Snack ideas to satisfy cravings, keep your energy levels up and contribute towards your daily nutritional needs.
By Annie Hayes
If you frequently find yourself snacking throughout the day – and let’s face it, who doesn’t? – preparing a selection of healthy snacks will keep your stomach full and your energy levels buoyed until dinner without derailing your health goals.
It’s no secret that most convenience foods are high in saturated fat, sugar and salt, and offer little nutritional value. By taking the time to assemble healthy snacks with a mix of macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein and good fats – you’ll satisfy cravings and top up your daily micronutrient tally.
We asked personal trainer James Stark, co-founder of Starks Fitness, and Alex Ruani, UCL doctoral researcher and chief science educator at The Health Sciences Academy, to share a selection of healthy snacks you can whip up with ease:
- Stuffed avocado
Substitute refined carbs for fresh avocado to ‘significantly’ suppress hunger and increase meal satisfaction, a study from the Illinois Institute of Technology found. ‘Avocados are a great source of monounsaturated fats and contain an array of vitamins including vitamins C, E and K,’ says Stark. Sprinkle with crumbled feta, chopped cucumber, bell pepper, tomato and fresh herbs.
- Dark chocolate and almonds
Dark chocolate improves your attention, according to research by Northern Arizona University. ‘Cocoa contains flavonoids and polyphenols; antioxidants that help to prevent oxidative stress,’ says Stark. ‘Almonds are a great source of healthy fat and nutrient-dense – containing selenium, zinc and magnesium. This is a power snack!’
- Cucumber slices and hummus
Cucumber contains a number of nutrients, ‘especially vitamin K for bone health, and it’s made mostly of water which can replenish hydration,’ says Stark. ‘Hummus contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties – from the olive oil – and is high in plant-based protein.’
- Pear and ricotta cheese
Pears are a potent source of polyphenol antioxidants – specifically the peel, which contains up to six times more polyphenols than the flesh – and flavonoid antioxidants, which help fight inflammation. Pair with ricotta cheese, which contains 14 grams of protein and 25 per cent of your daily calcium needs in each 80 gram serving.
- Mixed nuts
People who eat at least 20g of nuts a day have a lower risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases, research from Imperial College London found. The study included all kinds of tree nuts – such as hazelnuts and walnuts – and even peanuts, which are technically legumes.
People who eat at least 20g of nuts a day have a lower risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases.
- Greek yogurt with flaxseed
‘Greek yogurt is a rich source of calcium for bone health, and it also provides probiotics to keep a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut,’ says Stark, while flaxseed is ‘high in omega 3 and polyphenols, and is high in fibre for the digestive tract’. Flaxseed improves metabolic health and protects against obesity, the American Physiological Society found.
- Chia pudding with cinnamon
Small but mighty, chia seeds are a source of bone-bolstering micronutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. They also contain satiating soluble fibre. Top your chia pudding with cinnamon – as well as tasting good, it has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.
- Apple slices with peanut butter
Carrots are a particularly good source of beta carotene – an antioxidant that your body converts into vitamin A – plus fibre, vitamin K1 and potassium. They taste great with peanut butter, which is comprised of 25 per cent protein and high in healthy fats – specifically oleic acid – keeping you satiated for longer.
- Olives and cheese
Olives are high in disease-preventing phytonutrients. ‘They’re mainly made up of water, but contain around 15 to 20 per cent of monounsaturated fat and are potent in vitamin E,’ says Stark. ‘Cheese is another great source of fats, calcium and protein, and is rich in vitamin A and B12. It’s all about getting good quality cheese.’
- Celery and cream cheese
Not only are they physically filling, but fibre-rich foods like celery help to produce hunger-suppressing short-chain fatty acids like butyrate and propionate in the gut, says Ruani. Pair with cream cheese for a satisfying, low-calorie protein hit.
- Raw vegetable crudités
Munching on raw veg is an easy way to bump your five-a-day towards 10-a-day. Chop up celery sticks, baby carrots, cucumber sticks, bell pepper strips, broccoli and cauliflower to pick at throughout the day. For an extra hit of flavour, grate lime zest over the veggies, sprinkle with chilli flakes and flaked salt, then squeeze the juice of a lime over the top.
- Tuna rice cakes
Gluten free or just not keen on toast? Combine tuna with Greek yogurt and smear over a rice cake with a squeeze of lemon. Tuna is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids – an essential type of fat your body can’t make on its own – while the yogurt is packed with probiotics. ‘Probiotic-rich foods are shown to have beneficial effects on the regulation of certain hunger-suppressing hormones,’ says Ruani.
- Goji berry trail mix
Pair chewy goji berries with almonds and walnuts to make a sweet, satisfying trail mix. Eating just 14g of goji berries every day for six weeks shrinks your waist by several centimetres, improves your cholesterol levels, and cranks up the concentration of antioxidants in your blood, researchers at Universidade do Oeste de Santa Catarina found.
Eating 14g of goji berries every day for six weeks improves your cholesterol and ups the antioxidants in your blood.
- Melon and parma ham
Honeydew melon is rich in bone-building folate, vitamin K and magnesium, while cantaloupe is packed with vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that protects your cells from oxidative damage. ‘Foods with a high-water content are more filling as they delay gastric emptying,’ adds Ruani. Chop up and serve with parma ham for a salty-sweet treat.
- Banana with cottage cheese
Combine a dollop of cottage cheese, a banana and a sprinkle of granola to make your own faux-sundae. Bananas are one of the best fruit sources of vitamin B6, which helps your body to utilise energy from protein and carbohydrates, while cottage cheese is packed with gut-healthy probiotic cultures. Top with cacao nibs and a squeeze of honey.
- Tamari sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds are a rich source of phytosterols and a type of fatty acid called oleic acid, both of which are proven to reduce cholesterol levels, improve heart health and reduce inflammation. Roast them in tamari sauce and keep them in an airtight container for easy snacking.
- Baked apple
Apples are packed with pectin, which acts as a prebiotic and feeds the good bacteria in your gut. For a hearty, warming dessert-style snack, try coring an apple, topping it with oats, nuts and cinnamon, and baking it in the oven for 20 minutes or so. Oats contain a unique group of antioxidants called avenanthramides, which may help lower your blood pressure.
- Pesto boiled eggs
Eggs are extremely nutritious, but they can be a little bland-tasting on their own – so try smearing pesto over a freshly-boiled egg to inject some flavour. Your risk of cardiovascular disease decreases a little when you consume an egg almost every day, researchers from Beijing University found.
Gram-for-gram, popcorn contains more antioxidant polyphenols than fruits and vegetables, the American Chemical Society found. This is because it only contains around four per cent water, while fresh produce might contain up to 90 per cent. Skip the butter and enjoy yours air-popped and lightly-seasoned to reap the benefits.
- Kale crisps
Unlike potatoes, kale retains its nutritional value when made into crisps. Impressive, given that it’s one of the most nutritionally-dense plant foods on the planet – particularly when it comes to vitamins A, C and K, and powerful antioxidants like quercetin and kaempferol.
- Crackers, cheese and Marmite
Pair your favourite calcium-rich cheese with high-fibre crackers for a gut-healthy crunch. Add a teaspoon of Marmite to score a huge B-vitamin hit: 50 per cent of your daily thiamin needs, 25 per cent of your niacin, riboflavin and B12 intake, around 20 per cent of your folate requirements, and 15 per cent of your daily iron.
Chicken is loaded with protein, niacin, vitamin B6 and the amino acid tryptothan, which is essential for your brain health.
- Open-faced turkey sandwich
Toast a slice of whole grain bread, spread with a teaspoon of honey mustard, and top with two slices of turkey. The bird is loaded with protein, niacin, vitamin B6 and the amino acid tryptothan, which is essential for your brain health and mood. The fibre in the bread ‘is important to keep your digestive tract in check,’ Stark adds.
- Broccoli and tzatziki
Tzatziki is super quick and easy to make at home: just combine cucumber, greek yogurt, garlic and mint and pair with chopped raw broccoli. Like other cruciferous veg, it contains high levels of an antioxidant called sulforaphane, which neutralises toxins, dampens inflammation and may have anti-cancer effects. Raw broccoli contains ten times more sulforaphane than cooked
- Coconut yogurt and pomegranate
Protein-rich foods like coconut yogurt ‘reduce your desire to continue eating and keep you fuller for longer,’ says Ruani. Sprinkle pomegranate over the top – it reduces the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, which increases insulin sensitivity and causes your blood pressure to level out, according to Queen Margaret University.
- Roasted chickpeas
Packed with potassium, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and selenium, chickpeas taste delicious roasted with spices like smoked paprika, garlic, and chilli flakes. Not a fan? Experiment with different pulses – eating one serving a day of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils can increase fullness, a meta-analysis from St. Michael’s Hospital concluded.
- Mozzarella and tomatoes
This quintessentially Italian combo tastes great any time of the day. Tomatoes are a rich source of the antioxidant lycopene, which may protect against heart disease and certain types of cancer, while mozzarella is packed with protein, calcium and vitamin B12.
- Chicken protein pot
For a twist on the traditional tuna Niçoise salad, combine a large boiled egg, chicken, green beans, tomato, chicken and a dash of French dressing in a pot. Like tuna, chicken contains plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, easy-to-digest protein, and brain-boosting vitamin B12 and choline.
- Chocolate-dipped fruit
Looking to satisfy a sweet tooth? Roll strawberries, pineapple, orange, or cherries in melted dark chocolate followed by chopped nuts. Leave to set in the fridge or eat straight away. When you eat dark chocolate, your gut bacteria ferments it into anti-inflammatory compounds that benefit your heart health, the American Chemical Society found.
- Frozen berries
Pop freshly-washed blackcurrants, blueberries or raspberries in the freezer – you could even put a dark chocolate chip into each berry – for a healthy, refreshing sweet treat. They contain healthful antioxidants known as anthocyanins, which possess proven anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and anti-obesity effects.
- Stuffed ham roll-ups
Pork is higher in iron, thiamine, and other B vitamins than chicken and fish – pair sliced ham with chives, cream cheese and pickles for a satisfying snack. Fermented pickles are loaded with health benefits – they’re packed with probiotics, antioxidants and electrolytes.