Eating healthy meals and getting enough exercise are important components of a healthy lifestyle. But what about when you get peckish in between meals? Or when you’re in need of a mid-afternoon energy boost?
We all enjoy a tasty snack from time to time, and snacking can easily be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet. However, snacking on food with a high sugar or high saturated fat content can quickly sneak up on us, and lead to weight gain, and cravings for more high-calorie foods.
Luckily, there are plenty of nutritious, low calorie snack options that will help you to keep your energy levels topped up, and your hunger pangs at bay. From homemade hummus to jalapeno poppers, through to frozen berry yoghurt, here are 14 tasty snacks that can be enjoyed as a part of a healthy diet.
1. Homemade popcorn
Popcorn itself, without heavy coatings of sugar, butter or toffee, is actually very healthy. In fact, it’s considered to be one of the world’s best sources of fibre, and contains high amounts of vitamins (including B vitamins which impact our energy levels, cell metabolism and brain function), minerals (such as iron, which the body uses for growth and development) and antioxidants (such as polyphenols, which can improve digestion, circulation, and reduce the risk of certain diseases).
By popping your own whole-grain popcorn kernels at home, you can take control of exactly how you flavour your popcorn. And choosing healthy ways to do this, doesn’t mean that you have to compromise on taste. Why not try these savoury popcorn recipes from Diabetes UK? You can choose from a cheesy garlic or chilli lemon topping – or perhaps you’ll decide to make both!
If you have a sweet tooth then you might also want to try this cinnamon and honey popcorn recipe from Hint of Healthy.
2. Mini chicken fajitas
If you love regular-sized fajitas, then these bitesize versions from BBC Good Food made with chipotle chicken are sure to become a firm favourite.
Each fajita is 41 calories a piece, with 3g of protein, 2g fat and just 1g of sugar; making this a low-calorie, high-protein snack, that will keep you full for longer. These spicy Mexican nibbles are made in batches; which can either be shared with someone you live with; or frozen, so you can enjoy them whenever suits you.
Or if you’d prefer a veggie option, then you might want to check out this veggie tortilla roll ups recipe from Culinary Hill.
3. Healthy flapjack recipe
Shop-bought flapjacks and cereal bars can often have added sugars and additives – even if they’re promoted as being ‘healthy’ snack options. For this reason, if you can, it’s often better to make your own snacks at home; so that you can use whole ingredients, skip processed ones; and feel fully confident about your snack’s nutritional value.
This healthy flapjack recipe from Delish is made from entirely natural ingredients, including chopped dates, apple, banana, rolled oats, mixed seeds, and maple syrup – and you can make 12 bars in just 40 minutes. You might also choose to add optional toppings such as dried cranberries, pistachios, and dropped dried apricots.
If you’re heading out and aren’t sure how long for, then consider popping a flapjack in your bag; so that you have something to reach for if you need a quick energy boost. This will hopefully prevent the need to buy any unhealthy convenience foods if you get caught short.
4. Courgette fritters
Looking for a simple and easy way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet? Then next time you fancy a snack, why not try this courgette fritters recipe from Hungry Healthy Happy?
Unlike many other fritters – which are often dense and deep-fried – these ones are light and simple to make. They’re cooked in just a little olive oil, and contain plenty of greens: courgettes, peas, and fresh mint! Courgette is high in vitamin C, and has been found to help stabilise blood sugar. It’s also high in fibre and water which encourages healthy digestion.
These veggie treats come in at 112 calories, and contain 7g protein and 5g of fat.
5. Apple slices with peanut butter
Sometimes we simply don’t have time to cook, or we just might not feel like it – but apple slices with peanut butter can make for a tasty, nutritious snack that you can whip up in just a minute or two. It’s as simple as cutting an apple up, and spreading it with a thin layer of peanut butter. Just be sure to choose a peanut butter that has no added sugar or oil; if you really want to reap the health benefits.
Peanut butter is a protein-packed spread that’s popular around the world, and for good reason. It’s a good source of copper, which is good for bone health, and oleic fatty acid which is shown to maintain healthy blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. It also contains resveratrol: an antioxidant that might lower the risk of cancer, heart disease, and cognitive decline. However, as peanut butter is high in fat, it should always be enjoyed in moderation – which experts say is no more than 2 tbsp a day.
Apples also boast an impressive nutritional profile. Thanks to their high fibre content, they have a low glycemic index (GI), which means they might help to improve insulin sensitivity, and prevent diabetes. They also contain pectin; a fibre that is thought to promote a healthy gut, and reduce cholesterol.
This snack might seem simple, but it packs a healthy punch!
6. Homemade hummus
Hummus is a popular creamy dip of Middle Eastern origin that makes for a filling snack, or a light lunch. While it’s available in any supermarket, it can be a lot more satisfying (and tasty!) to make your own at home. This is also a good way to make sure that your hummus doesn’t contain any hidden sugars, or preservatives.
Traditional hummus, like this recipe from Downshiftology contains chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, cumin, garlic and lemon juice – all blended together in a food processor. However, you can also flavour your hummus with additional ingredients such as red pepper, caramelised onion, or sweet chilli. Hummus’ main ingredient; chickpeas, are a good source of protein and fibre, both of which are good for helping you to feel full for longer. They also contain potassium and magnesium, which is thought to boost heart health.
Hummus can be eaten as a snack with flatbread, or with sticks of carrot or cucumber if you’d prefer a really low-calorie option. Experts recommend that we stick to a healthy portion size of 2-4 tbsp a day.
7. Strawberry and banana smoothie
Smoothies can be a great way to make sure you’re getting your 5-a-day, while keeping your energy levels topped up in between meals, and satisfying your sweet tooth. They can also make for a convenient on-the-go breakfast if you’re short on time.
If you’re looking for somewhere to start your smoothie journey, then why not check out our very own strawberry and banana smoothie recipe? Strawberries are particularly high in vitamins, and one serving (around eight strawberries), contains more vitamin C than an orange. Bananas are also a good source of vitamin C, potassium (which ensures the proper functioning of nerves and cells), and vitamin B6 (which can encourage better circulation and a stronger immune system).
Note: Smoothies can quickly become unhealthy if you don’t pay close attention to what’s in them; with some shop-bought smoothies having an alarmingly high sugar (and sometimes even fat) content. Always check the labels, and if you’re making smoothies at home and want to keep the calories low, then consider swapping cows’ milk for almond milk; and limiting the entire amount of fruit per smoothie to one cup.
8. Tuna cakes
Tuna cakes are a simple, cost effective snack, that are as nourishing as they are flavoursome. These appetising tuna fish cakes from Healthy Little Foodies are a mix of mashed potato, tuna, spring onion, coriander, and lime; coated in a fine layer of breadcrumbs, and lightly fried.
The main ingredient; tuna, is high in niacin – a B vitamin which promotes a healthy immune system and skin. It’s also a good source of vitamin D, which supports bone strength, brain health, and a healthy immune system.
The combination of tuna (which is high in protein), and potato (which is high in fibre), means that these filling snacks are a great go-to when you’re feeling particularly peckish. One fish cake contains just 72 calories, and an impressive 5g of protein, 2g fat, and 1g sugar!
Tip: If you don’t eat fish, then consider trying the courgette fritter recipe from this list instead.
9. Instant frozen berry yoghurt
This instant frozen berry yoghurt recipe from BBC Good Food is a healthy and delicious way to satisfy your sweet tooth, and requires only three ingredients; mixed berries, honey, and low or zero percent fat Greek yoghurt.
Not only are berries high in fibre and loaded with antioxidants, but they can also reduce inflammation in the body, and reduce your risk of heart disease and other conditions. Greek yogurt is also high in calcium, which is important for building and maintaining strong bones and muscles, as well as being packed with probiotics, which promote good gut health.
One serving of this refreshingly cool snack has just 70 calories, and 7g of protein!
10. Spiced roasted chickpeas
If you’re looking for something to pick at while you watch a movie, read your book, or try to get through a slow afternoon at your desk; then why not try these spicy roasted chickpeas from Natural Chow?
Not only are they spicy but they’re salty, slightly crunchy on the outside, and have a soft middle – which means they tick all the boxes for both taste and texture! Natural Chow’s recipe uses salt, pepper, olive oil, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and chili powder. But the fun thing about this snack idea is that you can get as creative with you like; for instance by trying these spiced lemon roasted chickpeas from The Food Blog, or these bacon roasted flavour chickpeas from My Darling Vegan.
As previously mentioned; chickpeas have a huge range of health benefits. Their high fibre content can help with digestion, and their low glycemic index (GI) also makes them effective at controlling blood sugar. They also contain choline – a nutrient that helps to make important chemicals for brain and nervous system activity.
11. Blueberry muffins
Blueberry muffins make a great mid-afternoon snack, and many people also enjoy them as a breakfast option. Although these blueberry muffins from BBC Good Food are higher in calories than some of the other snacks in this list (coming in at 200 calories apiece), they still make for a more nutritious treat alternative to high-calorie snacks like crisps and chocolate bars.
Each muffin is bursting with blueberries, which were one of the first foods to be coined a ‘superfood’ – and for good reason. Blueberries contain significant amounts of antioxidants and phytoflavinoids, which protect our bodies from free radicals (harmful molecules that can play a role in disease and other serious health conditions). They’re also high in potassium, which is needed for organs, such as the heart and kidneys, to function properly – as well as vitamin C, which boosts immunity and helps to prevent iron deficiency.
This blueberry muffin recipe from BBC Good Food also uses wholemeal flour for extra fibre, and Greek yoghurt for added protein (and to help the sponge stay moist for longer).
12. Homemade guacamole
Guacamole, which originates from Central Mexico, is guaranteed to bring some sunshine vibes to your day! It’s a light, fresh tasting snack (made from avocados, tomato, lime, and other ingredients) that traditionally has a spicy kick. It’s healthiest when spread onto whole-grain crackers, or scooped up with other veggies; such as sticks of celery, or slices of pepper.
Not only do avocados contain more potassium than bananas (which are well known for their high potassium content), they also contain the nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin, which absorb harmful light waves that could otherwise harm our vision. Avocados are also great for giving you an energy boost because they provide plenty of B vitamins, which are responsible for helping us to convert our food into energy.
Homemade guacamole is nearly always more enjoyable, because it’s fresher, has a chunkier and more satisfying texture, and is much more flavoursome. There are various different ways you can make guacamole at home; but if you’re looking for somewhere to start then check out this South American-style guacamole with popped black beans recipe from Jamie Oliver, which is topped with black beans and mixed seeds. Or, if you like a spicy taste, then you could try this guacamole recipe which uses chilli, from The Happy Foodie.
13. Healthy banana bread blondies
All you need to make these soft, gooey banana bread blondies from The Big Man’s World is four ingredients and five minutes – and the best part is that there’s no baking required, as they’re set in the fridge instead.
Banana bread is a well-loved classic bake that many of us love; but it can also have a high sugar and fat content. These blondies are a great healthy alternative because they use nut butter rather than dairy-based butter, which is higher in protein and lower in saturated fat; and a small amount of maple syrup, which raises blood pressure slower than regular sugar, and contains more antioxidants.
This recipe also uses coconut flour, which is higher in fibre and protein than wheat flour, and is also naturally gluten-free.
14. Jalapeno poppers
Are you a spice lover? If, so then next time you’re looking for a quick pick-me-up in between meals, why not try this brilliant bacon-wrapped jalapeno recipe from Jamie Oliver?
Jalapeno peppers are halved, stuffed with a low-fat cream cheese mixture, wrapped in bacon, and then baked for 20 minutes. The result is a low-calorie snack with a tangy flavour, creamy middle, and a crisp meaty coating! Each pepper has 32 calories, 2.4g fat, 0.6g sugar and 2g protein.
As well as offering a spicy kick, jalapenos are also high in vitamins A and C which have antioxidant properties, and help to protect and repair the body’s cells. They also contain a compound called Capsaicin, which gives the jalapenos their spicy flavour – and studies show that it might also fight cancer and boost your metabolism.
A final thought…
Snacks can still form an important part of a healthy lifestyle; and there’s no shortage of delicious, low-calorie foods to choose from. If you’d like some further healthy recipe ideas, then you might also want to check out our article; 9 baking ideas with a healthy twist.
We hope that you’ve found something in this list that inspires you, and we’d love to know which ones you decide to try – or whether you have any additional healthy recipes of your own that you’d like to share. You can either leave us a comment below, or join the conversation over on the food and drink section of the community forum.