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Healthy Alternatives to Processed Snack Foods

By Lori Rice ; Updated May 12, 2017

Part of living a healthy lifestyle and eating right is finding nutritious alternatives for snack foods. Many popular snack foods such as chips, candy and snack mixes are high in calories, fat and excess sugar. Healthy alternatives are those foods that are convenient to grab on the go, but are also nutrient dense, providing vitamins, minerals and energy that fuels the body.


The ideal alternative to snack foods such as chips is popcorn. Popcorn is a whole grain and is low in calories. One cup of air-popped popcorn has only 31 calories and provides 1.2 grams of dietary fiber. You can make a large amount of popcorn and split it up into individual serving bags to take with you for snacking when you need something to curb your hunger. Get creative with seasonings to make your popcorn more exciting. There are many flavors you can add without using salt, which can increase the sodium level in your diet, or butter, which adds saturated fat. Try sprinkling your popcorn with cumin, chili powder, hot paprika, grated Parmesan cheese, garlic powder or even cinnamon.

Grab-and-Go Fruits and Vegetables

Some of the most nutritious snacks available are fresh fruits and vegetables. These foods are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber while also being low in calories. Many fruits and vegetables can be conveniently packed with you. Choose those that are naturally easy to grab and eat such as apples, pears, bananas, grapes, plums, berries and carrot sticks. Consider preparing your fruit and vegetable snacks on the weekend and place them in transportable containers to take with you during the week. This will allow you to enjoy a variety of produce such as sliced cucumbers and red bell peppers and fruit salads made with pineapple, papaya and melon. If you enjoy a dip with your vegetables consider a hummus dip or make a dip with Greek yogurt and your favorite herbs and spices such as chives, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Protein-packed Snacks

Eating balanced snacks that provide carbohydrate, fat and protein will help to keep you fuller longer and keep energy levels up. Include two 1-inch cubes of cheese with your fruit, or snack on 23 (about 1 oz.) almonds. Sunflower seeds, walnuts, pecans and pre-packaged string cheese are other options. When it comes to seeds and nuts, portion control is important because these foods tend to be higher in calorie than fruits and vegetables. However, their calorie content is no reason to eliminate them from your list of favorite snacks. These foods are considered to be nutrient dense because they provide vitamins, minerals, protein and heart-healthy fat.

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