Updated: Oct 13, 2022
Looking for simple ways to fuel your day between meals? Check out these fast and easy, whole food options to keep your energy revving all day long!
By Kat Warner
Certified Nutrition Coach
1. Veggies with Hummus or Yogurt/Vegan Dip
How to Make it:
Choose your favorite veggies (ex. carrots, cucumbers, celery, bell peppers) for dipping, and partner with your choice of hummus. Add convenience by purchasing hummus snack size packs that you can easily throw into your lunch box or cooler. You can also purchase a pack of tupperwares with two section compartments and prep ahead your own to-go packs, with sliced veggies on one side and a couple tablespoons of hummus on the other. Alternative options include greek yogurt tzatziki dips, and nut-based spreads like Bitchin' Sauce.
All veggies are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber, all of which will keep your immune system humming and your digestive system regular. Baby carrots are quick and convenient, celery sticks are full of fiber, cucumbers are easy and refreshing, and peppers add a sweet crunch and are high in vitamin C.
Hummus comes in a variety of flavors (even chocolate!) and is packed with fiber to boost gut health and promote satiety. Hummus is also a great option for most people because it is gluten free, vegan and its main ingredients (chickpeas, olive oil and tahini) are all anti-inflammatory and support heart health.
Because the main ingredient in hummus is chickpeas, people with sensitivities to FODMAPS or allergies to sesame seeds (in the tahini) may need to limit or avoid this option for digestive reasons.
2. Nut Butter with Apple Slices or Banana
How to Make It:
So Easy! Just wash, core/cut your apple, and dish out 1 to 2 tablespoons nut butter of your choice for dipping. You can purchase pre-packaged portions of nut butter in most grocery stores; just be careful to read the ingredients (see Key Considerations). This is a simple pack-and-go solution, and you can add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to cut apples to prevent browning, boost vitamin C, and give a bit of zest! Simply trade out apple slices for pears or bananas as a variation.
Fruit is full of fiber and nutrients, and it’s naturally occurring sugar is a nice pick-me-up mid-morning or mid-afternoon, but won’t give you a quick crash like processed sweets because of the added time it takes to digest (thanks again, fiber!) Apples specifically are especially high in antioxidants and may reduce the risk of certain chronic conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.The nut butter varieties seem endless these days, so almost everyone can find something they love. Nuts are also full of magnesium, selenium, manganese, vitamins C and E, and monounsaturated fat, which is known to raise your HDL (good) cholesterol and promote heart health.
When purchasing nut butter, check the ingredients to ensure they are just nuts, and if preferred, salt. Avoid nut butters that include added oils and sugars or sweeteners, even in the form of honey. “Natural” on the label doesn’t always translate to pure, and in this case, your best bet is to aim for just nuts and salt to reduce your intake of other processed ingredients and get the most out of your snack. Avoid any nut or seed butters that may provoke allergic reactions if you have a history of sensitivities.
3. Hard Boiled Eggs with Multigrain or Almond Flour Crackers & Cheese
How to Make It:
My failsafe way to boil eggs is simple: Bring about 1-2 inches of water to boil in a covered pot. Fill metal mesh strainer with raw eggs in a single layer. Slowly add a metal mesh strainer with raw eggs into the pot, and return lid to cover. Boil for a 10 minutes. The eggs will steam cook in the basket. Immediately remove the eggs at the 10 minute mark and submerge them in a bowl of ice water. This will help shells easily peel. Let cool to room temperature and store in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Pair with multigrain, seed or almond flour crackers for added fiber and carbs. Fresh cheese like mozzarella or Babybelle swiss adds a creamy texture and extra sustenance between meals.
Hard boiled eggs are not only quick and convenient, but an excellent source high quality protein, relatively low in calories and have a complete range of amino acids. They have all the B vitamins, as well as zinc, calcium and vitamin D.
Multigrain crackers will easily boost fiber via their whole grain base and any added seeds or nuts will increase heart healthy fats.
Eggs have gotten a bad reputation over the years for their high cholesterol content. However, we have now learned that dietary cholesterol has slim affect on actual blood cholesterol, and that eggs, in fact, may increase HDL (good) cholesterol. The bulk of the eggs nutrients exist in the yolk, so while eating egg whites alone will increase your protein intake, you will be forfeiting much of the aforementioned benefits of the whole egg.
People with gluten or seed/nut sensitivities may opt for a GF cracker or toast in place of multigrain crackers.
4. Homemade Trail Mix
How to Make It:
Choose a variety of raw or roasted, unsalted nuts as your base. These could include walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, macadamias, pistachios or brazil nuts.
Add in your favorite dried fruit pieces, such as cranberries, raisins, pineapple, chopped dates, figs, or coconut.
Finish it up with some dark chocolate chips for a real treat!
Can be made and mixed in a large bowl and portioned out in ¼ to ½ cup servings in snack sized bags or resealable containers for easy grab-and-go solutions.
Nuts, as discussed above, are powerhouses of nutrients, fiber, protein and healthy fats. Depending on your selection, your nutrient benefits will vary slightly.
Dried fruit is high in fiber, as the water has been dehydrated and the fruit alone remains. Vitamins and minerals are not lost in this process (with the exception of vitamin C), so this is still a good option for snacking. Dried fruit also has high polyphenol antioxidants, which benefit blood flow and digestion (hello prunes!) as well as decrease oxidative damage and risk of disease.
Dark chocolate is a delicious way to add antioxidants to your diet, while also boosting serotonin levels (happy hormones) via its concentration of amino acid Tryptophan. Cocoa is also a good source of iron and fiber.
Aim for raw, or unsalted roasted nuts to keep sodium low, and stick to about ¼ cup, or 1 oz , as these are calorie dense and a little goes a long way. Avoid any allergy provoking nuts and read labels thoroughly to avoid cross contamination.
Look for dried fruit that is only fruit, with no added sugar or preservatives. The fruit will be naturally sweet on its own, and added sugars will decrease the ability to really taste the fruit for itself.
When reading labels for dark chocolate, aim to see cocoa as the first ingredient listed (as opposed to sugar). Usually to succeed in this, you will need a chocolate that is 70% or higher in cocoa content. Doing this ensures you are again getting the closest to the pure, natural ingredients, and that will give you the best boost for your health.
5. Cottage Cheese or Greek Yogurt and Berries
How to Make It:
These are easy to prep ahead of time and keep in your fridge. I like to buy a big tub of cottage cheese and divide them out into ½ cup portions in my Ziploc Twist’n’Lock containers. Then I rinse my berries and add ¼-½ cup of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries (or a combination of them all) to the top. If desired, add a ½-1 teaspoon of honey or a sprinkle of sweetener of choice.
Both cottage cheese and Greek yogurt are excellent sources of protein, so this snack is sure to satisfy your hunger until your next real meal. Being dairy sources, they have high calcium content as well. Berries are antioxidant powerhouses, chock full of vitamins, and especially high in fiber. This combo of fiber and protein is a foolproof way to ward off snack attacks while giving your body something substantial to work with. The blend of sweet and tangy is a great way to bust through a sweet tooth.
For vegans, opt for a non-dairy yogurt like coconut or almond milk versions. Flavored yogurts are notorious for extremely high sugar as well as added colorants. Choosing plain yogurt as opposed to a flavored version will allow you to control the sugar content and avoid unnecessary additives. Alternatively, you could choose a reduced sugar or sugar-free version. Both cottage cheese and greek yogurt come in non-fat, low-fat and full-fat. Choosing a higher fat content actually helps slow the digestion of sugar, but watch your portions, as calorie content per serving can be significantly higher.
How to Make It:
Depending on whether you buy shelled or in the pod, edamame can be made in just a few short minutes. For shelled edamame, bring a small pot of water to a boil and add frozen edamame for about 4 minutes or according to package directions. Drain, salt lightly if desired and serve or pack. For frozen, in-the-pod edamame, place desired portion in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 3-4 minutes according to package directions.
Can be cooked and packed to go, kept warm in a thermos or even enjoyed cold after heating.
Edamame, or soybeans, are legumes, and are a complete protein (as are eggs), providing all of the essential acids that the body needs and cannot produce itself. High in protein and fiber, edamame is a great way to maintain a healthy weight by allowing your body to feel full longer, and metabolize nutrients more slowly and effectively. An excellent source of vitamin K, edamame helps with blood clotting, regulating calcium and maintaining a healthy metabolism.
There have been some worries about soy products being linked to breast cancer, particularly based on the idea that the isoflavones in edamame act similarly to estrogen in the body, and that increasing these levels will therefore increase breast cancer risk. According to the American Cancer Society, there is no evidence to suggest this correlation actually does increase the risk of cancer, and the ACS concludes that the known health benefits of eating edamame outweigh the potential risks.
7. Protein Smoothie
How to Make It:
One of the easiest on-the-go snacks (that can double as a meal) is a protein smoothie. There are various ways to create your own, so follow this basic blueprint:
8-12 ounces of your favorite milk (dairy or non-dairy)
1 scoop protein powder (some examples include whey, pea, soy, hemp, eggwhite)
1-2 cups of spinach of kale
1-2 handfuls of frozen fruit like berries or banana
1 Tablespoon nut butter or chia seeds
This is a serious Super Shake! It has everything you would need to consider it a meal, so for a snack, consider dividing it in half. You reap all the benefits of the protein in the protein powder and milk (when choosing a dairy or soy source) and iron from your greens. Bursting with nutrition from the berries, you are simultaneously giving your heart a hug with the healthy omega fatty acids in chia seeds, another complete protein with the full panel of essential amino acids. Enjoy these benefits all while you keep yourself hydrated! This choice is easy and fast, can be kept cold for hours in a thermos, and can be enjoyed on the road without forks, knives or napkins!
Deciding on which ingredients to use on this will depend on dietary preferences. Choose a high quality protein that supports your body’s goals and activity levels. Protein powders come unflavored as well as in a variety of flavors like vanilla, chocolate and berry. Because they can be expensive, aim for one that is versatile or that you will pair well with most of your ingredients. It may take some trial and error to find a protein that sits well with you. Some, like pea, have a chalkier texture, while others like whey, tend to froth a bit more and may cause a heavier, fuller feeling. Watch out for artificial ingredients and try not to lean on shakes as your main source of dietary protein. When possible, pick an organic version with clean, familiar and simple ingredients.
Wrapping It All Up:
When choosing a quick and healthy snack, keep it simple. The fewer the ingredients, usually the better. Getting back to nature by eating whole foods gives your body the most bang for buck in terms of nutrient availability. Focus on foods you recognize that don’t include a list of foreign ingredients. This will not only rev up your immunity
through antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, but also increase your overall health and energy while reducing your risk of disease and illness. There are endless options, so play with what you enjoy and listen to how your body responds. There are many delicious and healthy alternatives for those with sensitivities/dietary preferences, so don’t give up if you feel stuck. When in doubt, pair a fruit or veg with a fat or protein, and you’ve got a healthy snack!