Whether you’re on the run, in back-to-back meetings, or just suffering from that dreaded mid-afternoon slump, we all need something quick to reach for to keep our energy up until the next meal.
Most snack foods have a bad rap for a reason. Highly processed, full of sugars and refined carbs, they give you a quick burst of energy followed by an even bigger crash, leaving you feeling even worse than before you ate – and casting around for another hit of glucose to pull you back up.
But snacking doesn’t have to be a rollercoaster. If you choose your snacks well, they’re a great opportunity to get more fruit and veggies into your diet – and to boost any nutrients or macros you might be lacking. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite filling, nutritious snack ideas - both Keto and beyond - to keep you feeling powered up until your next meal.
Building a Healthy Snack: The Basics
The key to a healthy and satiating snack is to have a balance of all three macros.
- Protein - which takes the longest to digest and keeps you feeling full for longer
- Fats - to keep your energy stable over the long haul
- Fiber-rich carbohydrates - from fruit, vegetables, or whole grains (if you eat them) to provide quick energy and keep your digestive system healthy
Avoid simple carbs like cakes, cookies and muffins, and try to choose options without added sugar or sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners keep you craving more sweet things and have been shown to have a detrimental effect on your microbiome and metabolic health.[*]
Make-Ahead Snacks to Keep You Fueled Up
Here’s a handful of our best make-ahead snacks to add to your meal-prep repertoire.
Parmesan has more protein per gram than any other type of cheese, with over 35g per 100g. It’s high in minerals and vitamin K2, which is involved in transporting calcium and helps to improve bone density, among many other benefits.[*] Parmesan is also easier to digest than most other cheese. The long fermentation process breaks many of the casein protein molecules down into easier-to-digest, smaller particles.[*] As a hard cheese with low water content, it’s also virtually lactose-free.[*]
Parmesan crisps are Keto and low FODMAP-friendly but not suitable for diets that don’t allow dairy, like Paleo, AIP, Vegan or Whole30.
Egg cups are portable, delicious, and packed with nutrients. Eggs contain almost every nutrient your body needs (they contain everything needed to grow a healthy baby chick, after all), and they are a great source of the essential nutrient choline. Choline deficiency may contribute to liver disease, atherosclerosis, and neural tube defects in pregnancy.[*][*]
Egg cups are also easy to stuff with other nutritious and delicious tid-bits, like veggies, cheese, or meat. Depending on what you add to them, they can fit neatly into a Keto, Paleo, Carnivore, Whole30 or low FODMAP diet.
Known as a superfood for a reason, Chia seeds are tiny powerhouses of nutrition -. packed with fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids.[*] Because they turn into a gel when soaked in liquid, they make an excellent pudding.
Try this Low Carb Pumpkin Chia Pudding or add your own fruit or sweeteners to plain chia pudding to jazz it up.
Made with coconut or plant-based milk, chia pudding fits into almost every diet, from low FODMAP to Vegan to AIP (from stage 2).
These Keto walnut and pumpkin seed crackers are a nutritional slam-dunk. The chia, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds provide minerals and healthy fats, with pumpkin seeds being particularly high in magnesium, zinc, and iron.
Have them with good-quality hard cheese if you eat dairy, or make this Keto roasted garlic hummus if you don’t.
Keto-friendly and can be Vegan or Paleo, depending on how you serve them.
Peanut butter-based treats
Peanut butter is a magic food. It transforms toast, gives a flavor punch to stir-fries, and appears in all the best baked treats (this is an independently verified fact, as confirmed by a survey of me). As long as you’re eating natural peanut butter – made only from peanuts and a bit of salt – it can be good for you too. Natural PB is a good source of protein, potassium, and some B-vitamins.
Peanut butter isn’t Paleo or Whole30 compliant (although you can sub for almond or cashew butter), and no nuts are allowed on AIP, but – depending on what you eat it with – it is Keto, low FODMAP, and Vegan.
Grab and Go Snacks to Eat on the Run
Here are our favorite quick and portable snack solutions – containing protein, healthy fat and/or fiber to keep your blood sugar steady and your energy up.
Never underestimate the humble boiled egg! Densely packed with nutrients and neatly contained in its own little carry case, a stash of boiled eggs in the fridge is a to-go go-to.
If you’ve got time and mayonnaise, turn it into a deviled egg. Just scoop out the yolk, mash it up with some mayo, curry powder or paprika, and salt to taste, and scoop it back in. Or try these Paleo-friendly Guacamole Deviled Eggs.
You can’t eat eggs if you’re AIP or Vegan, but otherwise, the humble egg is a staple in just about any healthy diet.
Smoothies are the perfect snack, especially if you’re tracking macros or trying to get in more servings of fruit or veg. Add whatever you need – protein powder, nut butter, flaxseed oil, hemp hearts, nuts and seeds, fruit, and vegetables. Blend it all up, and it’s nearly always delicious. And if you end up with something that doesn’t taste fantastic, add some coconut cream, cacao powder, or some frozen berries and blend it again.
The best smoothie is a balance of protein (e.g., protein powder, Greek yogurt), fat (flaxseed oil, nut butter, chia seeds, hemp hearts, other nuts or seeds), and healthy carbs (fruits and veggies). Check out our recipe database for some ideas.
Don’t just get stuck on spinach for your veggie component, either – loads of veggies are delicious in a smoothie. Try carrot, frozen cauliflower rice, cucumber, or avocado.
Handful of nuts? Boring. But add some dark chocolate or coconut chips and it becomes trail mix, which sounds way more exciting. Dried coconut is rich in fiber and contains beneficial medium-chain fatty acids.[*] Dark chocolate (preferably above 70%) is full of polyphenols and a great source of magnesium. For a Keto-friendly chocolate fix, try this Chocolate and Strawberry Trail Mix recipe. Dried fruit is also a popular addition, like in this Easy Keto Trail Mix. Drying fruit condenses the nutrients – dried fruit contains up to 3.5 times the fiber, vitamins, and minerals of fresh fruit – but it also concentrates the calories and sugar, so you may need to watch how much you add, depending on your goals.
Trail mix is a good option for almost any type of diet – just make sure the chocolate is dairy-free to keep it Vegan, and swap the nuts for tiger nuts on the AIP.
You may be surprised to hear that popcorn can be a healthy snack as part of a balanced diet. It’s a whole grain, full of fiber to keep you feeling full, as well as B-vitamins and vitamin E. Microwave popcorn is usually full of inflammatory refined seed oils, flavorings and preservatives, so go for plain air-popped popcorn or pop it yourself at home – this method works perfectly every time.
Jazz up your popcorn by adding any of your favorite seasonings, grass-fed butter or shredded cheese. This adds some protein and fat to keep you fuller for longer. If you don’t eat dairy, try nutritional yeast or plant-based parmesan with some olive oil. Trust me, it’s delicious.
Popcorn is generally too high in carbs for Keto, though some people may choose to include small quantities of fiber-rich grains in their low-carb diet. Corn is a no-no on AIP and Whole30, but it’s allowed on low FODMAP as long as you keep your serving size under 56 grams.
For a Keto-friendly popcorn fix, try this Low Carb caramel popcorn alternative
Quick Snack Cheats
Finally, here’s a handful of ideas for nutrient-dense snacks that can be assembled from the fridge in a couple of minutes.
- Hummus or Guacamole and veggie sticks.
- Toast (Sourdough if possible[*], and Keto or gluten free as required) – but add butter and avocado or nut butter to keep you fuller for longer and add some extra nutrients.
- Fruit with nut butter or cheese (blue cheese and apple is a particularly good combo).
- Rounds of cucumber with smoked salmon.
- Ham Roll Ups.
- Fruit wrapped in prosciutto or ham.
The Bite Size Summary
Here’s a formula to follow when you’re reaching for a snack that will guarantee you keep your energy and your blood sugar stable:
- Choose a healthy source of carbohydrate (veggie, fruit, or whole grain if you eat grains)
- Add something that contains protein and fat (e.g, a dairy product, nuts or seeds, animal products)
- Add seasoning (salt, herbs, sweetener)