7 healthy make-ahead snack ideas
Keep your energy levels up and hunger levels down’and stay away from the vending machine’with these healthy make-ahead snack ideas
When it comes to keeping your energy levels up and staying on track for maintaining a healthy weight, afternoon snacking is key. Sarah Coulson, a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant with Nosh Nutrition in Toronto, recommends never going for more than four hours without eating in order to keep blood sugar levels up and hunger satiated, which will in turn help you avoid overeating at meal times.
“When it comes to snacking, we’re like water,” Coulson says. “We choose the path of least resistance.” That explains why it’s so easy to turn to a snack from the vending machine, or a fat-laden muffin from the nearest coffee shop, if we aren’t prepared when our afternoon hunger hits. The solution? Make the path of least resistance a healthy one. These make-ahead snacks will help keep you on track.
1. Fruit or vegetables and cheese
“An ideal snack should have 10 grams of protein and a source of carbohydrates and should come in at around 150 calories,” says registered dietitian Hélène Charlebois of HC Nutrition in Ottawa. She recommends packing portion-sized containers of cheese with cut-up fruit (think apples or pears) in totable containers, or spreading cream cheese on celery for some afternoon crunch. Coulson suggests starting by filling a small container with cottage cheese and adding a spoonful of premade bruschetta mix. “You’ll get the protein from the cheese and a bit of carbohydrate from the vegetables,” she says. “It’s refreshing and you won’t feel stuffed afterwards, just satiated!.”
2. Energy bars
While granola and energy bars can be a great source of on-the-go fuel, the store-bought variety is often packed with additives and unnecessary sugars. Making them yourself is an easy, healthy option. Michelle Meilleur, director of Living Well Nutrition, recommends using whole ingredients, such as oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruit, and sticking it all together with honey. “Make a big batch, wrap them individually and stick them in the freezer,” she says. “Then you can just grab and go.” Using healthy oils, like walnut or olive, will provide you with a source of omega-3s, too. (Try our Chewy Date and Walnut Bars for a lunchbox treat.)
3. Hard-boiled eggs
Packed full of protein, hard-boiled eggs make a perfect afternoon snack, especially when paired with some cut-up vegetables. And they’re easy to make ahead: boil up a batch on Sunday and you’ll be snack-ready for the whole week. If you want to liven things up, Coulson recommends chopping a boiled egg up with half an avocado and a dollop of salsa for a totable, low-calorie snack that’s full of heart-healthy fat.
4. Veggies and dip
Preparing a big batch of bean dip on the weekend is an easy way to be snack-ready for the work week. Tucked into single-serving containers, dips like hummus are a great source of desk-friendly afternoon energy. Pack a few whole-grain crackers or a little pita bread, or scoop it up with baby carrots, celery or red pepper strips. For a little variety try our Hot and Spicy Black Bean Dip.
5. Fruit, yogurt and granola
If you like a little sweetness in the afternoon, pack up a container with a little plain yogurt (Greek style adds an extra protein punch) with some fruit, such as antioxidant-rich blueberries. “I like to add frozen berries to my yogurt because they keep it cold during transport,” says Meilleur. For a little crunch, add granola-homemade is best because you can control the ingredients-right before you’re ready to tuck in.
6. Chips and salsa
Liven up your afternoon by snacking on fresh homemade salsa with pita chips. “You can make it with tomato, garlic, onion, pepper-put whatever you want in it,” says Meilleur. For a vitamin and antioxidant boost, try fresh mango and tomato salsa. Make a big batch ahead and nosh on it through the week. Use your toaster to make crispy “chips” from whole-wheat pita, or make them from tortillas in your oven.
7. Fruit and nuts
Though they can be calorie-rich, nuts are a rich source of protein, heart-healthy fats and antioxidants-and they make an easy, portable snack, especially when they’re mixed with dried fruit (try raisins or dried mango). To avoid overeating, bundle them up into portion-sized snack bags, and grab one as you’re heading out of the house. Keep things interesting by adding high-fibre cereal squares or dried chickpeas to the mix, or try various spice blends. Anything goes!