Stock up on these grab-and-go snacks that are just as delicious as they are nutritious.
In a perfect world, we'd all carry around homemade snacks of fresh ingredients like fruit, Greek yogurt, chopped vegetables, and hummus. In reality, convenience is king.
One extreme example: A 2015 report from global market research company Mintel found nearly 40 percent of millennials surveyed believe cereal is an inconvenient breakfast choice because "they have to clean up after it." Yes, cereal, which requires a single bowl, spoon, and minute to make.
Whether this can be attributed to busyness or laziness is another discussion. The point is that regardless of whether social commitments or doctor visits are keeping people from preparing healthy meals and snacks, the demand for ready-to-eat foods is bigger than ever. And so is the supply.
Therein lies the challenge: How do you separate the truly nutritious from the junk in disguise?
To help you identify the best between-meal options, we asked registered dietitians to share the packaged snacks they buy for themselves. From classics like popcorn to newer concoctions like ranch-dusted roasted chickpeas, their answers offer something to satisfy every craving. Plus, all deliver some combination of healthy fats, fiber-rich carbs, and protein, and are relatively low in sugar and sodium.
Can't find a particular packaged snack in your local grocery store? Many options can also be bought in bulk online. Enjoy!
Packaged Snack #1: Planters NUTrition Heart Healthy Mix
“I love to buy mixed nuts or almonds because they deliver healthy fats and protein to keep me satisfied until my next meal,” says Rita K. Saeed, R.D.N.
These individual packs are a mix of peanuts, almonds, pistachios, pecans, and hazelnuts. They're seasoned with a little bit of salt but are still low in sodium.
Nutrition per 1.5-ounce package: 260 calories, 23 grams fat (2.5 grams saturated fat), 55 milligrams sodium, 8 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 2 grams sugar, 9 grams protein
Packaged Snack #2: Biena Rockin’ Ranch Roasted Chickpeas
“Roasted chickpeas are one of my favorite snacks to buy,” says Marisa Moore, R.D.N. “They’re perfectly portable and packed with fiber and protein for a filling snack!”
Though roasted chickpeas are an easy snack to make at home, the packaged ones are incredibly convenient and stay crispy much longer than homemade versions, Moore says. Biena makes a variety of flavors, both sweet and savory, but Rockin’ Ranch is Moore’s personal favorite.
“It comes with tons of tasty seasoning but just one gram of sugar,” she says.
If you’re watching your sodium intake or have high blood pressure, opt for a lower-sodium flavor like Honey Roasted or Cinnamon Crunch. Both options have 100 milligrams of sodium per serving.
Nutrition per ¼-cup serving: 120 calories, 3 grams fat (0 grams saturated fat), 230 milligrams sodium, 18 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 1 gram sugar, 5 grams protein
Packaged Snack #3: Kirkland Signature Cocoa Dusted Almonds
"For something crunchy, I buy lightly salted cinnamon- or cocoa-dusted almonds," Moore says. "The nuts deliver a dose of healthy fats plus a little protein and fiber to help me feel satisfied, which is so important in a snack."
To get the best bang for your buck, go for a big container of Costco's Kirkland brand cocoa-dusted almonds. Grab a handful (about ¼ cup) to put into a baggie for on-the-go snacking. Even better, keep individual servings in your car, gym bag, or purse so you're always prepared.
Nutrition per ¼-cup serving: 190 calories, 15 grams fat (2.5 grams saturated fat), 18 milligrams sodium, 11 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 4 grams sugar, 6 grams protein
Packaged Snack #4: 365 Everyday Value Reduced Fat and Sodium Popcorn
“I eat popcorn almost every day, as it is the perfect high-fiber, high-volume snack to keep you satisfied,” says Amanda Baker Lemein, R.D. “Plus, it is 100 percent whole grain, and this brand uses less oil and salt than other brands, making it even better in my book.”
Nutrition per 3½-cup serving: 130 calories, 6 grams fat (0.5 grams saturated fat), 85 milligrams sodium, 18 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar, 3 grams protein
Packaged Snack #5: Simple Mills Fine Ground Sea Salt Almond Flour Crackers
"I love the emphasis on simplicity in all Simple Mills products," Lemein says. "These crackers are versatile enough to pair with a variety of foods, and the ingredient list is short and sweet-just like I like it. Plus, for a packaged 'carb' product, the fiber is pretty good too."
These are also a great alternative to wheat-based crackers if you’re gluten-free.
Nutrition per 17 crackers: 150 calories, 8 grams fat (0.5 grams saturated fat), 180 milligrams sodium, 17 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, less than 1 gram sugar, 3 grams protein
Packaged Snack #6: Setton Farms Pistachios and Cranberries Pistachio Chewy Bites
"These are one of my new favorite packaged snacks," says Jodi Danen, R.D.N. "They have pistachios and fruit, are an excellent source of fiber, and have at least five grams of protein per serving," she says. "They also taste amazing!"
Nutrition per 2 chews: 210 calories, 13 grams fat (2 grams saturated fat), 40 milligrams sodium, 16 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 8 grams sugar, 7 grams protein
Packaged Snack #7: KIND Nut Butter Filled Chocolate Peanut Butter Snack Bar
The nut butter-filled bars from KIND are another go-to snack for Danen. "I highly recommend the chocolate peanut butter variety," she says. "It's a good source of fiber made with 100 percent whole grains, and it's the perfect mix of peanut butter and chocolate."
Nutrition per bar: 170 calories, 9 grams fat (2 grams saturated fat), 140 milligrams sodium, 20 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 8 grams sugar, 4 grams protein
Packaged Snack #8: Oloves Basil and Garlic Pitted Olives
“I love, love, love Oloves,” says Kendra Tolbert, R.D.N. “They are flavored olives—basil and garlic is my favorite—in a pouch, providing a tasty and convenient source of healthy monounsaturated fats and a little fiber,” she says.
The sodium in this snack is a bit high given the quantity, so watch your intake the rest of the day, and drink plenty of water.
Nutrition per 30-gram pack: 53 calories, 5.5 grams fat (0.8 grams saturated fat), 300 milligrams sodium, 0.3 grams carbohydrates, 0.6 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar, 0.4 grams protein
Packaged Snack #9: Chifles No Salt Plantain Chips
If you’re craving something crunchy, like potato chips, try plantain chips instead.
“Plantain chips are nutrient-dense and a good source of fiber,” says Maya Feller, R.D. This version is also totally free of added sugar and salt.
Nutrition per 1-ounce serving: 150 calories, 8 grams fat (2 grams saturated fat), 0 milligrams sodium, 20 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar, 0 grams protein
Packaged Snack #10: Rhythm Superfoods Naked Beet Chips
These crunchy, flavor-packed chips are made from sliced beets, says Lauren Minchen, M.P.H., R.D.N. “The healthy carbs and fiber will help satisfy you and keep you feeling full between meals,” she says.
For extra staying power, dip them in something with some protein or healthy fats, like hummus or guacamole. Because beets are naturally sweet, this snack does have a dose of naturally occurring sugar, but no added sugars.
Nutrition per 1.4-oz bag: 150 calories, 0 grams fat (0.5 grams saturated fat), 130 milligrams sodium, 32 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber, 18 grams sugar, 4 grams protein
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