10 Snacks Nutritionists Always Carry in Their Bags
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10 Snacks Nutritionists Always Carry in Their Bags

You’ll definitely want to steal some of these easy snack ideas.

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By Olivia DeLong

Having healthy snacks at your fingertips is essential when your stomach starts to rumble. If you don’t have quick, nutritious options on hand, you may be tempted to swing through the drive-through or pop into a convenience store for calorie-packed options.

“The one barrier to a healthy diet that I hear over and over again is time,” says Jessica Crandall, RD, of Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver, Colorado. One easy solution is to map out and prep your snacks on Sundays so you don’t have to worry about assembling healthy options during the busy workweek.   

Put your snacks in designated on-the-go bags so you don’t have an excuse to slip up and grab something else that’s more convenient, but less healthy, adds Crandall.

Not sure what to pack? We asked Crandall and 9 other nutritionists which healthy and delicious snacks they always carry while on the go.

Nuts

2 / 11 Nuts

Whether you prefer peanuts, walnuts, almonds or pecans, each type of nut has a unique variety of nutrients, flavors and textures, says Raylene Hungate, RDN, of Memorial Hospital Jacksonville in Florida.

“Nuts are wonderful sources of B vitamins, magnesium, iron and calcium and because they’re packed with fiber, protein and healthy fats, they will keep you satisfied and full until your next meal.”

But monitor portion sizes. “Nuts are high in calories, because they are full of healthy fats, so remember to measure out one serving which is about one ounce. Any snack you choose should always be 200 calories or less. I tend to keep 100-calorie nut snack packs in my purse, briefcase and gym bag.”

Cottage cheese with tomatoes, basil and balsamic vinegar

3 / 11 Cottage cheese with tomatoes, basil and balsamic vinegar

“For healthy snacking, I encourage pairing protein and produce,” says Jessica Crandall, RD. Focusing on produce helps to increase the fiber or "fullness" factor of your snack and we all know we should be eating more fruits and veggies anyway!” And of course, protein provides essential building blocks for bones and muscle.  

One of her favorite protein-produce combos? A refreshing mix of cottage cheese with cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and balsamic vinegar. Some of her other go-to favorites are bell peppers dipped in salsa and black beans, veggies like carrots, cucumbers or tomatoes with hummus; and plain Greek yogurt mixed with herb spices and veggies.

Nutritious bars

4 / 11 Nutritious bars

No-prep-needed protein or fruit bars are super easy to throw in your bag each morning so you’re prepared for the day ahead.

“I have intolerances to gluten, dairy and soy, so Vega Sport Protein bars or EPIC bars are great high-protein options that hold me over until my next meal. Both contain approximately 14 to 15 grams of protein and 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrates, which means they won’t spike my blood sugar,” says Amy Schleper, RDN, LD, of HCA Midwest Health in Kansas City, Missouri. 

And Lauren Hand, RDN, LD, of HCA Midwest Health also agrees that certain bars are convenient options when you’re on the go. “KIND bars with less than 5 grams of sugar, Rx bars, Warrior bars and Kirkland’s dark chocolate and nut bars are good picks. I look for somewhere between a 2 to 1 and 1 to 1 ratio of grams of carbs to grams of protein for good blood sugar balance—so 20 grams of carbs and 10 grams of protein would be a good, healthy example.” A lot of bars on the market are filled with added sugars and fat, so it’s important you reach for the right ones. 

Homemade trail mix

5 / 11 Homemade trail mix

“Trail mix made of peanuts, dark chocolate raisins and pretzels is my go-to snack,” says Margaret Ecklund, Manager of Food, Nutrition and Café Operations at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center. “The nuts have fat and protein which both satisfies and controls low blood sugar, the dark chocolate raisins satisfy my sweet tooth and pretzels are low in fat and calories.”

Spend some time prepping a big batch on Sunday then divide it up into individual plastic baggies or containers so you can enjoy it throughout the week.

Low-fat cheese sticks

6 / 11 Low-fat cheese sticks

“The hardest item to get when you’re on the move is a healthy protein,” says Leslie Milligan, the Director of Food and Nutrition Services at Grand Strand Medical Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

“Healthy carbohydrates are not as difficult to find since even gas stations have a variety of options for most people. But protein-based snacks like cheese sticks help keep you full and energized and can help stimulate brain function.”

You can also buy a bag of cheese sticks to take to work so you can easily grab them from the fridge when you’re ready for some fuel.

Fruit and nut combo

7 / 11 Fruit and nut combo

If plain ‘ole nuts aren’t cutting it, try a one to two-ounce portion of unsalted nuts like almonds or walnuts or seeds like pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds plus some fresh fruit, says Amy Haynes, RD, of Medical City Children’s Hospital in Dallas, Texas.

“I find the combination of nuts or seeds with fruit to be very satisfying, and there are several scientific reasons why this happens to be the case.” An average apple provides about five grams of dietary fiber, predominantly in the form of pectin, which helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels and directly translates into sustaining adequate energy levels, she adds.

Studies show that just one to two ounces—or approximately a handful of nuts or seeds—is very effective in satisfying hunger and suppressing appetite thanks to their heart healthy fatty acids, fiber, protein as well as fat soluble vitamins and minerals, says Haynes.

Corn chips

8 / 11 Corn chips

“Paired with salsa, hummus, guacamole, or even by themselves, corn chips are a convenient grab and go option,” says Jan Claussen, RD, of TriStar Centennial Center for Weight Management in Nashville, Tennessee.  

Popular corn chips brands can be loaded with salt and calories so pick the right type. “When choosing corn chips, find options with a short list of ingredients—you’ll want to stay away from extra preservatives and additives. An example of a good ingredients label would be: stone ground yellow/white corn, canola or safflower oil and sea salt. Just three ingredients! That’s all!”

Try looking in the health food section at your local grocery store. “Many times, organic, gluten-free, whole grain and baked varieties exist,” she adds. And last but not least, step outside of your corn chip comfort zone. “Corn chips made of blue corn, white corn, yellow corn, quinoa, black beans, lentils, whole grains and seeds are all available.” 

PB&J on whole-grain bread

9 / 11 PB&J on whole-grain bread

“Before I head out the door, I have a tendency to throw together a piece of whole grain bread with natural, no sugar added peanut butter and natural jelly so I have it in my purse for myself or my child,” says Tracy Kuzava, RDN, of Eastside Medical Center in Snellville, Georgia.  

Kuzava loves this snack because it provides a combination of fiber, complex carbohydrates, fruit, protein and a little fat to hold her over until her next meal

Edamame

10 / 11 Edamame

“When the afternoon slump hits and I find my stomach rumbling, something that both my family and I enjoy is edamame,” says Alicia Allen, RD, of St. Mark's Hospital Salt Lake City, Utah.

Edamame is naturally low in calories, and it’s also a great source of protein and iron so it keeps my family and me healthy, says Allen. Another bonus? “Edamame is simple to prepare too, you just steam the pods on the stovetop or in the microwave.” 

Yogurt parfaits

11 / 11 Yogurt parfaits

DIY yogurt parfaits are quick, easy and great all-year-round, says Allison Skinmore, RD, of St. Mark’s Hospital.

“I like to combine Greek yogurt, fresh berries and no-sugar-added granola. And for an even more portable option, yogurt smoothies with Greek yogurt, frozen berries and spinach are great, too.”