Can't stop snacking? Nutritionists share their favorite healthy options

These nutritionist-approved, simple snacks will fill you up and leave you satisfied.
/ Source: TODAY
By Erica Chayes Wida

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These days, especially, when trips to the grocery store are more limited for many to stock up on their favorite healthy products, it's important to know what deliciously simple snacks you can make at home. TODAY Food spoke to nutritionists and chefs focused on healthy eating to find out their go-to, simple snacks to fill you up and leave you satisfied.

Elevate your fruits and veggies

Apple slices and manchego cheese

Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutrition and wellness expert and author of "Eating in Color: Delicious, Healthy Recipes for You and Your Family," said you shouldn't be intimidated by cheese's higher calorie count. With a 1-ounce serving, you'll only take in about 185 calories total when you pair it with a whole medium-sized apple — one of Largeman-Roth's favorite snacks.

"Apples contain the flavonoid quercetin, which shows promise in protecting brain neurons from oxidative damage, a known cause of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. Pectin, the soluble fiber in apples, helps boost immunity and gut health," she told TODAY.

Crunchy apple and almond butter

Similarly to cheese and apples, a nice spread of almond butter also helps boost the protein of an already fibrous fruit.

"Protein and healthy fat in almond butter helps smooth out blood sugar levels when eaten along with a crisp apple and it keeps you feeling fuller longer," Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of "Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You from Label to Table," told TODAY.

Jicama with lime and chili

A crunchy root vegetable that is high in both water and fiber but low in calories, jicama is filling and enjoyable to eat, especially cut into sticks. While its texture is satisfying, it doesn’t have much flavor on its own — so Largeman-Roth adds a squeeze of fresh lime and a sprinkle of chili powder. In Mexico, jicama sticks are often enjoyed with Tajín chili powder.

Sugar snap peas and hummus

Reach for some hummus when you want to give your favorite veggies a protein boost.

"Hummus never fails to satisfy, and I like eating it with sugar snap peas, which are super crunchy and fresh tasting. My kids love them too, so I put out a big bowl (when I can get them) and I’m happy to see them munching away," Largeman-Roth said. "The hummus and the peas together offer 6g of plant protein, making it a nutrient-rich snack."

Palak Patel, healthy food specialist and chef at the Institute of Culinary Education, told TODAY she prefers hummus with other veggies like cucumber and carrot.

Natalie Morales' Easy Hummus with Veggies

Artichokes and hearts of palm

"These two are not traditional in the snacking list but I think the ones that are packed in just water are lovely to eat by themselves or with olives," said Patel.

They’re low in calories and fat and packed with fiber and vitamin C.

Olives

There's a reason the Mediterranean diet is so popular and beneficial — and olives, the salty little stone fruit, are a big part of that.

"We can count on olives for loads of Vitamin E and antioxidants," Patel told TODAY. "Castelvetranos or green olives are great to eat alone or sprinkled with a little spice. A quick 3-minute sauté in a pan with garlic and rosemary makes them an earthy, elevated snack."

Edamame

These whole, immature soybeans have 9 grams of fiber and 11 grams of protein in a single serving, according to Patel. They make for easy snacking because you can buy them frozen, peeled or unpeeled. Steam them with a sprinkle of salt or soy sauce or simply enjoy them plain.

Blackberries

When eating healthy is your game, antioxidant-rich fruits, like blackberries, are a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth.

"No berry is higher on the antioxidant chain that blackberries," Patel told TODAY. "High in vitamin C and fiber, the darker the berry, the better it is for your health."

Dig into protein-packed snacks

Canned salmon on whole-grain crackers

When you're looking for something high in protein and low in calories, try canned, wild-caught Alaskan salmon served on a sturdy, whole-grain cracker like a Triscuit. Largeman-Roth loves this snack for its calcium and DHA omega-3 fatty acids that protect our hearts, brains and provide anti-inflammatory function in the body.

"I like combining the canned salmon with fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, a little salt and pepper, some EVOO and freshly chopped parsley or dill, if I have it on hand," she said. "Then I put the little salad on top of the crackers. It makes a wonderful, savory afternoon or 'happy hour' snack."

Hard-boiled egg and orange

"Eggs are an incredible food. The white contains the protein, but the yolk is the little jewel inside, packed with brain-boosting nutrients like choline and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin for healthy eyes," Largeman-Roth told TODAY.

While hard-boiled eggs are a splendid snack all on their own, she also enjoys them with orange slices for a combo of savory and sweet, plus some extra potassium.

Yogurt and fresh mango

This sweet, milky snack tastes more like a dessert or tropical drink, yet it is packed with protein, probiotics and vitamin C.

"The mango contains a significant amount of the phytonutrient beta-carotene, which is important for immune function and healthy eyesight," Largeman-Roth told TODAY.

Peanut butter

In addition to being a versatile topping, this pantry staple has the most protein-filled nut, said Patel. She loves to eat it right off the spoon for a midday pick-me-up with a little maple syrup for added sweetness, on top of fresh fruit or spread on celery.

Enjoy something heartier

Whole-wheat English muffin half with avocado and everything bagel seasoning

For a total of 145 calories, 16 grams of carbs, 4.5 grams of fiber and 3.5 grams protein, this savory avocado toast is super satisfying. Using a product like Everything But the Bagel Seasoning, which was voted Trader Joe's best overall item in 2019, or a combo of your favorite savory spices, helps add extra flavor without the extra calories. According to Largeman-Roth, one-third of an avocado has 6% daily value of potassium, which makes it a great after-workout snack.

"It’s wonderful at any time of day and I never get sick of it," she said. "I love the combination of the crispy toasted muffin, the creamy avocado and the savory seasoning on top. The avocado provides heart healthy monounsaturated fat, as well as fiber to keep you feeling satisfied and full for hours."

Energy balls with chia seeds

Patel loves throwing together a batch of "energy balls" in the food processor. She combines dates (natural sweeteners), with different kinds of nuts for protein and hydrating chia seeds for lots of fiber. You can also add rolled oats into the mix.

Cottage cheese, frozen strawberries and cinnamon on a whole-grain waffle

This sweet-but-not-too-sweet snack is a hearty way to start the day. It's especially good for folks who are trying to eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day.

"Cottage cheese is one of the most underrated foods in the store! It provides protein and calcium and even the full-fat version is not high in calories, considering the value it provides," Taub-Dix told TODAY. "A toasted whole grain waffle provides the aroma of a baked good without the excess calories, sugar and fat and contributes about 3 grams of protein."

In addition to a pop of color, the strawberries, which can be frozen and warmed in the microwave or fresh, provide fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants.

Roasted chickpeas

Delicious as a snack or side dish, Patel roasts chickpeas in the oven with a little salt. High in fatty acid and folate, this savory snack is a great swap when the craving kicks in for something like chips.

Grab and go

Walnuts

About 12 to 14 walnut halves provide 190 calories, 4 grams of protein and 2 grams fiber. Out of all the tree nuts, walnuts also have the the highest level of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, "the plant-based form of omega-3 for brain, eye and heart health," Largeman-Roth said.

She continued, "I’ll often combine them with half a sliced pear as a snack. I like that they contribute to my intake of omega-3s, because it’s hard to get enough of that important fat."

Raw almonds

Both Largeman-Roth and Taub-Dix regard raw almonds as a go-to when a snack craving strikes. A 1-ounce serving contains 160 calories, 6 grams of protein, 6 grams of carbs, 4 grams of fiber, 14 grams of fat, 210 milligrams of potassium, 75 milligrams of calcium and 76 milligrams of magnesium, which is a mineral that Largeman-Roth said can help reduce anxiety. These little nuts pack a big punch!

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Let’s talk about NUTS! I can remember when nuts finally started to shed their negative image back in the late 90s. Since then they’ve become nutrition stars ⭐️ thanks to their 💜 healthy fats and other benefits. Clients ask me all the time which nuts are the best nuts and I tell them they should eat whichever ones they like, but it’s best to mix it up because they have slightly different benefits. I’ll just highlight a few here (a 1 oz serving of each nut is shown): 🐿 Pistachios: These little green superstars are a standout because you can enjoy so many of them for the fewest number of calories ✔️ 🐿 Pecans: These crunchers have a natural sweetness and help support healthy cholesterol levels ✔️ 🐿 Peanuts: OK, I know they’re a #legume, but I’m including them here anyway😉 They are high in protein and resveratrol, the same antioxidant found in red 🍷 ✔️ 🐿 Walnuts: These big guys boast plant-based omega-3s, which are important for ❤️ and 🧠 health ✔️ 🐿 Almonds: These snackers are highest in skin-boosting vitamin E and have a considerable amount of calcium for 💪🏻 bones ✔️ 🐿 Cashews: This vegan fave is super in recipes and also may help raise good HDL cholesterol levels ✔️ Thanks to their high fat content, nuts should be stored in a cool place. I keep mine in airtight bags in the freezer. Got 🥜 questions? I’m here! #plantbasedprotein #plantpowerednutrition #hearthealthyfats #goodfats #healthyfatsandprotein #nutmix #nutritionistapproved #nutritioninfo #goodcholesterol #foodsforyourheart #foodforyourbrain #healthysnacks

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Whole-grain crackers and cheese

Whether you're looking for a healthier happy hour snack or need something to eat between meals while working, individually wrapped string cheese with some whole-grain crackers will do the trick.

"String cheese provides 7 grams of protein and 20% of your Daily Value for calcium in just 70 to 80 calories," said Taub-Dix. "One serving of whole grain crackers kick in about 2 to 3 grams of protein along with satisfying whole grains to help move you."