9 Healthy Crunchy Snacks
Ditch the cookies and potato chips in favour of these crisp, crunchy snacks that are good for you.
Crunchy snacks cravings
When I snack, I reach for something crunchy. In fact, I even go so far as to put chocolate bars in the fridge so they'll be crisp, even though I've heard you're not supposed to refrigerate chocolate. Chips, crackers — if it makes a lot of noise when you eat it, I love it far more than anything soft like ice cream. Even the word "snacks" has a gloriously brittle ring to it.
But common sense (and waistline watching) says that we crunch-cravers should balance these special-occasion goodies with healthier crispy picks, such as these great-for-you treats.
"A few cups of air-popped or low-fat popcorn is a healthy way to satisfy that crunch craving. Popcorn is also a source of fibre, which will help you feel fuller for longer," says Ottawa-based registered dietitian Janie Hachey of Healthy Reflections Dietetic Services. "You can also enjoy a larger portion of this food for snacks, as two cups of popcorn has less calories and less fat than a small handful of chips," she adds.
2. Roasted chickpeas
Inexpensive, tasty and well worth the effort, home-baked chickpeas will deliver not just crunch, but all-important fibre, iron and folate to your diet, says the Heart & Stroke Foundation. Not sure how to make them? Here are five tasty ways to serve chickpeas up as snacks and you can make a big batch, cool them, and store for future snack attacks or surprise visitors.
3. Almonds and pumpkin seeds
Nuts and seeds are often overlooked as a snack because of their high fat and high calorie content, says Hachey. "While it is important to keep portion size in mind, 1/4 cup of nuts can be a healthy snack idea," she says. "They're loaded with fibre, protein and antioxidants, and contain healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats." Go for unsalted versions to curb sodium intake.
I grew up with mild lactose intolerance so I shunned milk, but I liked dry cereals. I'd snack on them at recess instead of eating cereal as a breakfast food. Turns out, I'm not the only one in the habit of eating cereal without milk. "My favourite midmorning snack is 1/2 cup of high-fibre cereal," Hachey says. "It has enough crunch to satisfy my craving, and fibre to keep me satisfied until my next meal." You can have it on its own, or combine it with low-fat yogurt, she says. Hachey suggests choosing a cereal that has at least six grams of fibre per serving, and less than ten grams of added sugar.
5. Trail mix
Traditionally used as an easily portable, stamina-providing food for hikers, hence the name, homemade trail mix can really be any medley of dry foods you enjoy. You could even mix the previously mentioned snacks together (cereal, almonds, pumpkin seeds, roasted chickpeas and popcorn) for your own blend. Recipes abound online such as Best Health's Walnut Trail Mix, and trail mix in general is limited only by your imagination and ingredient preference.
6. Frozen grapes
Naturally sweet and full of health-promoting polyphenols (a compound that protects against heart disease), grapes can handily slay a rampant sugar craving. Increase grapes' crunch factor by freezing them for a refreshing treat, which is also a sensible alternative to serving candy to kids. The Defeat Diabetes Foundation says to rinse and pat them dry, arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place grapes in the freezer until frozen. If you're not eating them right away, transfer grapes to a freezer bag or airtight container for longer storage.
The name is fancy and French, but crudités are nothing more than cut-up fresh vegetables. Slice up raw veggies such as red bell pepper, broccoli or cucumber and serve with dip — it's that easy. If you anticipate being pressed for time, either stick with baby carrots that don't need any prep work, or double or triple your knife work and store extra portions in the fridge crisper for several days' worth of veggies. "Choose low-fat versions of commercially prepared vegetable dips to cut down on calories, or try plain yogurt or hummus," suggests Hachey.
8. Baked pita or tortilla chips
We're not talking about the kind you buy prepackaged, liberally coated with salt and oil — this is the kind you make at home. Use your toaster to crisp up a small whole-wheat pita, then cut it into small wedges. Add a low-fat dip or even flavourful vinegar like balsamic mixed with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and you've got a snack that's sophisticated enough for guests. Do the same with flour tortillas and your oven with this antioxidant-packed Best Health recipe for tortilla chips and fresh mango and tomato salsa.
9. Apple slices and nut butter
Apples by themselves? Boring. Apples sliced up with a side serving of tasty nut butter and a dash of cinnamon to spread over top? Now we're talking. The marvelous thing about nut butters is that they're so much easier to find on grocery store shelves than even a few years ago (check the organic section if they're not with the peanut butter). These days, you'll find everything from almond butter to cashew butter on the shelves to healthier versions (go for varieties with no sugar or oil added) of plain-old peanut butter.