Most nutritionists will tell you that eating a healthy snack is good for you, especially if your busy schedule means several hours between meals. A snack can prevent that afternoon “hangry” slump, give you the energy to make it to the gym, and prevent you from wiping out the buffet at a party.
The challenge is finding snacks you can take on the go but are also healthy. By healthy, we mean snacks that lack an excess of added sugar, sodium and fat — and are high in fiber and nutrients. We also want snacks that aren’t highly processed. And don’t worry, we did the homework for you – we found a variety of portable healthy snacks that are sure to keep you satiated without blowing your daily calorie consumption. Kids will like most of these, too!
21 “On-the-Go” Snacks for Healthy Eating in 2021
Before we dive into our healthy snacks, it’s helpful to understand what makes a snack healthy — and what doesn’t. If you’ve walked down the energy bar aisle at your local supermarket or health food store, you’ve seen the 10 zillion options that cater to every diet — paleo, keto, low-carb, gluten-free, high fiber, low glycemic, high protein, vegan, diabetic and more. Some of these bars are nutritious, but many are glorified candy bars loaded with sugar and calories concealed in a “nutrition” wrapper. Many are also using highly processed ingredients such as soy protein isolate, agave or brown rice syrup, artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols.
And don’t fall for the non-potato veggie chips such as sweet potato “veggie” straws and root veggie chips — most are highly processed, are high in sodium and fat, and don’t contain as many veggies as you might think. Manufacturers often fry them in sunflower oil, which is high in omega-6 acids. Diets that are too high in omega-6 acids are linked to cardiovascular disease, obesity, Alzheimer’s and other chronic health conditions.
We also tend to overeat snacks that we perceive as healthy. Skip the highly processed snacks and stick to ones that contain nutrients your body needs. Many of the following recipes are vegan, but even if you’re an omnivore, don’t discount them — most vegan foods are pretty darn healthy (and delicious).
Homemade Veggie Chips and Crackers
Making healthier versions of the store-bought veggie chips is easier and less time consuming than you might think! For example, this Sea Salt and Garlic Kale Chips recipe requires only kale, olive oil, salt and garlic powder. Instead of frying, you bake them, so they are low in fat — and kale is brimming with vitamins A and C. You can customize the spices and use curry powder, chipotle chili powder or just about any flavor you like. And if you’re now the proud owner of an air fryer, then try this Air-Fried “Everything Bagel” Kale Chips recipe from Cooking Light.
Kale is just one of many vegetables you can convert into a tasty, crispy snack. Check out this recipe for Baked Sweet Potato Chips that includes several tips for preventing soggy or burnt chips — one of which is to slice them very thin, so time to break out your F.N. Sharp Chef Knife!
If you like a little variety, then check out this recipe for Air Fryer Veggie Chips by Orgasmik Cooking which features a medley of veggies, from beets to zucchini. And for those avocado lovers out there – did you know you can also use avocados to make crispy chips? This Avocado Chip Recipe from Delish uses avocados and grated Parmesan cheese to create a tasty, nutrient-dense snack.
If you’re looking for something that has more protein and is a little more durable for travel than chips, this Multi-Seed Cracker recipe calls for flax, chia, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. They’re also gluten-free and vegan.
Homemade Muffins and Bite-Sized Snacks
Store-bought and coffee shop muffins are usually loaded, and we mean loaded, with highly processed fat and sugar — and you’ll be adding a whopping 400 to 600 calories to your day! They also often contain preservatives to extend their shelf life.
Muffins are one of the most convenient foods to grab for an on-the-go breakfast or an afternoon snack, and it’s simple to make healthy versions at home. Even picky kids generally like muffins, so they make excellent kid snacks too. Muffins freeze well, so you can make a double batch when you have time and enjoy them for days.
Most muffin recipes allow for substitutions such as almond milk instead of cow’s milk and almond or coconut flour in place of white flour, so you can customize them to suit your dietary preferences. This Baked Oatmeal Cups recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction doesn’t use a mixer, refined sugar, or flour (and if you use gluten-free oats, they’ll be gluten-free).
If you’re more of a blueberry muffin fan, try this Healthy Blueberry Muffins recipe that uses oats, fresh or frozen blueberries and nonfat milk. And you can’t go wrong with this Maple-Sweetened Banana Muffins recipe that uses maple syrup or honey instead of sugar!
Bite-sized baked snacks are also convenient and generally freeze well. One to consider is this vegan Healthy Pumpkin Pie Energy Bites recipe that doesn’t require baking. It’s high in fiber and free of refined sugar, gluten and dairy. These Healthy No-Bake Granola Bites are a little higher in calories than other snacks but are packed with whole grains, flaxseeds and protein, which means you’ll feel full longer and have more energy.
Homemade Protein-Rich Snacks
You probably know people who have tried high-protein, low-carb diets like keto, or maybe you follow one yourself. According to many nutritionist and scientific studies, eating protein helps decrease your appetite, makes you feel full longer and provides energy.
One of the easiest and healthiest sources of protein are eggs, and hard-boiled eggs make excellent to-go snacks. If you don’t have access to a fridge, you can keep them cool with a small ice pack or eat them within two hours of removing them from the refrigerator. If you’ve struggled to cook hard-boiled eggs that aren’t over or undercooked or hard to peel, then this Perfect Steam Boiled Eggs recipe from Serious Eats is for you! Instead of boiling the eggs in a pot of water, you steam them in a basket and immediately plunge the eggs into an ice bath, which makes them easy to peel.
If you’re already over hard-boiled eggs, you’ll find plenty of recipes out there for homemade egg bites, from the oven to the Instant Pot to the air fryer. You’ll even find some copycat recipes for those $5 sous vide egg bites at Starbucks, like this Instant Pot one by Platings and Pairings. or this air fryer recipe by The Typical Mom.
If meat jerky slices are your go-to snack, most store-bought jerky is filled with sugars, preservatives, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and nitrates — none of which are part of a healthy diet. Make your own with this Turkey Jerky recipe. It takes about four hours to bake the jerky in a traditional oven, so pop these in the oven while you’re doing other things around the house. You can also freeze them, so make a big batch.
Homemade Fruit Snacks
When it comes to snacking on fruit, an apple, orange or a banana offer the perfect healthy on-the-go snack since they don’t need to be refrigerated. Grapes, cherry tomatoes, miniature bell peppers and sugar snap peas don’t require peeling and will be OK without refrigeration for a few hours.
But if you want to get creative, then try making your own fruit leather and snacks! Fruit leather is a perfect way to use up that bushel of peaches or that excess fruit you bought at the farmers market because it looked so appealing. This How to Make Fruit Leather recipe is so simple and versatile — you can use peaches, pears, apples, grapes, plums, berries or apricots.
If you prefer fruit snacks over leather, this recipe for strawberry lemonade fruit snacks by Happiness is Homemade takes only 3 ingredients and 10 minutes to make! For a fruit snack that contains some protein, try these vegan Spiced Almond-Date Bites from Whole Foods Market.
Last-Minute Healthy Snack Options
You might be thinking, these recipes sound great, but I’m not going to have the time to make this stuff anytime soon. Or you made those Healthy Blueberry Muffins, but now they’re gone. For times like these, it’s good to have some unsalted, raw or roasted nuts on hand. You can mix them with some dried fruit but look for unsweetened ones — raisins, cherries or unsweetened cranberries are good bets, like this recipe for homemade trail mix by Five Heart Home.
Air-popped popcorn makes a suitable snack for when you want something crunchy and unsweet. Whole-grain cereal such as Cascadian Farms Organic Purely O’s or Quaker Oatmeal Squares are high in fiber and relatively low in sugar. Toss a cup into a portable container or bag for a super-simple snack. Now you don’t have to give in to the vending machine, leftover pastries from that morning’s meeting or raid the office candy jar when you need a pick-me-up! If you’re watching your calories, be sure not to over-consume because even healthy snacks will add up.