11 healthy snacks to reach for when money is tight

Need a snack intervention? Add these nutritionist-approved foods to your shopping list to get the best nutritional bang for your buck.
Just like popcorn, you can enjoy these crunchy roasted chickpeas in a variety of delicious ways.
Just like popcorn, you can enjoy these crunchy roasted chickpeas in a variety of delicious ways.Getty Images

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By Tiffany Ayuda

When you're sheltering in place, meal and snack times tend to be a bit of blur. There's always time and opportunity nosh on something throughout the day— and the fridge and pantry is only a few steps away.

“We have lost track of time in many respects. Sometimes, I go into the kitchen and look for something to eat, and then I look at the clock and think, ‘Wow, I just had lunch an hour ago.’ Paying attention to the clock on the wall will help you pay attention when you should eat or have a snack,” explains Bonnie Taub-Dix, a registered dietitian and creator of BetterThanDieting.com.

To help you avoid mindless munching and prevent cravings in between meals, Taub-Dix recommends consuming snacks with a balance of protein, fat and carbs. These macronutrients not only stabilize your blood sugar, but they also help you feel fuller longer.

Healthy snacks to make in quarantine

If you're watching your pennies or limiting trips to the grocery store, registered dietitians share the their favorite inexpensive, long-lasting and nutritious snack ideas.

1. DIY trail mix

Taub-Dix likes making her own trail mix with a handful of almonds, dried cherries, raisins and whole-grain cold cereal. “Whole grains provide fiber, which will keep you full and are often fortified with vitamins that you might not get enough of,” Taub-Dix says. Unsweetened dried cherries and raisins give you a hint of natural sweetness while also lending some fiber, and nuts provide loads of healthy fats, fiber and protein. You can buy nuts and dried fruit in bulk, helping you save money and trips to the grocery.

2. Popcorn

“Popcorn is a whole-grain snack, which helps boost fiber intake and satiation, says Jessica Levinson, a registered dietitian and culinary nutrition expert. What’s great about popcorn is that it’s like a blank canvas, so you can transform it into whatever snack you desire. “Adding some healthy fats from nuts boosts the satiation factor and a little dried fruit and dark chocolate chips gives you that delicious sweet and salty pairing that satisfies cravings,” Levinson says.

If you want a snack with some spice, Keri Gans, a registered dietitian and author of "The Small Change Diet," suggests adding dashes of black pepper and chili powder.

3. Peanut butter protein crunch balls

For a creamy snack with some crunch, Nora Minno, a registered dietitian and personal trainer, swears by peanut butter protein balls, which she makes with natural peanut butter, maple syrup, sea salt, protein powder and puffed rice cereal. “Making a simple peanut butter protein ball is a great way to have a high-protein snack on hand all week. On the plus side, you can make these with ingredients you probably already have in your pantry,” Minno says. “Each serving (one protein ball) packs five grams of protein for under 100 calories,” she adds.

4. String cheese

Mozzarella string cheese is a good example of a snack with a defined beginning and end, Taub-Dix says, making it a solid snack for those who have problems with portion control. String cheese also helps you savor your snack by picking each strand, instead of gobbling cubes of cheese. Simple and nutritious, string cheese offers calcium and protein and has zero carbs — perfect for keto, Paleo and low-carb snackers.

5. Whole-grain toast or crackers with peanut butter

Although you’re more likely to eat it at breakfast, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy it as a snack too, especially before a workout. Whole-grain bread and crackers provide essential carbs for energy, while nut butter lends some protein and fat. “Nut butters are also good sources of vitamin E, an antioxidant that may help strengthen your immune system,” Gans says.

6. Smoothies

Smoothies made with frozen fruit are a delicious snack option and are especially refreshing in the warmer weather,” Levinson says. She recommends adding yogurt or kefir in your smoothie for immune-boosting probiotics.

Levinson also suggests adding peanut butter powder and avocado for protein and healthy fats. “These will help slow the rise of blood sugar from the blended fruit and keep you more satisfied,” she says.

7. Cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with fruit

Taub-Dix microwaves frozen strawberries to top cottage cheese and Greek yogurt for a comforting, protein-rich snack that tastes reminiscent of cheesecake. Warming strawberries in the microwave draws out their sweet juices and creates almost a compote or fruit syrup over your yogurt without adding sugar.

8. Greek yogurt with salsa

For a flavorful dip that’s lower higher in protein and fiber, Gans combines plain Greek yogurt with salsa. Pair it with chopped veggies, whole-grain crackers or homemade whole-grain pita chips for a savory snack. Just remember to keep portion sizes in mind, as it’s easy to go overboard with chips, and choose low-sodium salsa with no added sugar.

9. Roasted chickpeas

Just like popcorn, you can enjoy roasted chickpeas in a variety of delicious ways. All you have to do is rinse and dry the chickpeas and toss them in some olive oil, sea salt and your choice of seasonings, such as paprika, chipotle powder, garlic powder and dried thyme. Place them on a lined baking sheet and roast them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until they’re crisp. Eat them as is or add them to salads and soups.

10. Hard-boiled eggs

Unlike toilet paper and meat, thankfully there’s no shortage of eggs, but there is a high demand for them and for a good reason. An excellent source of protein, vitamin B12, choline and selenium, hard-boiled eggs make a satisfying midday nosh. “I make a batch a week in my Instant Pot and keep them peeled in my fridge for quick and easy snacking. I enjoy a hard-boiled egg sprinkled with everything-but-the-bagel seasoning and some veggies or fruit for a mid-morning or afternoon snack,” Levinson says.

11. Hummus with veggies and crackers

Pairing fiber from the veggies and whole-grain crackers with protein-packed hummus makes a crunchy and nutritious snack. If you don’t keep a container of hummus in your fridge, Levinson suggests making your own dip with canned beans. Puree them in a food processor or blender with a clove of garlic, some olive oil, salt, pepper and some fresh herbs if you like.