When we grab a snack before we leave the house, it’s easier to default to poor, processed choices like chips or cookies because they’re super-portable and, let’s face it, super-palatable, too.
But, there are plenty of satisfying, healthier options you can keep on hand at home that can be ready to go at a moment’s notice. According to Keri Gans, RD, author of The Small Change Diet, the best snacks tend to follow a specific formula: “They should be under or around 200 calories, include fiber to keep you full, protein to sustain energy and probably a little healthy fat so it feels satiating,” she says.
Want a cheat sheet? Here are a few good on-the-go options.
Pistachios and Sweet Cacao Nibs
Serving: 3/4 oz pistachios (roughly 35); 1/2 oz cacao nibs
You get a little bit of sweet and a little bit of salty with this snack, according to Erin Morse RD, CNSC, chief clinical dietitian at UCLA Health System. The pistachios are the big winner here. “They are a satiating snack because of their fiber, fat and protein content,” Morse says. “And research suggests that the actual action of cracking open the shell helps to slow down the eating process.”
Banana + Egg
Serving: 1 banana; 1 hard-boiled egg
Gans says that, if you’re truly in a hurry, defaulting to these staples before you run out the door is a smart choice. Start your day or fuel your afternoon with this snack filled with fiber, protein and key nutrients like potassium. “It’s built-in portion control, and it falls in that under-200 calorie range,” she says. “You can’t go wrong.”
Chobani Greek Yogurt + Whole-Grain Cereal
Serving: 8 oz yogurt; sprinkle of cereal
Love all things dairy? Here’s your go-to snack: Greek yogurt. “The key here is that it’s low-fat and it’s Greek,” says Gans. “The Greek yogurt provides the protein you’ll need in a snack.” She says that, if you’re really in a crunch, she’s OK with the flavored kinds, but to add a few slivered almonds or fresh fruit if you want bonus points. You can also add a whole-grain cereal for crunch, but just a sprinkle.
String Cheese + Kalamata Olives
Serving: 1 string cheese; 7 olives
Hey, cheese lovers: You can totally nosh on your fave food for a snack. “Part-skim cheese is a rich source of easily-digestible protein that is high in both calcium and phosphorus,” says Morse. “Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth, and phosphorus helps the body better absorb nutrients from food. Add a few Kalamata olives or a Kalamata almond bar into the mix, and you’ve got a satiating superstar. “The olives are a very satisfying snack, and full of healthy monounsaturated fat,” says Morse.
Serving: 1 Caramel Almond and Sea Salt bar
If you’re literally dashing out the door, look no further than a grab n’ go snack bar that clocks in at roughly 200 calories. “In terms of a packaged snack, I always say a KIND bar,” says Gans, who particularly notes the brand’s Caramel Almond and Sea Salt variety for its crazy-awesome nutrition information. “I love the flavor, and it has 7 grams of satiating fiber and 6 grams of protein,” Gans says. Win-win.
Veggies + Hummus
Serving: large handful of assorted veggies; 4 tbsp hummus
Chop up assorted veggies and measure out some store-bought hummus on a Sunday night so you can take this duo with you during the week. “You can have up to four tablespoons of the hummus and however many veggies you’d like,” Gans says.
Popcorn + Almonds
Serving: 100-calorie pack of popcorn; 100-calorie pack of almonds
Gans is a big fan of Orville Redenbacher’s 100-calorie popcorn packs, which you can stick in the microwave and have ready to go in about one minute. You get a lot of volume for few calories with popcorn, so you can reach for a nut to round out your snack. “I love almonds as a coupling here,” Gans says. “Grab a 100-calorie pack of the nuts, or you can choose a single-serve cheese like Babybel.” Either way, the combination of fiber, protein and healthy fat is spot-on.
Apple + Nut Butter
Serving: 1 apple; 1/2 squeeze-pack of nut butter
The healthy fats and protein in nut butter complement the fiber in a naturally ready-to-go apple. “Pre-portioned nut butter helps prevent overindulging and overeating, plus I love the convenience of the squeeze packets,” says Morse.
“Quercetin, which is found in apples, may inhibit carbohydrate-digesting enzymes,” says Morse. “When these enzymes are inhibited, carbs aren’t broken down as readily into simple sugars.” This means stable blood sugar, so you won’t crash soon after you snack.