5 Snack-Food Favorites Made Healthier

Follow these simple to tips to make some of your go-to treats more nutritious, while reducing calories. 

Updated on January 25, 2024

Woman eating ice cream
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Snacks can be a part of a healthy diet. You just need to know which to choose. Fruits and veggies with a tablespoon of hummus or nut butter are always healthy options, but they're not always the most fun.  

If you’re craving something tasty but unhealthy, internal medicine specialist Tassia Pfefferkorn, MD, with Saint Joseph Mercy Health System has some tips on what to reach for instead. Here are five of the best ways to satisfy hunger between meals without overdoing it on calories and fat.

roasted french fries
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Bake some homemade french fries

Snacks often get a bad reputation, but many experts actually recommend eating snacks every day. Having healthy bites between meals can prevent you from overeating later on. “I promote an eating plan with five meals a day," Dr. Pfefferkorn says. "Three major meals, and two snacks in between."

As a general rule, healthy snacks should contain no more than 200 calories. Take french fries, for example. The kind you might find at a fast-food restaurant don't quality as healthy, but you can still enjoy fries if you make them with some adjustments.

“Make your own oven-baked sweet potato fries or regular potato fries,” Pfefferkorn says. Slice a small potato, sprinkle with your favorite herbs and spices—like black pepper, paprika, or rosemary—and bake in the oven until crispy for a 130-calorie snack.  

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Give light popcorn a try

Crispy, crunchy, salty foods like potato chips are traditional snack favorites, but they tend to contain a lot of calories. One ounce of plain potato chips—about 15 chips—contains about 150 calories. That doesn't sound like much, but most people will eat more than just one ounce and then the calories really start to add up.

You don’t have to totally ignore your craving for a salty and crunchy snack. Just reach for a better option, like air-popped popcorn. Skip the butter and salt, and instead sprinkle on some herbs and spices. That's a treat that will run you only 30 calories per cup.

Homemade kale chips are another alternative. A drizzle of heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil and your favorite spices are all you need to crisp up a batch in the oven. Plus, a one-ounce serving contains just 35 calories.

healthy snack
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Munch on energy bites

Packaged cookes are also snacking stand-bys. But just one store-bought cookie has about 160 calories, plus lots of fat, refined carbohydrates, and sugar.

As an alternative, you can make your own batch of energy bites. Made with a base of whole grain oats and nut butter, these bite-sized delights will fuel your body and keep you feeling full until dinnertime. You can create your own recipe with ingredients like dried fruit, unsweetened coconut flakes, chia seeds, and more.

To make one serving, combine two tablespoons of dry oats, one tablespoon of your favorite all-natural nut butter, and your choice of add-ins, then roll the mixture into two balls. The base will run you just 140 calories, but it provides fiber and protein, both of which will keep you full and satisfied.

Don’t overdo it on the nut butter, though. “If you're going to eat peanut butter—or hummus, cheese, or almonds—always practice portion control,” Pfefferkorn says.

a bowl of nuts and dried fruit
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Feed a sweet tooth with homemade dried fruit

Chewy candies often satisfy a craving for something sweet, but they’re also loaded with calories and refined sugar. As an alternative, you can make your own dried fruit bites.

Slice up your favorite fruits—such as apples, strawberries, mangoes, and more—and pop them in the oven. Crank the dial to about 150 degrees Fahrenheit and let your sweet treats bake. Apples and mangoes take about six hours to dehydrate, while strawberries take about 12. Bake a bunch and enjoy them for many months to come. These chewy bites taste sweet and satisfying—without the added sugar.

vanilla ice cream
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Blend up banana “nice” cream

If a pint of your favorite ice cream is what your taste buds are calling for, there's a lower-calorie solution: banana “nice” cream.

Simply freeze a banana or two, put them in a blender, and blend with unsweetened cocoa powder, chopped nuts, or fresh berries. One medium banana contains just about 100 calories, very little fat, and no added sugar. There are loads of healthy toppings and blend-ins you can add to make the flavors more interesting.

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