20 Healthy Store Bought Snacks
One of the most hopeful signs that perhaps change is underway in our snack food nation was the bin of fresh apples, oranges, and bananas sold at the check out line of my local Target. That welcome sight flooded me with so much optimism, my kids worried that I might cry. Instead, I bought an apple in solidarity.
Can snacks be healthy?
Sadly, this is hardly the norm. Grocery shopping at mainstream markets means running a gauntlet of super-processed snack foods. It’s a state of affairs my boot camp buddy, Leslie, brought up last week as we huffed and puffed through sets of squats. She is overwhelmed by the abundance of packaged junk in supermarkets, with relatively few good, quick options. Finding smart snacks that are wholesome enough to meet adult standards, yet tasty enough for your kids isn’t easy. Making your own snacks is always a good bet. You’ll find recipe inspiration for that by going here.
Top tips for buying healthy store bought snacks
When comes to smart grab-and-go options, here are a few guidelines to help you navigate the junk to find the gems.
See what’s inside: Even if it looks healthy, packaged snacks can be deceiving. Have a peek at the ingredient list as well as the Nutrition Facts label, zeroing in on calories per serving, saturated fat, sugar, salt, and fiber.
Aim for fewer ingredients: Foods with just a handful of ingredients tend to be more wholesome than those with more than you care to count.
Watch for unhealthy fats: Avoid snacks made with trans fats (partially hydrogenated oil) as well as highly saturated fats such as palm kernel oil.
Opt out of ingredients made in a laboratory: Artificial colors and flavors, preservatives and monosodium glutamate (MSG) are not kid-friendly, even if they’re packaged to look that way. They appear more commonly than you might think.
Look for fiber and whole grains: Shoot for snacks made with whole grains rather than refined flours, and aim for at least a couple of grams of fiber in a serving.
Watch the sweet stuff: Even savory snacks are sometimes full of sugar and can often contain multiple forms of it, from dextrose to high-fructose corn syrup. Think twice about snacks in which sugar is listed as the first or second ingredient. Also be mindful of less processed sweeteners such as maple syrup and honey. Although they’re preferable to other options, from a nutrition standpoint, they’re essentially still sugar.
Dive into the bins: Snack options in the bulk bins are often more economical and can save on excessive packaging (especially if you bring your own bags). This is a good place to look for unsweetened dried fruits and nuts, which can be pulled together to make your own trail mix. But beware, those labels need reading, too. Not everything is as healthy as you might think.
Turn to the Experts: The folks behind the website and app Fooducate do a good job of assessing snacks for you.They evaluate and assign grades to store-bought foods of every stripe. This page on their website is a good place to start.
Snack Ideas for Kids and Adults
With that in mind, head to the market to see what you can find to qualify as a healthy packaged snack for any age. Even if it appears to be nutritious at first glance, be sure to read the nutrition facts labels, since some brands are healthier than others. And don’t forget that there are few better foods for snacking than what’s fresh and seasonal in the produce department.
Healthy Snacks List
- Seasoned roasted seaweed
- Crispy, freeze-dried fruits and vegetables, such as apple chips, crispy carrots, and strawberries
- Nuts, such as roasted peanuts, salted pecans, pistachios in the shell, and tamari roasted almonds
- Seeds, such as roasted sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds
- Soy nuts and roasted edamame
- No-sugar-added dried fruit, such as mango and pineapple
- Ice pops with little/no added sugar or artificial ingredients
- Kale chips and other veggies chips that are baked
- Whole-grain pretzels and pita chips
- Popcorn (made with natural ingredients)
- Low-sugar, whole-grain cereals
- Crispy roasted chick peas, such as Biena or Saffron Road
- Single-serve cheese, such as string cheese and mini-brie
- Healthier chips, such as multigrain, lentil, and black bean tortilla chips
- Lower-sugar fruit yogurt, such as Siggi’s or Stoneyfield Farms
- Graham crackers, especially whole grain
- Lightly salted brown rice cakes and soy rice crisps
- Granola bars that are relatively low in added sugar and made with real ingredients, such as Kind, Annie’s, Perfect Kids, and Larabars.
- Whole-grain or nut/seed crackers, such as Asian brown rice crackers, Mary’s crackers, woven wheat (Triscuits), and Jillz.
- Dark chocolate (the darker the better)
This is just a starting point. Interesting new snacks come out every day. Please share some of your favorites in the comments section below.
Be sure to check out these other healthy shopping guides
Healthy Snacks for Adults at Work
For suggestions on quick and healthy snacks for grown ups to take to work, you might find some ideas by heading here.