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, choosing snacks that are high in sugar or saturated fat content can quickly sneak up on us, leading to weight gain and cravings for more high-calorie foods.
Luckily, there are plenty of nutritious, low-calorie snack options that’ll help keep your energy levels up and your hunger pangs at bay.
From homemade hummus and jalapeño poppers to frozen berry yoghurt, here are 14 tasty snacks that can be enjoyed as 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.
By popping your own whole-grain popcorn kernels at home, you can take control of exactly how your popcorn is flavoured. And healthy doesn’t have to mean compromising 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!
Alternatively, if you have a sweet tooth, you might enjoy this cinnamon and honey popcorn recipe from Hint of Healthy.
2. Mini chicken fajitas
If you love fajitas, then these bitesize versions made with chipotle chicken from BBC Good Food could become a firm favourite.
Each fajita is 41 calories, with 3g of protein, 2g of fat, and just 1g of sugar; making this a low-calorie, high-protein snack that’ll keep you full for longer.
You can make mini fajitas in batches – which can be frozen – so you can enjoy them whenever suits you.
If you’d prefer a veggie option, you might like these veggie tortilla roll ups from Culinary Hill.
3. Homemade flapjacks
Shop-bought flapjacks and cereal bars often contain added sugars and additives – even if they’re promoted as being ‘healthy’.
For this reason, there are many perks to making your own snacks at home – including the fact that you can use whole ingredients (foods left close to their natural state), skip processed ones and feel fully confident about your snack’s nutritional value.
This healthy flapjack recipe from Delish is made entirely from natural ingredients, including chopped dates, apple, banana, rolled oats, mixed seeds, and maple syrup. They take 15 minutes to make and then 25 minutes to bake. You might also choose to add toppings like dried cranberries, pistachios, and chopped dried apricots.
Popping a flapjack in your bag means you’ll have something to reach for if you need a quick energy boost when out and about. This can help to prevent the need to buy any unhealthy convenience foods if you get caught short.
4. Courgette fritters
Unlike many other fritters which can be 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 like courgettes, spring onions, and fresh mint.
5. Apple slices with peanut butter
Sometimes we simply don’t have time to cook, or we just might not feel like it. And apple slices with peanut butter make for a tasty, nutritious snack that can be whipped 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 peanut butter with no added sugar or oil if you want to reap all the health benefits.
Peanut butter is a protein-packed spread that’s popular around the world – and for good reason. It’s a rich source of copper, which is good for bone health, and oleic fatty acid, which is shown to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
It also contains resveratrol; an antioxidant that research suggests may 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. Experts recommend eating no more than two tablespoons of peanut butter a day.
Apples also boast an impressive nutritional profile. Thanks to their high fibre content, they have a low glycemic index (GI), which means that they help to improve insulin sensitivity and prevent diabetes. They also contain pectin; a type of fibre thought to promote gut health and reduce cholesterol.
This snack might be simple, but it packs a healthy punch!
6. Homemade hummus
Hummus is a popular creamy Middle Eastern dip that makes for a filling snack.
While it’s available in any supermarket, hummus can be a lot more tasty when it’s homemade. This is also a good way to make sure that your hummus doesn’t contain any hidden sugars or preservatives.
Traditional hummus, like this Downshiftology recipe, contains a blend of chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, cumin, garlic, and lemon juice. Though, 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 help you to feel full for longer. They also contain potassium and magnesium, which are known for their heart health-boosting qualities.
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 sticking to a healthy portion size of two to four tablespoons a day.
7. Strawberry and banana smoothie
Smoothies can be an efficient way to get your 5-a-day, keep energy levels high in between meals, and satisfy your sweet tooth. They can also make for a convenient on-the-go breakfast if you’re short on time.
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 is needed for 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. Many shop-bought smoothies have a high sugar (and sometimes fat) content.
Always check the label and, if you’re making smoothies at home and want to keep the calories low, consider swapping cow’s milk for almond milk and limiting the 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 healthy tuna fish cakes from The Gracious Pantry are a mix of tuna, egg, red onion, and parsley. They’re very easy to make – simply mix everything together, form small patties, then lightly fry.
The main ingredient, tuna, is high in niacin – a B vitamin which promotes healthy skin and a strong immune system. It’s also a good source of vitamin D, which supports our bones, brain health, and immune system.
One fish cake contains just 54 calories, with an impressive 8g of protein and 1g of fat.
Tip: If you don’t eat fish, 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 to make: mixed berries, honey, and low or 0% fat Greek yoghurt.
One serving of this refreshingly cool snack has just 80 calories and 7g of protein.
10. Spiced roasted chickpeas
If you’re looking for something to snack on while reading, watching a movie, or trying to get through a slow afternoon at your desk, why not try these spicy roasted chickpeas from Tasty?
Spicy but salty, and slightly crunchy on the outside with a soft middle, these roasted chickpeas tick all the boxes for both taste and texture. Tasty’s recipe uses salt, olive oil, cumin, cayenne pepper, and chilli powder.
The fun thing about this snack idea is that you can get as creative as you like. For example, you could try these spiced lemon roasted chickpeas from The Food Blog or these vegan bacon flavoured roasted chickpeas from Yum Vegan Food.
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) makes them effective at controlling blood sugar levels. They also contain choline – a nutrient that helps to produce important chemicals for the brain and nervous system.
11. Blueberry muffins
Blueberry muffins make a great mid-afternoon snack or a tasty breakfast option.
Although these blueberry muffins from BBC Good Food are higher in calories than some of the other snacks on this list (coming in at 200 calories apiece), they still make for a more nutritious treat alternative to processed snacks like crisps and chocolate bars.
Each muffin is bursting with blueberries, which were one of the first foods to be coined a ‘superfood’. Blueberries contain significant amounts of antioxidants and phytoflavinoids, which protect our bodies from free radicals (harmful molecules that can play a role in causing disease and other health conditions).
This blueberry muffin recipe 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 originates from Central Mexico and is guaranteed to bring some happy vibes to your day! It’s a light, fresh snack (made from avocados, tomato, lime, and herbs) that traditionally has a spicy kick.
Guacamole is healthiest when spread onto whole-grain crackers or served with other veggies such as celery sticks or slices of pepper.
Avocados are highly nutritious. They contain more potassium than bananas (which are well known for their high potassium content) as well as the nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin (which absorb harmful light waves which could harm our vision).
Plus, avocados are great for giving you an energy boost because they provide plenty of B vitamins, which are responsible for helping us convert our food into energy.
Homemade guacamole is nearly always more enjoyable than the store-bought version because it’s fresher, has a chunkier, more satisfying texture, and is much more flavoursome.
There are various different ways to make guacamole, but if you’re looking for somewhere to start, check out this South American-style guacamole recipe from Jamie Oliver, which is topped with black beans and mixed seeds. Or, if you like a spicy taste, you could try this spicy guacamole recipe from Happy Foodie.
13. Healthy banana blondies
All you need to make these soft, gooey banana blondies from The Big Man’s World is four ingredients and five minutes – and the best part is that there’s no baking required.
Banana bread is a well-loved classic, but it can have a high sugar and fat content. These blondies are a great healthy alternative because they use nut butter instead of dairy-based butter, which is higher in protein and lower in saturated fat.
Plus, they use maple syrup rather than regular syrup. Maple syrup raises blood sugar levels more slowly and contains more antioxidants.
This recipe also uses coconut flour – which is naturally gluten free, and higher in fibre and protein than wheat flour.
14. Jalapeño poppers
If you’re a spice lover, then next time you’re looking for a quick pick-me-up in between meals, why not try this bacon-wrapped jalapeño recipe from Jamie Oliver?
Jalapeño peppers are halved, stuffed with a low-fat cream cheese mixture, wrapped in bacon, and baked for 20 minutes. The result is a low-calorie snack with a tangy flavour, creamy centre, and a crisp meaty coating. Each pepper has 32 calories, 2.4g of fat, 0.6g of sugar, and 2g of protein.
As well as providing a spicy kick, jalapeños are high in vitamins A and C, which have antioxidant properties and help to protect and repair the body’s cells. The compound capsaicin gives the jalapeños their spicy flavour and has been shown to help to fight cancer and boost metabolism.
Snacks form an important part of any healthy lifestyle, and luckily there’s no shortage of delicious, low-calorie options to choose from.
What are your favourite quick and healthy snacks? Have you tried anything new recently? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.