Not having healthy snack options available when hunger strikes between meals can contribute to overeating and make weight loss harder. Part of the problem is it can be difficult to locate a healthy option when you’re not at home or don’t have time to whip something up. Here, nutrition pros share their favorite portable snacks for jam-packed days:
“If I don’t have time to make a healthy snack, I opt for a cheese stick and dried fruit,” says Natalie Rizzo, RD. “Cheese sticks are portion-controlled and have about 7–8 grams of protein per stick. I usually pair them with some sort of dried fruit for a little bit of sweetness and some healthy carbs, vitamins and minerals. It’s a well-balanced snack that satisfies hunger.”
Prepare your own mini snack-pack at home or grab these two ingredients at a gas station or convenience store. These days, both items are pretty standard at airport newsstands.
If you can spare a few minutes before you leave home, this option could be a winner. “I love quickly making a smoothie and placing it into a reusable bottle to head right out the door,” says Marie Spano, RD, a sports dietitian who works with Life Extension. A homemade smoothie is often better than a store-bought one since you’re in control of the carb-protein ratio and how much added sugar there is, explains Spano. “Try making a simple smoothie with water, a scoop of pea protein powder, a handful of leafy greens, a quarter cup of zucchini or green apple and 1/3 of an avocado.
“A multigrain English muffin topped with nut butter made from peanuts, almonds or cashews is non-perishable and high in fiber thanks to the whole grains, which will keep you feeling full,” says Jerlyn Jones, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Even if you assemble this snack in the morning, it’ll still taste fresh in the afternoon. Another option is to bring a single-serve packet of nut butter and muffin along with you wherever you’re going.
The advantage of this snack is it’s available virtually everywhere, making it an ideal choice when there’s no time to prep something in advance. “Just one container has up to 14 grams of protein and anywhere from 80–120 calories,” says Amy Shapiro, a registered dietitian at Daily Harvest. “That makes it perfect to keep you going for a few hours, and with added calcium, your bones will thank you, too.”
“I like to roast some chickpeas and have them ready for when I’m on-the-go,” says Megan Casper, RD, owner of Nourished Bite Nutrition. “I love that they are flavorful and salty, but unlike something from the vending machine, they’re also high in protein and fiber.” Make a big batch, then stash each portion in individual bags or containers for easy packing.
This simple combo packs a nutritional punch. “The apple provides the carbs and fiber to keep you fuller and aid digestion,” says Spano. A fun change from nuts, “pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of magnesium, which promotes nerve and muscle health, and rich in zinc to support a strong immune system.”
While most dietitians would recommend whole foods over processed ones, a protein bar can work in a pinch. “Protein bars can be a good snack when you’re on the go,” says Jeanette Kimszal, RD. Kimszal prefers plant-based protein bars, since some people can have adverse reactions to whey protein (used in many bars). “If you can find one with less than 10 grams of sugar and more than 3 grams of fiber, those are good benchmarks. Some bars are now made with veggies, which will help fill you up faster.” You can also try making your own plant-based protein bars at home. Stash them in your car, desk drawer or gym bag for easy access.
Try frozen fruit as a snack in place of a candy bar if you’re craving something sweet. “At less than 100 calories per cup, these are like nature’s Popsicle,” says Laura Cason, RD. She recommends keeping your grapes frozen by stashing them in an insulated water bottle.
“Sliced veggies can be prepped in the beginning of the week and placed into individual baggies to make grab-and-go easy,” says Spano. But the hard-boiled eggs are the real superstars of this snack: “Egg whites contain protein while the yolks contain protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. They give you maximum muscle-building benefits,” says Spano.
For a high-protein snack, try keeping jerky handy, recommends Cason. “It now comes in healthy, flavorful, lower-calorie options like teriyaki turkey or Sriracha chicken,” she adds. It’s also available at many gas stations and convenience stores, making it a great option when you’re searching for a quick snack outside the house.