Snacking has gotten a bad rap, thanks to our tendency to choose empty-calorie snack foods like candy or chips to ease between-meal cravings. But when your stomach starts growling hours before your next meal, a healthy snack is actually a good idea, to hold off hunger and keep energy levels high.
The supermarkets are full of new products advertised as healthy snacks, many of which come packaged in individual bars, microwaveable cups, and 100-calorie pouches. But which ones pass the test of being both tasty and healthy (or at least not unhealthy)? I recently hit my market and came up with two dozen snacks that satisfy without calorie overkill.
These may not be "perfect" snacks, mind you. Some are a bit higher in sugar, saturated fat, or sodium than I would like. But most have:
- Enough calories to be satisfying, but not so many that the snack becomes a meal.
- Less fat and saturated fat than other similar snacks.
- Whole grain and fiber, protein, and/or other nutrients that give them staying power.
Here are my picks for healthier supermarket snacks, whether you feel like having something sweet, something cool and creamy, something crunchy, or something hot and filling.
Healthy Snacks: Something Sweet
My five sweet snack choices include a higher-fiber pastry, creamy pudding, and three higher-fiber cookies.
Fat-Free Sugar-Free Instant Pudding (made with nonfat or 1% milk), various brands, 1.4-ounce box makes 2 cups. Per 1/2-cup serving made with nonfat milk: 80 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 6 g protein, less than 1 g fiber, 7 g sugar (from the natural sugar in milk).
Fiber One Bars (variousflavors, such as Blueberry), 6 pastries per box. Each pastry has 190 calories, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 4 g protein, 5 g fiber, 15 g sugar
Nabisco 100% Whole Grain Fig Newtons, 1 pound bag. Fig Newtons have gone whole grain! Two cookies have 110 calories, 2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 1 g protein, 2 g fiber, 12 g sugar (some of which comes from the figs).
South Beach Living Fiber Fit Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies, 6 individual packs per 5.1 ounce box. Among the ingredients in South Beach cookie packs are whole-grain wheat flour, high-oleic canola oil, and oat fiber. The sweeteners include sugar, maltitol (a sugar alcohol), sucralose (Splenda) and acesulfame potassium. Each pack of the double chocolate chunk variety has 100 calories, 5 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 1 g protein, 5 g fiber, 5 g sugar (2 g sugar alcohol).
South Beach Living Fiber Fit Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies, 6 packs per 5.1 ounce box. Each pack has 100 calories, 5 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 1 g protein, 5 g fiber, 5 g sugar (2 g sugar alcohol).
Healthy Snacks: Frozen Treats
For a frozen dessert to be satisfying, it needs to have some protein and fiber along with the carbohydrate calories. These two choices have a few grams each of protein and fiber.
Healthy Choice Fudge Bars, 6 bars per box. Per bar: 80 calories, 1.5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 3 g protein, 4 g fiber, 4 g sugars, 3 g sugar alcohols.
Skinny Cow Chocolate Truffle Bars, 6 bars per box. Per bar: 100 calories, 2.5 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 3 g protein, 3 g fiber, 12 g sugars, 0 g sugar alcohols.
Healthy Snacks: Something Crunchy
There are lots of fancy crackers on the shelf. But one of the best is an oldie but goodie: Reduced Fat Triscuits. Some of the newer crackers are either high in fat and saturated fat, or low in fiber (even some types that sound like they'd have plenty of fiber.)
In this list, you'll also find heart-healthy mixed nuts and two types of microwave popcorn that offer a more healthful option for all those popcorn addicts out there.
And, in case you like some protein along with your crunch, Bumble Bee Tuna now offers a fat- free tuna salad kit complete with low-fat wheat crackers. There's not much in the way of fiber, but the 9 grams of protein could be just what you need in a filling afternoon snack.
Nabisco Reduced Fat Triscuit Crackers, 8.5-ounce box. Per 7 crackers (1 ounce): 120 calories, 3 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 3 g protein, 3 g fiber, 160 mg sodium.
Planters Nut*rition Heart Healthy Mix, 9.75-ounce can. These contribute smart fat: 8 grams of monounsaturated fat and 5 grams polyunsaturated fat. Per ounce: 170 calories, 16 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 6 g protein, 3 g fiber, 45 mg sodium.
Orville Redenbacher’s Smart Pop, 3 bags per box. Per 3 tablespoons unpopped: 120 calories, 2 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 4 g protein, 4 g fiber, 240 mg sodium.
Smart Balance Light Butter Popcorn (no Diacetyl added), 3 bags per box. Per 2 tablespoons unpopped: 120 calories, 4.5 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 3 g protein, 4 g fiber, 290 mg sodium.
Bumble Bee Fat Free Tuna Salad Kit (with low-fat wheat crackers). Per kit: 150 calories, 1.5 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 9 g protein, less than 1 g fiber, 580 mg sodium.
Healthy Snacks: Something Hot
The first type of product listed under the "something hot" category consists of microwavable entrees. These products come in handy stored in your desk at the office or in your pantry (the kids can fix them themselves in a pinch). Just remember to recycle the packaging. Many parts are recyclable.
Healthy Choice Fresh Mixers, Rotini & Zesty Marinara Sauce, 6.95-ounce microwavable container. The sauce is made with some dynamite ingredients, like tomato puree, crushed tomatoes and tomato paste, fire-roasted onions, burgundy wine reduction, and extra virgin olive oil. 300 calories, 3.5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 10 g protein, 7 g fiber, 600 mg sodium.
Safeway Eating Right, Whole Wheat Ravioli with Cheese, 2 servings per 15-ounce microwavable cup. Per 1-cup serving: 160 calories, 2.5 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 6 g protein, 4 g fiber, 520 mg sodium.
If you've got access to a toaster oven, these two frozen treats are sure to satisfy:
Ore Ida Bagel Bites 3-Cheese, 9 bagel bites per small box. Per 4 bagel bites: 210 calories, 6 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 9 g protein, 2 g fiber, 400 mg sodium.
Lean Pockets made with Whole Grain Turkey, Broccoli & Cheese, 2 pockets. Per pocket: 260 calories, 7 g fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 10 g protein, 4 g fiber, 390 mg sodium.
A cup of lower-fat, higher-fiber soup also makes a good healthy snack, whether it comes in a microwavable cup or in a can.
Healthy Choice Minestrone Soup Cup, 14 ounces. Per 1-cup serving: 130 calories, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 6 g protein, 5 g fiber, 400 mg sodium.
Healthy Choice Country Vegetable Soup Cup, 14 ounces. Per 1-cup serving: 100 calories, 0.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 4 g protein, 5 g fiber, 480 mg sodium.
Healthy Choice Chicken Tortilla Soup Cup, 14 ounces. Per 1-cup serving: 160 calories, 1.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 10 g protein, 6 g fiber, 470 mg sodium.
Campbell’s Chunky Healthy Request Vegetable Soup, 18.8-ounce can (2 cups). Per cup: 120 calories, 1 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 4 g protein, 4 g fiber, 480 mg sodium.
Campbell’s Select Harvest Light Vegetable with Pasta Soup, 18.6-ounce can (2 cups). Per cup: 120 calories, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 6 g protein, 8 g fiber, 960 sodium.
Amy’s Organic Soups Lentil Soup, 18-ounce can (2 cups). Per cup: 150 calories, 4.5 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 8 g protein, 9 g fiber, 590 mg sodium.
Amy’s Organic Soups Lowfat Black Bean Vegetable Soup, 18-ounce can (2 cups). Per cup: 130 calories, 1.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 6 g protein, 5 g fiber, 430 mg sodium.
Sometimes, there's nothing more soothing than a serving of hot cereal. The Quaker Weight Control line of instant oatmeal is packed with fiber, each packet contributing a whopping 6 grams! It's also much lower in sugar than your average instant oatmeal, with only 1 gram per serving. It does contain the alternative sweetener sucralose (Splenda).
Quaker Instant Oatmeal Weight Control Cinnamon, 8 packets per box
($2.50 to $4.89). Per packet: 160 calories, 3 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 7 g protein, 6 g fiber, 270 mg sodium.
Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.