From protein bars to pretzels, there’s no shortage of convenient, packaged foods lining grocery store shelves. Easy access to these processed snacks means people often skip whole foods in favor of their packaged counterparts. “But it doesn’t have to be that way,” says Samantha Presicci, RD.
In fact, if you’re trying to improve your nutrition, it’s actually better to opt for whole-food options. “Whole foods are more satiating and more nutrient-dense than their processed counterparts,” explains Presicci.
The next time you’re looking for a healthy snack, consider these smart swaps:
SMOKED SALMON ROLL-UPS
“Pair smoked salmon, ideally wild-caught or sustainably farm-raised, with your choice of toppings,” says Presicci. “Some of my favorites include cream cheese or vegan cheese (like Kite Hill or Treeline spreads) and Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel seasoning. But you can sub mashed avocado for the cream cheese and add sprouts or other veggies to make it your own.”
Presicci loves this option because, compared to a protein shake, it’s much more nutrient-dense, since it contains omega-3’s and other healthy fats. Plus, it’s easy to prepare. “Just take smoked salmon and spread or sprinkle on your toppings of choice. When it comes to packing and transporting, a glass container works well.”
“Instead of a packaged protein shake filled with vegetable oils and sweeteners, pack a container of plain, whole-milk Greek yogurt with your favorite additions, such as berries, oats, cinnamon, chopped nuts and even a drizzle of honey,” suggests Diana Gariglio-Clelland, RD. “Plain Greek yogurt has no added sugar and is very rich in protein, as well as calcium. Whole-milk yogurts are more filling because of the fat and have a very creamy texture.”
TWO OR THREE HARD-BOILED EGGS
“Eggs are incredibly nutrient-dense if you opt for the whole egg, and they’re an easy source of portable protein and healthy fat,” Presicci explains. “There are many different ways to prep hard-boiled eggs, from using a pot of boiling water to using an Instant Pot. Just do what works for you!” Presicci recommends preparing several days’ worth at a time for convenience.
“This is a high-protein, high-fiber and omega-3-rich snack,” says Ashley Kitchens, RD. “A little goes a long way here, and it’s a snack that can fit into anyone’s goals. You can bulk it up with canned coconut milk or lean it out with low-calorie, unsweetened almond milk.” Kitchens’ favorite combo is to add fresh fruit and peanut butter for a mix of sweet and salty — most overnight oat combinations would work here.
“I recommend prepping these for the week in small Mason jars or in cup-sized meal prep containers,” Kitchens adds. “Just remember, they’re best at least 12–24 hours after making them so the chia seeds have enough time to work their magic and thicken the mixture.”
WHOLE ROASTED CHICKPEAS
“These provide significantly more protein and fiber with less saturated fat per serving compared to alternatives, while still satisfying the crunchy snacking desire,” says Maura Rodgers, RD. You can flavor them with chili and lime for a zesty punch or try Rodgers’ favorite combo: za’atar and sea salt.
CHEESE ON WHOLE-GRAIN CRACKERS
This low-tech snack is a favorite of Keith-Thomas Ayoob, RD. Any type of cheese except cream cheese will work here, and whole-grain crackers provide healthy carbs and fiber. Feel free to customize it for your needs: Add fruit or veggies on the side for extra fiber or sliced meat for extra protein.