everything on my plate because my stomache is not used to the shock of big meals.

I don't think snacking is just a "Western" concept. When I was young and living in Thailand, I observed that many farmers seemed to graze throughout the day instead of taking a break from work for a big meal.

I've noticed that when I eat more complex carbohydrates and protein and stay away from simple sugars, I go longer between hunger pangs.

Some snacks/mini-meals I like to eat:
* broccoli -- raw is good with a dip, but I also like to microwave it, covered, for three minutes with water, drain, and then sprinkle with either shredded cheese or soy sauce.
* sliced apples with cheddar cheese and/or peanut butter.
* whole milk cream on top yoghurt -- not for weight loss, obviously, but has all the health benefits of yoghurt and it's really, really delicious, plus extremely filling. I like it better than ice cream.
* half a veggie sandwich on whole grain bread -- I love sprouts, 1/4 avocado, cream cheese (light if you're trying to lose weight), and a couple slices each of cucumber and tomato
* edamame with soy sauce or lots of salt and pepper
* portable fruit: a banana, an apple or an orange
* popcorn. I love butter and salt, but you don't have to go that route -- try brewer's yeast or lemon salt without butter for some interesting flavors, or use olive oil instead of butter.
* carrots with hummous
* pita pizza -- a small pita bread round with spaghetti sauce and a sprinkling of cheese, heated up in the toaster oven or the microwave
* tomato soup - Campbell's has these yummy hand-held microwaveable tomato soup cups available now.
* whole grain toast -- good with spaghetti sauce or hummous spread on top.

If I forget to pack snacks and have to resort to the vending machine at work, I always pick Wheat Thins. They're not perfect, but they're the best option my company has to offer.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:49 AM on June 8, 2005 [1 favorite]

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