Adults consume 400 to 900 daily calories as snacks daily, and half of all children take in about 600 calories between meals, which is enough calories to qualify as a meal! Yet, we treat snacks like nutrition free-for-alls. Here are tips to upgrade your snacks for better concentration, more energy, and good nutrition.

Tip #1: Make Snacks Work for You

It’s natural to get the munchies between breakfast, lunch, and dinner, especially for young children and teens, who need to fuel their rapid growth, and for adults who skimp on meals or skip them altogether. But snacking is often synonymous with low-nutrient foods rich in calories, refined carbohydrates, fat, and sodium.

The solution is to treat snacks like healthy mini-meals, not meal-wreckers.

Fruits and vegetables make snacks more nutritious.

When you combine cheese, whole grain crackers, and fruit, it’s OK to eat lightly at the next meal and not worry about missing out on nutrients. You can’t say the same when you hit the vending machine for a bag of chips and an energy drink at 3:00 PM or when your child nibbles on orange fish-shaped crackers washed down with a sugary juice drink.

There’s no limit on snacks, but they should be balanced, and you should account for snack calories as part of daily energy needs.

When kids snack at home, have them eat nutritious mini-meals at a table. Avoid allowing children to “graze” all day long, which can interfere with hunger cues.

Tip #2: Pack in the Protein 

Reaching for packages of low-nutrient foods, including cookies, chips, and candy, temporarily curbs hunger, but they aren’t particularly filling in the long run, in part because they lack protein.

Protein promotes eating satisfaction, and may contribute to easier weight control. Plus, protein-rich foods, such as low-fat dairy, lean meat, poultry, and seafood also provide an array of vitamins and minerals, including choline, iodine, and vitamin B12 for brain health. In addition, protein-rich plant foods including soy, beans, nuts, and seeds supply filling fiber, which is often in short supply in the typical American diet.

Peanut butter provides protein and fiber. Spread on whole grain bread for a power snack.

Tip #3: Count in Carbohdyrate

Nutritious, satisfying snacks combine protein-packed foods with carbohydrates, preferably the complex kind. 

Carbohydrates are found in foods such as milk, fruit, vegetables, beans, bread, cereals, pasta, rice, and other grains, as well as in cookies, cakes, and other sweet foods and beverages.  

Include vegetables in snacks to get the produce you need every day.

Complex carbohydrates, including fiber, are preferable because they take longer to break down in the body and tend to be found in foods with other nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, plant compounds that support health.  Foods rich in complex carbohydrates include whole grains, beans, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Popcorn is a whole grain. 

16 Easy, Healthy Snacks for Adults and Kids

When it comes to snacks, anything goes as long as it’s balanced. These nutritious mini-meals combine protein and carbohydrate, and offer an array of other nutrients, too!

  • Double Berry Smoothie: 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup fresh or frozen wild blueberries, 1/2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries or strawberries, 2 tablespoons milk, sweetener of your choice. Combine in food processor or blender. Drink immediately.

Wild blueberries are delicious and bursting with nutrients.

Try these other delicious smoothie recipes

  • ¾ cup dry roasted edamame
  • Handful of roasted almonds and fruit
  • Small bowl of whole grain cereal and milk or fortified soy beverage. (Most plant milks don’t supply as much protein as dairy or soy.)
  • Trail mix: whole grain cereal, raisins, nuts
  • ½ tuna fish or turkey sandwich on whole grain bread; handful of cherry tomatoes
  • 1-2 reduced-fat mozzarella cheese sticks and 6 woven wheat whole grain crackers
  • 1-2 hard-cooked eggs and a 1-ounce whole grain roll or slice of toast
  • 1 serving plain one-minute oatmeal prepared in the microwave with 8 ounces milk and topped with 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • Carton of Greek yogurt and fruit (Try this lower-sugar yogurt alternative: Mix 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.)
  • 4 cups low-fat microwave popcorn tossed with 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese; 8 ounces milk
  • 1 cup canned lentil soup topped with ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese

There’s nothing wrong with a satisfying bean-based soup for a snack!

  • ½ cup cottage cheese and 6 whole grain crackers
  • 10 small whole grain pretzels and hummus
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter and 10 baby carrots

These no-bake cookies are perfect for snacking.