Illustration: Joël Penkman

Americans are snacking now more than ever: About 1 in 6 adults gets more than 40% of their daily calories from snacks. Done right, snacking can curb appetite, boost energy, and possibly control weight. Here's how.

Jamie Vespa
August 09, 2017

The New Way to Snack

Use this guide to make healthier choices without sacrificing flavor.

Photo: Roman Samokin/Getty Images

With more options than ever, taking a casual stroll down the snack aisle may overwhelm even the savviest snackers. Snacks can be key players in a healthy diet, and making small shifts toward healthier choices at each of these eating occasions can really add up.

About 75% of us fall short on our vegetable, fruit, and dairy needs, but we exceed what's recommended for added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium. Flip the script and use your snacks to slip in important and underconsumed nutrients, such as vitamin D, calcium, and potassium. Research shows that people who snack on whole foods (think vegetables, fruit, even legumes), crackers, and grains have better diets than those who don't snack at all.

In response to consumer interest in healthier snacks, a 2016 survey revealed that 201 major snack retailers reformulated more than 180,000 products to make them healthier—dialing back on sugar, sodium, and unhealthy fats and adding whole grains and vitamins. Although the demand has increased, indulgent options are still going strong. It doesn't help that food manufacturers still serve up snacks that hit the pleasure centers of crunchy, salty, and sweet, which can easily drive you to overeat and is why we recommend keeping processed foods to a minimum. That said, choosing ready-to-eat snacks with some nutritional heft is better than skipping them altogether when hunger strikes. Whether salty or sweet, our snack selections here do double duty by delighting your taste buds while still delivering clutch nutritional value.

Salty Snack Shopping Guide

Salty snacks are the top contributors to our snacking calories. The once potato-dominated chip aisle now abounds with a variety of vegetable-and bean-based snacks, which boast more fiber and protein and less sodium than a potato chip. We scoured the shelves to find the best ones.

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

TERRA CRINKLED SWEET POTATO CHIPS WITH SEA SALT
Invigorating crunch and great balance of sweet and salty flavor. Made with three simple ingredients (sweet potatoes, canola oil, and salt) and offers 50% of your daily vitamin A intake per serving.
Per 1 oz. (about 17 chips): 160 calories, 90mg sodium, 3g fiber, 1g protein

 

 

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

SIMPLE MILLS FINE GROUND SEA SALT ALMOND FLOUR CRACKERS
Almonds and flaxseeds lend an extra dose of fiber and protein to these supremely crunchy snack crackers. They're best paired with a spreadable cheese wedge, such as Kerrygold Dubliner.
Per 1 oz. (about 17 crackers); 150 calories, 125mg sodium, 2g fiber, 3g protein

 

 

Photo: Amazon

WAY BETTER SNACKS BLACK BEAN TORTILLA CHIPS
Toasty flavor with hints of garlic and a delicately crisp texture make these a great dip-less choice. Sprouted seeds and grains provide more nutrients, and each serving has over 2.7g of omega-3 fatty acids.
Per 1 oz. (about 9 chips): 130 calories, 80mg sodium, 3g fiber, 2g protein

 

 

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

HARVEST SNAPS LIGHTLY SALTED SNAPEA CRISPS
These kid-friendly, light-as-air crisps are made largely from whole peas. Lightly salted and powered by plant protein, they're an easy way to up your daily vegetable count.
Per 1 oz. (about 22 pieces): 110 calories, 50mg sodium, 4g fiber, 5g protein

 

Sweet Snack Shopping Guide

Give in to your sweet tooth and satisfy your craving with a snack that's naturally sweet or ever-so-slightly sweetened with added sugar. Sugar should be low on the ingredients list, never first.

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

BARE APPLE CHIPS (CINNAMON)
Perhaps the next best thing to eating whole fruit, these delightfully crunchy chips are made from 100% apples with no added sugar or oil. Pair them with a handful of nuts or serving of yogurt for a well-rounded snack.
Per 1/2 cups: 110 calories, 4g fiber, 21g sugar

 

 

 

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

RXBARS PROTEIN BAR (MIXED BERRY)
With zero added sugar, this new flavor gets its sticky sweetness from dried fruit and provides 20% of your daily fiber goal, plus a hit of quality protein from egg whites and nuts.
1 bar: 210 calories, 5g fiber, 14g sugar, 12g protein

 

 

 

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

LARABAR FRUITS + GREENS BARS (STRAWBERRY SPINACH CASHEW)
Naturally sweetened with apples and apricots for a pleasantly tangy, fruit-forward taste, each bar contains 1/4 cup of greens, no added sugar, and just five simple ingredients.
1 bar: 130 calories, 4g fiber, 14g sugar, 2g protein

 

 

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

PURELY ELIZABETH CHOCOLATE SEA SALT PROBIOTIC GRANOLA
Lightly sweetened with coconut sugar and baked with coconut oil, this crunchy granola is packed with dark chocolate clusters and offers a probiotic boost.
Per 1/3 cups: 130 calories, 2g fiber, 6g sugar, 3g protein

 

Dynamic Snack Duos

To build a snack with the most staying power, aim for one with at least 5g fiber and 5g protein (studies both help keep you full longer). These delicious, easy combos do just that.

Photo: Kelsey Hansen

2 slices Wasa Whole Grain Crispbread + 2 Tbsp. Justin's Classic Almond Butter
270 calories, 7g fiber, 9g protein

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Kelsey Hansen

1 carton Siggi's 2% Low-Fat Coconut Skyr + 2/3 cup fresh raspberries
213 calories, 8g fiber, 11g protein

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Kelsey Hansen

1 Purely Elizabeth Original Ancient Grain Oatmeal Cup  + 1 cup unsweetened nut milk
260 calories, 8g fiber, 11g protein

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Kelsey Hansen

1 oz. The Good Bean Roasted Chickpea Snacks (Sea Salt or Sweet Cinnamon Flavor) + 2 Medjool dates
257 calories, 8g fiber, 6g protein

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Kelsey Hansen

13 Original Mary's Gone Crackers + 2 Tbsp. Roots Black Beans Hummus
220 calories, 5g fiber, 6g protein