26 Best Healthy Snacks

What you snack on between meals can go a long way toward building your physique—or busting it. Here are our picks for the 26 best healthy snack options. They're all quick and easy as well!

Like most people, you probably eat your three "squares" daily: a clean protein source, complex carbs, and some healthy fats. That's not the problem. The problem comes when between-meals munchies arise and you didn't pack any of your healthy snacks. Look around; there's the vending machine, weeks'-old food in the fridge that looks like a science experiment, and the cupcakes on your co-worker's desk.

If only you'd packed some healthy snacks.

Thankfully, we've come to the rescue (again!) with our picks for the top 26 healthy snacks. Some are high in protein for building muscle, others are low in carbs for when you're watching your total calories, and still others are just plain good for you.

Stock up on these healthful staples and you're less likely to sabotage your buff-to-blubber ratio. When you have the right snacks available, you can curb cravings and provide vital nutrients to support fitness gains.

Now who's hungry?

1

NUT BUTTER PACKETS

A number of companies like Justin's and Nuttzo are now supplying on-the-go single-serving packets of nut butters such as almond, hazelnut, or peanut. Simply tear open the portion-controlled packet and suck back the creamy goodness that's rich in healthy fats, protein, and a number of important minerals. Look for options with the least amount of added sugar.

A number of companies like Justin's and Nuttzo are now supplying on-the-go single-serving packets of nut butters such as almond, hazelnut, or peanut.
Need to Know

Forget the reduced-fat versions. All they do is replace the healthy fat with not-so-healthy sugar.

2

IN-SHELL PISTACHIOS

Pistachios have an impressive nutritional resumé: laudable amounts of protein, cholesterol-busting monounsaturated fat, and plenty of fiber and energy-boosting B vitamins. But they're so tasty that it's easy to inhale several handfuls, which can quickly send your snack time into calorie overload. After all, a mere ounce delivers about 160 calories. That's why in-shell pistachios are a near-perfect snack option. Scientists at Eastern Illinois University discovered that the extra work of shelling pistachios caused people to consume an average of 41 percent fewer calories than when they snacked on the nuts that were already shelled for them. The extra work (and tender fingers) of shelling the nuts can put the brakes on mindless overeating.

Need to Know

Pistachios added to common carbohydrate-rich meals, such as rice and pasta, can significantly reduce the post-meal blood sugar spike.

3

MIXED NUTS

Nuts like peanuts, cashews, and almonds make for a crunchy way to add more protein and healthy unsaturated fats to your diet. They pack about 6 grams of protein per 2-ounce serving.

Need to Know

If you're watching your sodium intake, look for packages labelled "unsalted."

4

WALNUTS

With only 4 grams of carbs per ounce, walnuts can help you snack your way through a low-carb diet, not to mention their lofty levels of mega-healthy omega-3 fatty acids: another good reason to go nuts for them. When purchasing nuts, opt for salt-free to keep your sodium intake in check.

Need to Know

This crunch bunch also supplies copper, a mineral required for proper energy production in the body.

5

FROZEN GRAPES

These subzero heroes provide a sweet pop in your mouth that helps quell any midday sugar cravings. Unlike strawberries, grapes don't become rock solid when frozen; they're firm but still easy to bite into with a creamy consistency, similar to a bite-sized grape Popsicle. Simply spread whole grapes in a single layer on a baking sheet, freeze until firm, and store in an airtight zip-top bag.

grapes
Unlike strawberries, grapes don't become rock solid when frozen; they're firm but still easy to bite into with a creamy consistency.
Need to Know

Try using red grapes, which are higher in body-friendly antioxidants than their green brethren.

6

EDAMAME

Edamame is basically an underripe green soybean. It provides a stellar mix of protein, slow-digesting carbs, and fat to keep your energy levels steady so you're more likely to hit the gym than the couch after work. These verdant gems are also jam-packed with a range of important nutrients like folate, vitamin K, iron, and magnesium. You can find bags of frozen shelled edamame in the freezer section of most supermarkets and prepare them according to package directions.

Need to Know

If you're concerned about genetically modified foods, splurge for edamame that's certified organic.

7

DRIED PLUMS

Bathroom jokes aside, dried plums (aka prunes) are an ideal nosh when you need a sweet fix or shot of energy before hitting the weight room. A study in the journal "Appetite" found that subjects who snacked on dried plums experienced a greater degree of satiety than when they ate the same number of calories in the form of low-fat cookies. Why? The researchers discovered that the fiber-rich dried fruit favorably impacts blood sugar and appetite-regulating hormones, compared to the nutritionally lackluster cookie.

dried plums
Dried plums are an ideal nosh when you need a sweet fix or shot of energy before hitting the weight room.
Need to Know

Dried plums are also laced with disease-fighting, muscle-mending antioxidants.

8

CELERY

Celery is 95 percent water, so it's no surprise that there's a dearth of carbohydrates, making it a perfect low-carb snack. Slice and add to salads or simply smear on some nut butter for a snack that's big on nutrition but low in six-pack killing processed carbs.

Need to Know

Celery is a good way to obtain an extra dose of vitamin K, which can bolster bone strength.

9

APRICOTS

Bob Dylan famously sang, "Everybody must get stoned." If he was referring to eating the stone-fruit apricots as a lower-sugar option (about 8 grams per two fruits), then good on you Mr. Zimmerman. Enjoy as an out-of-hand snack, or slice and add to yogurt, oatmeal, and even salad for natural sweetness.

Need to Know

The orange-tinged flesh of the apricot is a tipoff that it contains high amounts of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that has been linked to improved brain functioning.

10

STRAWBERRIES

Among berries, strawberries supply the least amount of sugar—about 11 grams per cup—making them a great option for helping satisfy a sweet tooth. If you're concerned about possible pesticide exposure, opt for strawberries labelled "organic."

Need to Know

Strawberries are a stellar source of vitamin C, which may help regular gym-goers avoid coming down with the sniffles.

11

PUMPKIN SEEDS (PEPITAS)

These jack-o'-lantern castoffs are a surprising source of whole-food protein, with about 7 grams in a crunchy serving. Of note, none of their carbohydrates (5 grams per ounce) are sugar, making them an even better way to elevate protein content in salads, oatmeal, yogurt, or cottage cheese.



Need to Know

You can turn to pumpkin seeds for a source of testosterone-boosting zinc.

12

TOMATO JUICE

Good for more than bloody marys, ye olde tomato juice has less than half the sugar found in orange juice: about 10 grams of carbs per serving. Besides, don't we all need more veggies in our diets? Lower-sodium options are now available to help reduce the risk for water-retention. Be sure that what you're drinking is 100 percent vegetable juice and not a blend made with sugary fruit juices and sweeteners.

Need to Know

In a study published in "Nutrition Journal," athletes who sipped antioxidant-rich tomato juice had less post-exercise inflammation than those who didn't, which could speed up recovery.

13

POUCHED FISH

If you're on the hunt for a snack that's nearly pure muscle-friendly protein, look no further than the take-anywhere pouches of fish like salmon and tuna found in the canned fish aisle of most supermarkets. Simply cut open the top and fork up the protein-packed meat to keep muscle growth in full force all day long. Try the single-serve wild albacore tuna pouches from Wild Planet. This forward-thinking company packs only sustainably sourced tuna meat that's loaded with more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids than the competition.

Need to Know

Tuna is a great source of selenium, an antioxidant that may help to prevent heart disease, cancer, and vision loss.

14

HARD-BOILED EGG

Not just for breakfast, the white orbs possess an abundance of branched-chain amino acids, which are the most anabolic amino acids in the body. This makes the humble egg a muscle-building power snack to grab hold of. Boil up a carton's worth of inexpensive eggs and stash them in your office fridge for times when you feel tempted by the vending machine.

Need to Know

Look for omega-3 enriched eggs, which contain 5 times as much omega-3 as conventional eggs.

15

PLAIN GREEK YOGURT

In recent years, Greek yogurt has gone from an obscure item in the dairy aisle to a cultured rock star. It's made by straining away the liquid, so deliciously thick Greek-style yogurts contain twice as much protein as regular versions, supplying about 23 grams of protein in each cup serving. You'll also reap the rewards of gut-friendly probiotic bacteria and bone-building calcium.

Greek yogurt has gone from an obscure item in the dairy aisle to a cultured rock star.
Greek yogurt has gone from an obscure item in the dairy aisle to a cultured rock star.

Need to Know

Plain Greek yogurt can contain up to three times less sugar than flavored types.

16

ICELANDIC YOGURT

Greek yogurt isn't the only smart choice on the dairy aisle. Traditional Icelandic yogurt, called skyr, typically has even more protein than its Mediterranean counterpart (about 15-20 grams per serving) and a praise-worthy creamy texture that makes it feel more like dessert than a healthy snack. Like Greek yogurt, it's made by straining away the excess liquid, leaving behind the ultra-thick yogurt that's laced with gut-friendly probiotic bacteria.

Need to Know

To sidestep the added sugars that can blow up your physique, opt for plain versions of skyr. For a touch of natural sweetness, stir in some berries.

17

STRING CHEESE

Not just for your kid's lunchbox, string cheese is a convenient way to help bolster your intake of protein with little carbohydrate cost. Stash a bag in your fridge for when the munchies strike, but consider choosing reduced-fat versions to keep the snack calories more in your favor. If you're looking to gain mass, however, the extra calories that full-fat string cheese provides can help in your pursuit of glance-stealing size.

Need to Know

As with regular cheese, the stringy version offers up good amounts of bone-strengthening calcium.

18

MILK (2%)

Moo juice remains a reliable source of top-notch protein with a biological value just shy of that found in an egg. But why try to chug watery, flavorless skim milk when you can still enjoy the richer taste of 2 percent without breaking the fat bank? Besides, the extra fat will help you absorb the fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin D present in the great white.

Need to Know

Studies show that cows raised using organic farming methods produce milk richer in a range of nutrients, including body-friendly omega fats.

19

COTTAGE CHEESE

This curd-riddled cheese product is laced with casein protein—about 28 grams in a cup. Casein is a slow-digesting protein that supplies your growing muscles with a steady supply of vital amino acids. Think of it as the MVP of snack time, especially before bedtime.

This curd-riddled cheese product is laced with casein protein—about 28 grams in a cup.

Need to Know

Cottage cheese is notoriously high in sodium, but you can now compare nutrition labels to find brands that contain less.

20

JERKY

We're not jerking you around when we say jerky is one lean, mean snack option that's good for more than just road trips. With a surprising 10:1 protein-to-fat ratio for most brands, going all paleo and gnawing on jerky between meals is a perfect way to show your muscles some love. You can't go wrong with the brand Krave, which has delicious jerky flavors such as chipotle or pineapple orange and eschews any sketchy preservatives like MSG.

Need to Know

Beyond beef, also look out for buffalo, pork, turkey, venison, and even salmon jerky options.

21

DARK CHOCOLATE

If you need a nibble that feels a bit indulgent, look no further than dark chocolate. Dark chocolate—the stuff with at least 60 percent cocoa content—has been linked to reduced heart disease risk and even lower body fat numbers in people who nibble on it more often. The polyphenol antioxidants in chocolate may favorably influence metabolism.



Need to Know

Because dark chocolate has a more intense flavor than the sugar-laden milk varieties, you'll be satisfied with less (say about 1-ounce).

22

PROTEIN BARS

Looking for convenient, delicious protein on the go? There's a wide selection of protein bars available today that provide ample protein (depending on the brand). Don't just glance at the protein numbers; if you're watching your calories, check the fat and carbohydrate grams to ensure you're not just eating a protein-laced candy bar.

Need to Know

Keep a few in your gym bag and at work to ensure you won't reach for the wrong kinds of foods when the munchies strike.

23

KALE CHIPS

Crispy kale chips are surprisingly tasty (seriously!) and have the benefit of being made with one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. When a snack attack strikes, you'll also reap the benefit of sending about 30 percent less starchy carbs into your body compared to potato-based chips. Look for bags such as Rhythm Superfoods in health food shops and an increasing number of larger supermarkets.

Crispy kale chips are surprisingly tasty (seriously!) and have the benefit of being made with one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.
Need to Know

This green giant contains a surfeit of vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin A.

24

BEAN CHIPS

If you're jonesin' for crunchy chips, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better option than the ones made with protein-rich black beans. They pack about 4 grams of protein per ounce.

Need to Know

For a high-protein nibble while watching the big game, try making a dip with Greek yogurt and using bean chips as a delivery vessel to your mouth.

25

SMOOTHIE DRINKS

Homemade protein shakes are always preferred, but if you want a quick shot of protein in liquid form you can pick up bottles of premade smoothie drinks such as Bolthouse Farms. With about 16 grams per cup, they're the next best thing to making your own.

Need to Know

Make sure the drink you choose contains a source of protein in the ingredient list such as whey protein and not just fruit, which can quickly send you into a sugary overload.

26

FROZEN GREEK YOGURT

Frozen Greek yogurt is frosty and creamy like ice cream, but with the benefit of containing about twice as much high-quality protein—about 12 grams per cup.

Need to Know

Compare brands and look for those with the lowest sugar levels. Some brands actually list fruit before sugar in the ingredient list. Go figure.