By Jenni Wolf
Here we are in the midst of back-to-school season or, for many of us, just general “back-to-busy” season.
Mornings often feel more rushed, it’s easier to get wrapped up and miss lunch and the days can sometimes feel like they are never-ending.
On days like this, it’s extra important to have snacks handy and ready to step in to fuel you through the busyness that are balanced, easy and, maybe most importantly, good tasting. This month, I’m offering some of my personal top picks for shelf-stable snacks that go beyond the classic chewy granola bar or bag of pretzels and are healthy while also great tasting!
Here are some ideas to change up the kids’ pantry snack basket or your snack drawer at work.
• No. 1: Roasted chickpeas or edamame: These bean-based snacks are crunchy, come in a wide-variety of flavors — from salty to sweet — and pack a punch of protein that can help satisfy hunger longer than a snack without. A bonus is that they are plant-based making them a handy option if you are looking to include more plant-forward protein in your diet. There are several popular mainstream brands of these snacks. But ones I have seen at local grocers include Biena and Seapoint Farms.
• No. 2: Popcorners popcorn chips: These are chips that are made out of corn, similar to a tortilla chip. But instead of being baked, the corn is popped making them a fun snack — think “popcorn in chip-form”! These have been a favorite snack of mine for years, although they used to be hard to find. But they recently have begun popping up in places from local independent grocers to Cub Foods and Costco. They offer the ease of a chip — just pop open the bag and you’re ready to snack.
But since they are made with corn, they are a whole grain option that can provide more fiber, also helping you to feel satisfied after snacking. You can find them in large sized bags and also individual ones that are perfect for throwing into a lunch box, backpack or desk drawer.
• No. 3: Meat snack sticks: Whether they be made from beef, pork, chicken or turkey, meat sticks come in handy when you are going longer between meals and need a hearty dose of protein. I’m thinking of that long lunch-to-dinner stretch we can sometimes find ourselves in. Pair them with a piece of fruit or a handful of crackers to include a source of carbs that helps make for a more satisfying and balanced snack duo.
There are many brands to choose from — I like to look for one that is lower in sugar, like “Chomps,” since many brands may add more sugar than you realize. Don’t get me wrong, I love my sweet snacks. But choosing a meat stick that is lower in added sugar is a way for me to practice gentle nutrition and still enjoy all the foods I love. I find that I don’t miss the sugar in a meat stick, but I definitely would in a cookie or ice cream!
• No. 4: Nature’s Bakery fig bars: Who doesn’t love a Fig Newton?! I hope not just me! Fig Newtons have been a favorite cookie of mine since I was a kid and I love this brand’s rendition as they are made with whole grain flour, are individually packed and come in many different flavors. You get a boost of fiber, lots of variety and a sweet, easy-to-pack and eat snack — all-in-one!
• No. 5: GoMacro bars and RXBar bars: While I don’t love bars—I find them to be boring and unsatisfying at times—it’s hard to give up the convenience they offer. So, let’s find some tasty ones! These are my top two picks for delicious tasting bars that have a good balance of all three macros — carbohydrates, protein and fat — and are lower in sugar than some other varieties out there.
Again, our bodies need sugar, it’s a carb, and our bodies need adequate carbs! But we often consume enough foods that offer carbs that it is OK to pick a few items if we are mindful of their sugar content. They come in mini sizes as well, making them great for smaller appetites, kids or those times when you are cooking dinner but need a snack stat!
Also, it’s totally normal to snack while you cook dinner. It can help prevent you from entering the meal “too hungry” and that might make you more prone to overeating.
Hopefully, this list inspires and gives you some new things to be on the lookout for on your next grocery run. Happy snacking!
Jenni Wolf regularly writes about food and nutrition for the Bugle. She is a practicing registered dietitian who is passionate about helping others nourish a positive and balanced relationship with food.
Healthy food snacks are a welcome treat for back to school. Photo by Jenni Wolf.