Drugstores haven't always had the best reputation when it comes to healthy snacks. You may remember loading up on bags of chips or being tempted by the candy bars at the checkout line as a kid.
But over the past few years big retailers, like CVS and Walgreens, have put a lot of effort into implementing programs that help encourage shoppers to make their health a priority.
In 2017, CVS Pharmacy unveiled a new store design to "enhance the retail customer experience" with new, healthier foods and more health-focused products. The company continues to roll out new Gold Emblem store-brand products, adding more than a dozen snacks and meals this month alone, many of which are free of gluten, sugar or cholesterol, and a good source of protein and fiber.
Walgreens has also shifted their offering to include more healthy snacks in stores. Many stores offer a Fresh & Ready section full of fresh produce and meal options, and earlier this year, they began rolling out smaller-format pharmacies that have a pared-down selection of items geared towards health and wellness — including a limited assortment of healthy snacks like veggie chips, peanuts and popcorn.
While this is great news — and might save you a trip to the grocery store — it’s still tricky to navigate the aisles to ensure you’re making the healthiest choices. (The chips, soda and candy still get plenty of shelf space.) We asked registered dietitians Bonnie Taub-Dix, founder of BetterThanDieting.com and author of "Read It Before You Eat It," and Keri Glassman, creator of The Nutrition School, to weigh in on their top healthy snack picks from drugstores.
“It’s created from heart-healthy beans, which contain fiber and protein to help you feel full for a longer period of time, compared to other snacks,” said Taub-Dix. “The best way not to overeat hummus is to put a few tablespoons onto a plate and load the rest of the plate with veggies."
Most drugstores sell pre-packaged combos of Sabra hummus and pretzels, which is a great option if you’re eating on the run. Though your best bet would be swap out the pretzels for fresh veggies.
2. Beef jerky
“Protein is a satisfying snack, and a good way to satisfy your hunger until you have a real meal,” advised Glassman.
3. Dried fruit
Instead of candy, look out for dried fruit, which some drugstores are now selling under their own brand, making them much cheaper than they’d be at a grocery store.
“Dried fruit is a sweet treat containing natural sugar, fiber and a host of vitamins and minerals including potassium, iron and antioxidants,” said Taub-Dix, who looks out for dried apricots, mango and prunes to travel with.
“Some drugstores have refrigerator sections these days — and you can grab eggs, yogurt, cheese and fruit,” said Glassman. “But cheese is a perfect option for a snack, it provides calcium and protein.”
Look for pre-portioned servings of cheeses — either as sticks or in other calorie-controlled packages.
“One of my favorite cereals is yellow box Cheerios because a serving only contains one gram of sugar,” said Taub Dix. “When choosing cereals, look for whole grains as a first ingredient on the list.” Avoid the cereals you know are loaded with sugar (hint: avoid anything multi-colored).
“Look for tuna that’s packed in water and add mashed avocado, lemon and your favorite spices. A chopped apple can also add some crunch,” advised Taub-Dix. “Tuna is versatile for meals and snacks, and gives you the added benefit of omega-3s to help promote heart health.”
Need a mid-morning pick me up? You can find protein-full yogurts at most drugstores, and they’ll keep you satisfied until you’re ready for your next meal. Try to avoid light or non-fat yogurts, which can be loaded with other chemicals. Instead, look out for low-fat or whole-milk versions.
8. Nut mixes or plain nuts
“Whole real food is always better than packaged and processed foods,” suggested Glassman. “And nuts are one of the best foods you can eat, they’re loaded with healthy fat, fiber and protein.”
Be wary of trail mixes, since one package can add up to more than 500 calories. Choose options that don’t contain chocolate and be sure to portion out how much you want to eat before you start eating.
9. Fruit or nut bars
“Any nut or fruit bar is a better option than a candy bar,” said Glassman. Though you still need to read the ingredient list — look out for the amount of sugar and calories. A snack is typically around 250-300 calories.
Keep this list handy the next time you head to the drugstore, ravenous and in search of a bite to eat. Avoid the chip aisle, and instead opt for one of these healthier store-bought snacks!