I’ve talked pretty openly about how I’ve been on every fad diet and detox known to man, so trust me when I say nothing is more soul-crushing than when you want to start eating healthy but face the dreaded possibility of replacing all your favorite snacks with BABY CARROTS.
This post was inspired by a friend of mine on Facebook (Hi, JoAnn!) who recently posted requesting healthy snack ideas from her friends. Relatable. When anyone starts making changes to their nutrition, there’s a pretty steep learning curve and snacks are one of the first obstacles we encounter.
When you think about it, there are SO MANY prepackaged options available for unhealthy food that we’re left with whatever we can find in the produce section, which is usually BABY CARROTS.
Now I love baby carrots and sometimes I get a hankering for them, but going from Cheez Its to baby carrots is like when the radio goes from playing Top 40 to Baby Boomer country—like, I dig Garth Brooks, but if I’ve been grooving to “thank u next,” the last thing I want to come on next is “The Dance.” You feel me?
So, yeah, learning what snacks you like and what prepackaged brands are delicious and which are garbage takes work. That’s why I’ve come up with a short stack of options for when you’re hangry and want to grab something more nutritious than a Snickers.
P.S. This should go without saying, but life is about balance. I still eat fun food now and then, including Snickers, but I find that having healthier options at the ready makes me more intentional about when I choose to have a fun snack. Pre-portioning fun food also makes for an easy way to enjoy your favorite not-so-healthy options. Ex., packing a large bag of bite-sized Snickers into Ziploc baggies with one serving size usually leaves me happy and stops me from eating the whole bag.
Technically, you can make these yourselves, but if you’re looking for a filling snack packed with protein and a satisfying crunch you can grab at the store, these should be your go to. My grocer sells store-brand, Sriracha chickpeas, but I’ve gotten several of the Saffron Road bags, especially at the airport. The cool thing is that if you’re vegetarian, these can count as a source of protein (if you’re a meat eater, you’ll obviously still get the protein, but think of them more like carbohydrates since you’re getting denser servings of protein from animal sources).
You probably won’t believe me, but these make an excellent substitute for a chewy chocolate chip cookie. I normally can’t stand banana-flavored anything, but the good thing here is that these are actual dehydrated bananas, so they have the perfect amount of authentic banana taste that only highlights the chocolate that much more. Another bonus? You can usually find these at airports, too! But keep the receipt because they’re undiscovered stars so sometimes they’ve been sitting around for a while and you might need a new bag (speaking from experience).
Now you don’t need to give up the salty, tangy, crunchy satisfaction of chips! And the bonus is that it’s harder to overeat filling almonds than potatoes. And for all the haters, these come in four other flavors: wasabi and soy sauce (bf’s favorite), sweet thai chili, Sriracha, and habañero barbecue. Wasabi is solid, but nothing can beat salt and vinegar for me.
Easy Homemade Options
4. Baked Cheese Crisps
These are so easy and lend themselves to customization. Grab whatever shredded cheese you love, preheat your oven to 350*, and drop tablespoons of cheese on a lined baking sheet. Throw them in the oven for 12-15 minutes until lacy and crunchy. THAT’S IT. Perfect replacement for Cheez Its or Cheetos.
5. Portobello Pizza
When I’m craving pizza, but don’t want to go through the effort of making one, I make a teeny pizza on top of a portobello cap. All you need is about a tablespoon or two or marinara, cheese, and any other topping you’re into then pop it into the oven and broil on high until the cheese is melted and starting to brown. If you don’t like mushrooms or you’re allergic, you can also do this with eggplant rounds, but I would recommend brushing them with olive oil first and baking at 350* for about 10-15 minutes.
6. Turkey Roll-ups
I can’t take credit for inventing this idea, but I’ve been making them for so long, I have no idea where I got the recipe from. Basically, just cut a small cucumber into length-wise quarters, pop one strip in the middle of a slice of deli turkey, spoon in some whole grain mustard, and roll it up—tasty, nutritious, and crunchy!
For years, I was terrible at making edible—much less, tasty—kale chips. They were either wilted or burned and that didn’t include the flavors. These chips will change your life. Yes, they contain white sugar, a.k.a. The Devil’s Sugar™, but there’s so little of it that I don’t think it’s something to worry about it. But if you’re that concerned, it works just as well with brown sugar.
Hard-boiled eggs are a staple of healthy snacking, but, confession? I hate them. I hate the crumbly, chalky, drying feeling in my mouth, not to mention how bland they are! But these have the perfect flavor and texture. Salty with a hint of sweetness with a golden, gooey center. I’ve also reused the marinade two times after a batch to equally satisfying results!
9. Loaded Apple Slices
I probably eat my weight in apples every week, but that’s only because this is my default dessert when my sweet tooth is calling out for attention after dinner. Instead of just topping your apple slices with (old fashioned) peanut butter, add coconut flakes and mini chocolate chips! Such a simple upgrade turns a kiddie snack into what tastes like a fairly decadent dessert.
10. Soft Serve Ice Cream
You, read that right. No offense to Halo Top, but it’s easier and cheaper to make your own soft serve, nutritious ice cream (and one bonus is that you won’t nearly poop your pants if you eat a whole pint—not that I’m speaking from experience or anything). All you need to do is take barely ripe bananas, break them into small pieces, freeze them, and blend with nondairy milk until your desired consistency. Mix that with whatever flavors and healthy sweeteners your heart desires. Some of my favorites are mint chocolate chip (a DROP or two of peppermint extract, vanilla extract, maple syrup, and mini chocolate chips), turtle (cocoa powder, maple extract, brown sugar, chopped pecans, and optional mini chocolate chips). If you want more banana flavor, let the bananas ripen until they’re covered in brown spots and follow the same process. Get creative!
What are your favorite healthy snack recipes?