When chatting with my health coaching clients, it never fails that the issue of not having enough time affects their ability to stay on track with their nutrition goals. I’d be lying if I said that being busy hasn’t affected the quality of my food choices in the past, but one of the beauties of having a food blog is that it’s forced me to dig deep into every little nook and cranny in my brain for new and exciting ways to enjoy whole foods.
Taking that a step further, developing clean eating meal plans has also led to big healthy snack idea brainstorms. Until now I haven’t thrown all these ideas into a blog post, but it occurred to me during my long bike ride on Saturday that there’s a whole lotta people that might enjoy a little freshening up when it comes to their snackage. And with that, this post was born!
I’ve divided up a whole bunch of healthy snack ideas into 3 categories:
- Make-ahead snacks (with some store-bought grab and go alternatives)
- Ready in 15 minutes or less – a little prep needed, but nothing fancy
- Grab and go (as in, zero time to spare, I’m running late, and Imma-die-if-I-don’t-eat-NOW hangry occasions)
With that, let’s start with…
1. Baked tofu – Simply drain the liquid from a block of tofu, wrap it in a towel and keep it pressed under a couple of plates or a heavy skillet for about half an hour. Meanwhile, think about what you want to flavour it with – you can go super simple by tossing the tofu in garlic powder, curry powder, chipotle chili powder or other spices, or get a little fancier and use a marinade like one of these:
- Pesto (thinned with water to make it more marinade-like
- BBQ sauce
- Sriracha sauce
- Tamari or soy sauce + sesame oil + ginger + garlic + rice vinegar
- Sweet ginger dressing
- Magic miso sauce
- Red curry dipping sauce
- Peanut sauce
After you’ve made your flavour decisions, chop the tofu into cubes, rectangles, fries, dinosaur shapes – whatever floats your boat – and coat them as evenly as possible with spices or sauce. If marinating, let the tofu soak up the flavour for at least 30 mins (although longer is definitely better), then scatter the pieces on a lined baking sheet and bake them in the oven. I typically shoot for 30 mins at 375F, flipping occasionally, but depending on your oven and how thick your tofu pieces are, it could take up to 45 minutes. If you want to speed things up AND increase the crispy factor, switch to the broil setting for a few minutes at the end.
2. Baked or Pan-Fried Tempeh – Just the same as the baked tofu, only NO draining and it cooks WAY faster. You can do this using the oven method, or dry-fry the marinated tempeh in a frying pan. Store the pieces in the fridge until ready to snack.
3. Chia pudding – Rich in fibre and healthy fats, chia pudding is a great way to indulge your sweet tooth. Have it on its own or dress it up parfait-style.
4. Lettuce cups – Think of lettuce cups as a vehicle for getting anything that normally requires cutlery to your mouth faster (with the added bonus of getting your greens at the same time.) Try them with Asian-inspired ground turkey and veggies, 3-bean salad, chickpea salad or tabbouleh. Boston lettuce works well, but other greens like endive, radicchio and even romaine lettuce are great substitutes.
5. Roasted chickpeas – Another high-protein plant-based snack that takes minimal effort and has loads of potential flavour-wise. My fellow blogger buddy Lindsay has a great DIY tutorial, and if you just don’t have the time, I love The Good Bean’s roasted chickpea snacks, especially the Sweet Cinnamon and Thai Coconut varieties.
6. Sweet potato fries – Peel them, chop them, season and roast em – it doesn’t get much easier than that! You can also try using other firm veggies like regular potatoes, parsnips, rutabaga, butternut squash, beets to mix it up.
7. Homemade granola bars. I don’t bake much at all, but when I do, it’s usually granola or granola bars. They can be customized to no end with your choice of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, grains and nut/seed butters so you’ll never be bored. As far as sweeteners go, stick to natural ones like maple syrup and honey – or omit them entirely if you feel the dried fruit does a good enough job of sweetening things up.
8. Homemade popcorn mix – While movie theatre popcorn isn’t the healthiest of snacks, popped at home is a-ok if you ask me! All you need is a little bit of healthy fat (coconut oil is my favourite thing to use here), popcorn kernels and a big pot with a lid. (1 tbsp oil per 1/4 cup kernels should be about right.) Melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat, add the kernels and swirl them around to coat, put the lid on and listen to them pop away. As soon as you hear the popping, shake the pot around to prevent a black mess on the bottom of your pot. Once the noises become less frequent, it’s done!
Flavour with whatever you like – spices like chili powder, curry powder, Chinese 5 spice, or even my favourite Kirkland Organic Salt-Free Seasoning are awesome. Or, go sweet and use cinnamon, cloves, and dried fruit.
9. Fruit leathers – I couldn’t stand these as a kid but I loved learning to make them and really enjoy them now. Here’s a tutorial so you can make your own (and just FYI – the ones below only have 2 ingredients!)
10. Homemade gummies – Another little treat I learned to make last year, these are perfect for satisfying a sweet tooth without buying a bag of Haribo gummies with good intentions (which, we all know, leads to devouring that entire bag).
11. Protein balls/bites: These are foolproof and I can pretty much guarantee that even if they fall apart, you won’t mind eating the crumbles. If you’re not a protein powder fan, you can use a simple mixture of ingredients like oats, nut or seed butters, dried fruit, spices and/or coconut oil, and come up with some delicious variations.
12. Fresh spring rolls stuffed with veggies – These aren’t the most portable, but they’re great if you’re having people over for snacks or want to up your vegetable intake without doing it in salad form. Add your choice of protein, or just go with all-veggie and dip in your choice of sauce.
- Fresh Spring Rolls with Red Curry Dipping Sauce
- Fresh Spring Rolls with Rice Noodles
- Green Curry Shrimp Rolls
13. Roasted cauliflower – Oh be still my heart! I can’t wax poetic enough about how much I love roasted cauliflower and I’ve been hoarding it like nobody’s business. (In fact, Food Basics had it on sale for $1.88 this past weekend!)
14. Kale chips – One of the easiest and healthiest snacks you can make, provided you don’t forget that they’re roasting in the oven and burn them to pieces (which I’ve done on more than one occasion). All you need for basic (but oh so good) kale chips is a bunch of kale, olive oil, and your choice of seasonings – sea salt and black pepper are perfectly fine.
Remove the big stems from the kale, break it into bite-size pieces, and dry them thoroughly with a towel. Then get ready to give your kale a nice massage. Toss the leaves lightly in olive oil (or use a spritzer for a more even coat) sprinkle in your seasonings, then get your hands in there and start massaging the kale. (This helps to break it down a bit so the leaves aren’t so tough.) Scatter all the bits out on a baking sheet lined with parchment and pop them in the oven at a low temperature (I usually go for 300-310F) for 25 mins, flipping half way through.
15. Homemade ‘ice cream’ – One of my personal faves, and a totally guiltless alternative to the conventional kind. Using frozen bananas as your base, simply add your other favourite ingredients to a food processor or blender along with the bananas to create your own ‘ice cream’ flavours. Fruit, nuts, cacao powder, coffee – whatever you like!
- Pineapple Ginger Ice Cream
- Dark Chocolate Cherry Ice Cream
- 5-Ingredient Guiltless Pumpkin Ice Cream
- Mocha Mint Ice Cream
16. DIY Frozen Yogurt – If you’re more into froyo than ice cream (or if you’re just not a fan of bananas), try making your own using Greek yogurt and your choice of mix-ins.
Ready in 15 minutes or less
1. Smoothies – Whether meal-sized or snack-sized, this is one of the most convenient, fastest ways to cram a crazy high amount of nutrition into a single glass.
(And on a side note, if you’re looking for new smoothie making inspiration, be sure to follow me on Instagram where I post a new one every Sunday!)
2. Avocado toast – So simple but SO good. Smash an avocado on your preferred kind of toasted bread, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper, and BAM. It never gets old.
3. Greek yogurt or cottage cheese and fruit – A little protein mixed with whatever fruit you’ve got sitting in the fridge is a great post-workout snack for replenishing glycogen stores AND aiding in muscle repair, but it’s just as great of an anytime snack – just don’t forget to pack a spoon.
4. DIY trail mix – Yes you could buy it from a store if you really had no time to prep, but if you’re like me there’s always something in the mix that I don’t like. It’s also kinda spendy and if you buy a big bag, it can be easy to let portion sizes get out of control. Instead, make your own little bags using ingredients like nuts, dried fruit, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, leftover, roasted chickpeas (see above!), cacao nibs or chocolate chips, air-popped popcorn, or even dry whole-grain cereal.
5. Hard-boiled eggs – They don’t call them the perfect protein for nothing! There’s a whopping 13g in one of these sunny little beauties, not to mention all sorts of vitamins and minerals your body will love you for.
6. Tuna on crackers – If you’re packing this snack to go, make it easy on yourself and pick up tuna that has a tab-top can or pouches. This way, you don’t need to tote around a can opener. Some brands also make no-drain cans so that you don’t have to worry about where to discretely try to drain the brine.
7. Veggies and hummus or other dips – If you chop up a ton of veggies in one go, you’ll have these ready to use all week long. Either make your own hummus or dip, or read labels at your grocery store to find a clean one with only a few ingredients. Those that snack with me know I’m a BIG fan of the salsa + carrots combo, but having a few different dippers in the fridge will help to prevent this snack from getting boring.
- Muhammara – a Middle Eastern dip made with walnuts and roasted red peppers
- Smokin’ Jalapeno Dip
- Life-Changing Cilantro Lime Dip
- Roasted Beet Hummus
- Edamame Hummus
- Hemp Seed Hummus
8. Oatmeal with fruit and nuts – A good any-time snack, but a good travel breakfast too. If you want a store-bought version that comes in its own cup, try Love Grown Foods Hot Oats and sprinkle with your choice of toppings. Alternatively, if it’s a work-day snack you need, keep a bag of dried fruit and a larger bag of oats in your desk drawer. All you’ll need to add is hot water.
9. PB and banana on toast – A classic childhood favourite, you’re never too old for this one.
10. Edamame – Either buy the shelled kind and let them defrost in a snack-sized bag (or just leave a portion to thaw in the fridge), or try the pods that you’d typically find in a sushi restaurant. Costco sells these in steamer bags but I’ve found that just leaving them in the fridge overnight eliminates the need for any boiling. Alternatively, if you’re after more of a crunch, try dry roasted edamame beans, which are available in loads of different flavours.
11. Tortilla chips and black bean dip or salsa – Look for tortilla chips that have as few ingredients as possible, or make your own by popping some whole grain tortillas in the oven until crispy.
Grab and Go
1. Whole fruit – No explanation here – quite possibly one of the easiest options ever! Of course, you can chop it up ahead of time, or just keep whole fruit handy in the fridge.
2. Frozen grapes – Ok, I know this also counts as whole fruit but something about freezing grapes just makes them last longer. Be sure to remove the stems before you freeze them though!
3. Baby carrots – This is hands-down the snack I default to most when I’m crunched for time. And yes, I know there’s controversy over whether baby carrots are actually good for us. In my opinion, if it means you’re going to eat veggies instead of crap, they’re the way to go.
4. Dark chocolate – In moderation of course! Aim to pick one that’s 70% cocoa or higher for maximum antioxidant benefits. One of my favourites is Vega maca chocolate because maca is an adaptogen which helps to relieve stress if you’re feeling wound up. Pair that with dark chocolate and let a state of bliss ensue!
5. Unsweetened applesauce – Of course, feel free to dress it up with things like cinnamon, cloves, and whatever else you feel like mixing in!
6. Whole grain crackers – There are plenty of options here, with Mary’s Gone Crackers being a long-time favourite of mine because they’re gluten free, super seedy, and come in plenty of different flavours.
7. Packaged granola bars or protein bars – I always preface chat about bars with a caveat that they’re good when you’re in a pinch but not all the time. With that said, be sure to look for ones that contain as few ingredients as possible (noticing a trend here?) and ones that you recognize.
The ones you’ll find in my gym bag and kitchen include Larabars (super simple – just fruit and nuts), The Simply Bar (low in sugar but high in protein and fiber, gluten-free, and available in whey and soy versions), and Vega bars (some for snacking, some for post-workout protein, and some for energy during long training sessions.)
Oh and just FYI, I’ve got a homemade protein bar recipe coming up in a couple of weeks… stay tuned – it’s delicious!
8. Seaweed snacks – A savoury alternative to chips that come in different flavours and package sizes. There’s lots of different brands out there but Sea Snax and Annie Chun’s are the ones I purchase most often.
9. Subscription snack boxes – If you like snacking and monthly surprises (and I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t), there are a number of box subscription services that will send you a new shipment of tasties every month. I recently had the chance to try FitSnack, and my box contained a bunch of items, including:
- single-serving pouch of coconut oil
- protein powder pouches
- lentil and quinoa chips
- an almond and pumpkin seed mix
- veggie chips
- gluten-free whole grain pancake mix
Admittedly, there were a few items in this box that I didn’t try because they were either not gluten-free or had a few suspicious ingredients in them that I wasn’t too keen on. However, I loved the almond and pumpkin seed mix, the single-serve coconut oil, and although I haven’t tried the whole grain pancake mix yet, I’m really looking forward to it.
If planning ahead is something you’ve struggled with in the past or you just want a box of surprise snacks delivered to your home or office each month, snack boxes might just be the solution for you. Like I said, there are several subscription services out there to suit various dietary needs (vegan, gluten-free, etc) and a quick Google search should be all you need to do. 🙂
Alright, those are my ideas – now I want yours! Tell me…
- What are some of your favourite healthy snacks?
- Have you ever subscribed to a snack box service (or any other monthly delivery, for that matter)? What was your experience like?