22 Healthier Store-Bought Snacks

Snacks

photo: Katie Morford

This is a guest post by Katie Sullivan Morford, MS, RD and was originally published here.

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.

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 said that she felt overwhelmed by the abundance of junk in supermarkets, with relatively few good options. Finding snacks that are wholesome enough to meet your 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. But when you are looking for grab-and-go options, here are a few guidelines to help you navigate the junk to find the gems, as well as a laundry list of healthier store-bought snack suggestions.

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.
There are few better foods for snacking than what’s fresh and seasonal in the produce department.

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.

snacks sign

photo: Katie Morford

Here is a list of some of the better crunchy/savory choices in the snack department. Be sure to read the labels even for these since some brands are more healthful than others. And don’t forget that there are few better foods for snacking than what’s fresh and seasonal in the produce department.

  1. Seasoned toasted seaweed
  2. Crispy apple chips (with little more than apples in the ingredients)
  3. Freeze-dried fruits and vegetables
  4. Roasted Edamame
  5. Roasted peanuts
  6. Salted roasted pistachio nuts
  7. Tamari roasted almonds
  8. Roasted sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds
  9. Soy nuts
  10. Kale chips
  11. Whole grain pretzels
  12. Popcorn (made with natural ingredients)
  13. Favorite low-sugar, whole-grain cereals
  14. Baked lentil chips
  15. Whole-grain pita chips
  16. Corn and multigrain tortilla chips
  17. Black bean tortilla chips
  18. Graham crackers, especially whole grain
  19. Lightly salted mini brown rice cakes
  20. Soy rice crisps (made with natural ingredient)
  21. Woven wheat crackers such as Triscuits
  22. Asian brown rice crackers

This is just a starting point. Interesting new snacks are coming out every day. Please share some of your favorites in the comments section below.

Katie Sullivan Morford

Katie Sullivan Morford is a freelance food and nutrition writer, registered dietitian, and cooking teacher. She writes the blog Mom’s Kitchen Handbook, which features healthy recipes and practical nutrition advice inspired by her own experience raising three children. Check out her latest book – Best Lunch Box Ever.

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  • jadegreen_eyz

    I love triscuits and usually get the low-salted ones because I like to eat them with cheese. I would also add that the Wasa crispbread crackers are very good.

    • KarynW

      I agree! The Wasa Thin Flatbread in Sesame or Rosemary are fantastic with hummus and black beans!

  • Dean

    Or make your own Almond Crackers:
    1 cup of Almond Meal (or almond flour, but meal is cheaper)
    1 egg white (or, for vegans: 1 Tbsp Chia Seeds mixed with 3 Tbsp water, and let sit for 5+ minutes.)
    Add Rosemary, salt, and mix very well.
    Put between two sheets of parchment paper, and roll very, VERY thin.
    Optional: I like to remove the top layer of parchment paper, sprinkle even more rosemary (or desired spice, Sesame seeds, etc.) and a little more salt, then put the parchment paper back on, and use either your hands or a roller to gently push the newly added flavors into the crackers so they don’t flake off later on.
    With the parchment paper still on, use the back/dull edge of a knife to pre-score the crackers in the sizes and shapes you want. I like a 1×1.5in size.
    Remove top layer of parchment paper, and cook in oven at 325 for 10, 15, or 18 minutes, depending on your oven.
    You now never need to buy crackers again!

  • Nicole

    Or, you can also make your own Roasted Almonds. Just preheat oven to 350, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil and put whole raw almonds on it. Then bake for 10 minutes, turning almonds occasionally. They are soo good. You can even put these in a food processor and make your own almond butter (which is good on rice cakes ;) )
    But, no added salt or oils like other roasted almonds

    Other snack ideas: puffed corn, RAW cookies and granolas, fresh fruits and veggies

  • Elizabeth

    Snacks that I love are bananas, roasted unsalted nuts, yogurt, dried berries or trail mix, dark chocolate( in small amounts and labeled as having about 70% cacao), carob chips, oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, coconut water, coconut flakes, banana chips, kombucha, pears, raisins, tea, etc.

  • Teresa

    Watch out for the MSG in the toasted seaweed, esp Asian brands that may not be so stringent in ingredient declaration.