It’s normal to feel hungry in between meals. Eating a small, healthy snack might be just what you need to feel full until your next meal. Not all snacks are healthy, so it’s important to add healthier snacks into your diet. In this handout, you will learn what makes a snack healthy. You will also learn different types of healthy snacks that you can have between meals and when you’re on the go.
Why is Eating Healthy Snacks Important?
Healthy snacks can help you in many ways, including to:
- Help you not gain weight
- Keep you from overeating at your next meal or reaching for unhealthy food when you’re really hungry
- Help you feel less cranky or have fewer mood swings by keeping your blood sugar levels stable
- Keep you focused and alert by sending a healthy blood supply to your brain
How Can I Make My Snack Choices Healthier?
- Have fun with the healthy snacks you choose. Give yourself lots of choices when it comes to healthy snacks. See the lists below for some fun and tasty healthy snacks!
- Prepare healthy snacks ahead of time. Cut up your favorite fruits or vegetables and put them in a baggies or plastic containers. When you’re ready, you can grab it and go!
- Keep healthy snacks on hand. Make it habit to stash healthy snacks in your backpack, workout bag or purse.
- Swap out 1 unhealthy snack for a healthy one. Take a look at what you snack on during the day. Switch out 1 of your unhealthy snacks for a healthier one. Over time, you can work your way up to choosing healthy snacks more often.
- Read the serving sizes on packaged snacks. Some packaged snacks look small, but the package might actually have more than 1 serving.
What are Some Good Healthy Snacks I Can Try?
Your best choices for healthy snacks include low-fat dairy, low-fat protein and complex carbohydrates (carbohydrates with more nutrients, or healthy stuff that’s good for your body).
There are lots of fun and tasty choices when it comes to healthy snacks, including:
- Low-fat cheese
- Low-fat milk
- Low-fat yogurt with fruit
- Low-fat cottage cheese with fruit
- Lean turkey
- Lean chicken
- Lean fish
- Vegetables, fresh or cooked
- Whole grains, like wheat bread, oats or brown rice
- Legumes, like peanuts, beans, lentils and chickpeas
- Hummus (mashed and blended chickpeas)
- Edamame (cooked soybeans)
Other healthy choices
- Air-popped popcorn plain or with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese
- Apple slices with a small scoop of your favorite nut butter
- A handful of your favorite nuts
- Baked corn chips with salsa or guacamole
- Rice cakes with a small scoop of peanut butter
- Dried fruit
- Whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheese slices
What are Some Unhealthy Choices I Should Eat Less Often?
It’s okay to have unhealthy snacks once in a while. It’s more important to choose healthy snacks more often than unhealthy ones.
Unhealthy snacks have a lot of fat, sugar, salt and simple carbohydrates (carbohydrates with less nutrients, or healthy stuff that’s good for your body). Unhealthy snacks can make you gain extra weight and cause your energy levels to drop. Here are some less healthy snacks you should eat less often.
- Soda and energy drinks
- Pastries and baked goods, like pies, cakes, cookies and brownies
- Foods with white flour instead of wheat or wholegrain flour, like white bread
- Potatoes, including potato chips and mashed potato
- Full-fat dairy products, like whole milk or full-fat cheese
It’s okay to have an unhealthy snack every now and then.
It’s okay to have an unhealthy snack here and there, like cookies, candy bars, chips or packaged snacks, like Cheez-Its® or Doritos®. What’s more important is that you choose healthy snacks more often than unhealthy ones.
Unhealthy snacks have a lot of extra salt, sugar and fat. Eating a lot of unhealthy snacks can cause you to gain weight or cause your blood sugar levels to spike and drop very quickly. These spikes and dips in blood sugar can leave you feeling cranky, tired and craving more unhealthy foods.
A Note For Your Family...
Having healthy snacks in the house means you should be careful and smart when food shopping. Be careful of what some food labels say. For example, when a label says “all natural” or “pure,” it doesn’t always mean that food or drink is a healthy choice. Many sodas and juices say “all natural,” but also have lots of extra sugar and calories.
You should also look at the nutrition label to check how much fat, sugar and salt is in your food and drinks. Try to buy unhealthy, processed or packaged snacks less often. It’s more important that you buy and choose healthy foods and drinks more often than unhealthy ones.
Rev. 8/2017. MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.