This article is part of “The Reset” from CNN Underscored, an editorial package of all our articles designed to provide you with information and product recommendations to help achieve any and all New Year’s resolutions.
Improving your eating habits is a great goal because even small changes to your diet can have big effects like increased energy, better skin, better sleep, and more.
Of course, it can be overwhelming to overhaul your eating habits all at once without even knowing where to start. A smart way to achieve your healthy eating goals is to break them down into smaller portions and focus on improving them one at a time—and there are few better places to start than with snacks.
But snacks are tricky! The vast number of snacks that appear to be healthy or are advertised as healthy are actually not healthy at all, making it a challenge to decipher which one to choose. We’ve tapped nutritionists and healthy eating experts to share some healthy snacking wisdom, including the products they personally turn to and recommend while on a hunger strike.
“Healthy snacks contain all the nutrients your body needs to function while satisfying your cravings,” says registered dietitian and nutritionist Melissa Vasikauskas, who guides clients on healthy eating strategies. She says listening to your cravings is actually a good thing — —as long as you choose wisely in satisfying that craving. “If you’re craving something high in sugar,” she says, “it’s because your body is looking for fast-acting carbohydrates. You can combine foods you like and crave while balancing them with other foods, The result is a wholesome, satisfying healthy snack.”
Kristin Kirkpatrick, registered dietitian and founder of KAK Nutrition Consulting, says, “I tell my patients that healthy snacks will give you more bang for your buck. Snacks should be low in sugar (except for fresh fruit) and contain enough fiber and protein. Snacks should fuel us, not drain us.”
All the experts we spoke to agreed that aiming for a balanced snack is the goal, and that balanced snacks allow room for indulgence. “If you need a bite of chocolate, get a bite of chocolate!” says Mallory Gonzales, registered dietitian and director of nutrition at Kencko. Gonzales explains how to incorporate indulgence into your snacks, “I’d start by thinking about the With macronutrients—carbs, protein, and fat—aim to combine at least two of these. Better yet, try all three!”
We asked the experts what snacks they make for themselves, and what gadgets and utensils they use to create their favorite morsels.
Vasikauskas uses an air fryer to make chickpeas; she says to put the chickpeas, oil, and your favorite spices in the air fryer at 390 degrees Fahrenheit for 12-15 minutes. This one is considered the most affordable air fryer by our test team.
For something sweeter, Vasikauskas uses her blender to make smoothies. Her basic recipe combines 6 ounces of Greek yogurt, fresh or frozen fruit, 2 tablespoons of nut butter, 1/2 cup of juice or water, and ice. This particular blender is our pick for the best blender.
“The oven is also great for warming up bread and spreading peanut butter,” says Vasikauskas. In addition to peanut butter toast, she likes these simple snacks: raw veggies and hummus crackers; Greek yogurt with berries and nuts; fruit with cheese.
“The melon baller makes prepping fruit easy,” says Kirkpatrick. “If you put protein balls together, they’ll work too.” Vasikauskas offers a helpful tip for choosing a fruit-based snack: “If you’re more than an hour away from your next meal, choose a protein-, carb- Snacks for compounds and fats. But if your next meal is less than an hour away, I recommend choosing a piece of fruit as it digests quickly and lets you move on to your next meal – without spoiling your appetite.”
“I also love mini waffle makers,” says Kirkpatrick, “because they’re so easy to make low-carb, low-sugar waffles with almond butter or 70 percent dark chocolate on top.” If you’re a Meal prep folks, you can prepare a batch of mini waffles and freeze them; just pop one in the toaster to reheat.
If you have an Instant Pot, Kirkpatrick recommends investing in a silicone egg bite mold insert. “Egg bite molds are great for creating your own healthy snacks,” she says, and not just egg-based ones. Inserts can be used to make egg bites, muffins, mini meatloaf and more.
Gonzalez loves popcorn made on the stovetop or with a popcorn maker as a snack. “Popcorn is a whole grain, and it has protein,” she says. “By making popcorn on the stovetop or in a popcorn maker, you can pop it with olive oil for a nutritious and fun snack.”
Browsing snack options online can be exciting and overwhelming, but with the help of nutritionists, we’ve compiled a list of healthy snacks on Amazon that are both delicious and nutritious. You can also check out the tastiest snack subscription boxes we’ve tested.
If you often find yourself still hungry after a mid-morning snack, you may need to adjust how you snack. “I often see people choose snacks that only have one or two macronutrients,” Vasikauskas said. “Balancing carbs with protein and fat (such as nuts, peanut butter, hummus, or cheese) will satisfy hunger and make you better prepared to make healthier choices throughout the day.”
“Fruit can definitely be part of a healthy snack, but if you eat it on its own, it won’t fill you up, which in turn leads to poor food choices. That’s often why people end up overeating,” says Vasikauskas. -Carbs Compound foods, even if they’re trying to eat healthy.” If you’re craving the sweetness of fruit, try pairing some nuts with cheese, or buy a fruit-nut bar.
Sometimes fruit can satisfy your sweet tooth, but sometimes all you really want is a piece of candy. It doesn’t matter! If you’re looking to replace the occasional candy with something healthier but still feel like an indulgent treat, Vasikauskas recommends Kind bars.
Vasikauskas picks out three Sabra snacks she recommends for those looking for something tasty. Pairing classic hummus with pretzel chips, the brand’s snack packs provide a little protein, a little fat and a little carb to keep you feeling full and energized between meals.
For those looking for a gluten-free snack, Vasikauskas likes Sabra’s hummus—you can also find pre-portioned hummus—which can be enjoyed with carrots, celery, and other raw vegetables, as well as gluten-free Serve with biscuits, or straight out of a spoon or container.
The last Sabra option that Vasikauskas recommends is the Guacamole and Nacho Snack Pack. This is a great prepackaged plant-based vegan snack option that you can enjoy anytime, anywhere.
For those following a gluten-free and/or vegan diet, Vasikauskas recommends Grab The Gold’s snack bar. They come in two flavors, peanut butter and jelly or peanut butter and chocolate, and are individually wrapped for easy grab and go on the go.
Quest Protein Bars is another option for Kirkpatrick; she says she particularly likes the chocolate chip cookie dough flavor, but there are also varieties like double chocolate chunk, white chocolate raspberry and oatmeal chocolate chip.
Identifying a healthy snack brand and sticking with it is an easy way to simplify snack time decisions. For Kirkpatrick, Quest snacks fit the bill, as they come in both sweet and savory options, like these protein chips.
These Atkins caramel balls recommended by Kirkpatrick are basically a candy bar, and they’re a great snack option for those with a sweet tooth.
Kirkpatrick also likes popcorn as a healthy snack option, and for those looking for a ready-to-eat option, she recommends the SkinnyPop brand. Their individual snack bags come in plain and white cheddar flavors.
“Some great packaged snack options are seeds, nuts, mixed dried fruit and granola,” says Gonzalez.
Granola bars are a snack food that looks healthy but isn’t, so it’s especially important to read the nutritional information to make an informed choice. Nature Valley Granola Bars are a great choice for a balanced snack.
Gonzalez also likes whole-wheat pretzels, and crackers made with seeds or whole grains when he’s craving something crunchy and salty. “Remember my advice about including at least two macronutrients? Consider pairing packaged pretzels or crackers with a protein-rich dip for a more nutritious, satisfying snack.”