January 18, 2021

Easy Guide to the Ultimate Snack Formula

One of the most common questions we get is what are the ultimate snacks to keep on hand. The short answer: real food! Step away from that “nutrition bar” aisle full of hydrolyzed proteins, sugar alcohols, and maltodextrin. Those, my friends, are food products. Not food.

 

To guide decisions about ultimate snacks,

use this simple formula:

Nutrient-dense carb + protein and/or fat

 

Not all carbs are created equal. Choose nutrient-dense carbs so your body gets the vitamins, minerals and fiber found in whole foods. Think whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes (like beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils) over the simple carbs found in soda, energy drinks, cookies, many cereals. When we choose nutrient-dense carbs more often, our body says thank you. Nutrient-dense carbs take longer to digest, which allows our blood sugar to be more stable, and they give us more bang for our nutritional buck. Sounds good, right? You know what else helps slow digestion and keeps us feeling full/satisfied? Protein and healthy fats from real foods. Think nuts, nut butters, seeds, eggs, yogurt, hummus, avocado, fish, cheese.

What could this look like? Great question.

Grab ‘n’ Go:

  • Fruit (whatever kind you want, seriously) + handful of nuts (whatever kind you want, seriously)
    • Fruit = carb
    • Nuts = protein and fat
  • Fruit + cheese
    • Fruit = carb
    • Cheese = protein and fat
  • Plain Greek yogurt topped with fruit and nuts    **Add some chia seeds and unsweetened shredded coconut for even more flavor and texture
    • Fruit = carb
    • Plain Greek Yogurt = protein and fat (depending on which type you buy), a bit of carbs
    • Nuts = protein and fat
  • Sliced veggies + whole grain crackers with hummus
    • Crackers = carb
    • Hummus = protein and fat
  • Whole wheat toast + nut butter.   **No toaster? No problem. Whole wheat bread + nut butter works just as easily. **No whole wheat bread? The world will go on. Enjoy that white bread, and get some whole grains in elsewhere in your day!
    • Whole wheat bread = carb
    • Nut butter = protein and fat
  • Cottage cheese + chopped tomatoes + lots of fresh black pepper
    • Cottage cheese = protein and fat and a bit of carbs

 

I have a bit of time to whip something up:

  • Whole grain crackers or pita + tuna.  **Mix in some plain Greek yogurt and mustard if you want to sauce it up. Get some avocado involved for even more flavor and healthy fats.
    • Whole grain crackers or pita = carb
    • Tuna = protein and fat
  • Whole wheat toast + avocado + egg
    • Whole wheat bread = carb
    • Avocado = fats
    • Egg = protein and fat
  • Quesadilla made with whole grain tortilla + cheese, with plain Greek yogurt and salsa for dipping.   **Plain Greek yogurt subs well for sour cream here. Give it a try if you haven’t. Can also do a little mix of the 2. If you are team sour cream forever, you do you! 
    • Whole grain tortilla = carb
    • Cheese + yogurt = protein and fat

                

Prep once, eat thrice or more:

  • Roasted chickpeas + fruit
    • Chickpeas = trifecta of some carb, some protein and some fat
    • Fruit = carb
  • DIY your own energy balls with a mix of oats, nut butter, ground flax seed and some sweetness. We love keeping a batch of these on hand
    • Oats = carbs
    • Nut butter + seeds = protein and fat

 

Does this mean you can never have a protein bar? Of course not. There are times when that might be the best option, and that’s okay. BUT if you aim to keep a variety of healthy options near you (whether that be at home, at work, or in your bag), you increase the likelihood that you will have a healthy snack more often. Think of it as setting your future self up for success.

About the Author: Kelly Wagner, MS, RD, LDN

I'm a Registered Dietitian (RD) based in Chicago, IL. I have worked in both inpatient and outpatient settings, including dialysis, ICU, as well as one-on-one nutrition counseling and groups.

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