- A new study suggests indulging in processed, sugary snacks might undo the benefits of a healthy diet.
- Not all snacking is bad. Study participants who ate high-quality, healthy snacks were more likely to have a healthy weight than unhealthy snackers or those who didn’t snack at all.
- Look for fresh or packaged snacks with a few recognizable ingredients that include protein, healthy fats, and/or fiber to keep you satiated until your next meal.
If you’re into eating healthy meals, kudos—but how are your snacks looking these days? By powering down ultra-processed, sugary snacks, you may undo all the benefits of eating healthy, suggests a new study.
The study, which was recently published in the European Journal of Nutrition, analyzed the snacking habits of 854 people participating in the Zoe Predict study (1). Poor snack choices were linked with higher BMI (body mass index), higher visceral fat mass, and higher postprandial—the period after eating a meal—triglyceride concentrations, all of which are associated with metabolic disease such as stroke, cardiovascular disease, and obesity, per the study.
But not all snacks are created equal. People who ate high-quality snacks like nuts and fresh fruit were more likely to have a healthy weight compared to unhealthy snackers or those who didn’t snack at all. “Eating every three to four hours is optimal for blood sugar balance and can help keep our hormones in check,” says registered dietitian Sarah Becker, M.S., R.D., “This is where snacks play a big role.”
The question is how to pick a healthy snack? “If it comes in a bag, look at the ingredients first,” says Becker. “Be on the lookout for added sugars, refined carbs and inflammatory oils. Over time these foods can make you feel pretty crummy, lead to weight gain and can contribute to an array of health issues.”
Becker prefers snacks that include protein, fiber, and healthy fats. “These products will prevent a crash and keep you full, satiated, and energized,” she explains. She’s also a proponent of packing your own unprocessed, non-packaged snacks like hummus and snap peas, or turkey roll-ups. “It’s just as easy to throw an apple and nuts in your bag as it is a bag of chips,” says Becker.
ABOUT THE EXPERT
Sarah Becker is an Integrative and Functional Registered Dietitian specializing in gut health, weight management, hormone health, thyroid health, fertility and the “unexplained” issues that other health providers aren’t able to figure out. She has a food-first nutrition philosophy rooted in evidence-based science, therapeutic strategies and treatments. She takes a personalized integrative and functional approach to nutrition and aims to treat the root cause of symptoms.
Healthy Snacks That Won’t Ruin Your Diet
It’s time to level up your snack game. Here are 16 delicious, and easy RD-approved snacks to keep you on the straight and narrow.
FAST (AND HEALTHY) FOOD
12. Apple and Peanut Butter
Apples are filled with fiber while nut butter is packed with healthy fats. A combo sure to hold you over for hours. Since nut butter can be loaded with sneaky high amounts of inflammatory oils, Becker recommends looking for nut and salt blends only, and sticking to organic nut butters to avoid pesticides. Brands that pass the test include: Santa Cruz, Once Again, MaraNatha, and Kirkland Organic.
13. Hummus and Snap Peas
One of Becker’s go-to’s for plant-based protein, fiber, and heart-healthy fats in hummus and snap peas. Plus, a generous serving of hummus (a few tablespoons) and a small pile of snap peas can keep you full for under 100 calories. Not a fan of snap peas? Sub them for cucumber, bell pepper, or carrots.
14. Rice Cake, Almond Butter, and Hemp Seeds
Rice cakes are one of Becker’s favorite ways to add crunch without the calories. They’re the perfect vessel for hummus, veggies, and everything bagel seasoning, or slathered in heart-healthy almond butter, and hemp seeds—which are a surprisingly good source of protein, at three grams of protein for only one tablespoon.
15. Turkey Roll-ups with Avocado
If you haven’t been introduced to turkey roll-ups consider this your primer. Turkey roll-ups are exactly how they sound: Rolling up a slice of turkey with some cream cheese and veggies in the middle. These little rolls are a high-protein, nutrient-dense way to stay full between meals. You’ll love Becker’s simple twist which subs the cream cheese for heart-healthy avocado. High in fat and fiber, avocados are known as one of the best ways to curb hunger (2).