Fitness Expert Shares 4 Top Healthy Snacks

When your stomach starts growling halfway between lunch and dinner time, you know it's time for a snack. When you're on the go, however, vending machines or the checkout lines at the convenience store don't always offer the healthiest options.

In an exclusive interview with Health Digest, Rachel MacPherson, an ACE-CPT and certified exercise nutritionist and a member of Garage Gym Review's expert panel, shared her top four favorite go-to healthy snacks.

First up is greek yogurt with warm berries, which MacPherson points out is sure to be a crowd-pleaser for those with a sweet tooth. "I heat up some frozen mixed berries with a touch of sweetener, cinnamon, and a sprinkle of cornstarch, then mash them into a compote or berry sauce to pour over my yogurt," she explains, adding that she'll often toss in some chopped toasted walnuts or low-sugar granola along with it.

"This snack is high [in] protein, packed with calcium, antioxidants, and fiber with a touch of healthy fats from the nuts," MacPherson states. Keeping you full and energized for hours on end, while also reducing your intake of added sugars, MacPherson says that you can't go wrong with greek yogurt and berries. "You can eat this snack any time of the day, but I like it at night when I have a sweet craving," she shares. "The fiber and protein keep me full through the night, and some research suggests dairy products can help improve sleep quality."

Delicious whole-grain options

For those who enjoy a snack following dinner, MacPherson says whole-grain ricotta toast is one option that's not only healthy but also versatile. "You can top it either savory or sweet," she says. "For sweet options, slice up any fruit you love such as peaches, grapes, bananas, or strawberries and place [it] on top of ricotta-smeared toast. Drizzle with a bit of honey, Nutella, or nut butter if you like," MacPherson suggests.

"For savory versions, cucumber, smoked salmon, grape tomatoes and dill [are] delicious," she states. "These combos provide micronutrients, fiber, protein, and complex carbs to keep you full until morning, so it makes a great post-dinner snack." While whole-grain ricotta toast can be eaten at any point during the day, MacPherson points out that it serves as an especially nutritious post-workout meal.

However, if you're not a fan of toast, consider whole-grain crackers instead, which MacPherson highlights as her third top healthy snack. More specifically, whole-grain crackers and raw veggies with nut butter, cheese, or bean dip for a plant-based option. "Again, the fiber, protein, and nutrient density combined with healthy fats will help keep you full and satisfied," she states. "This is a great afternoon snack to keep your blood sugar levels steady for sustained energy."

DIY popcorn

Fourth, MacPherson tells Health Digest how homemade popcorn can be another tasty and healthy post-dinner snack option. "I love to top mine with freshly grated parmesan and oregano, but you can also use nutritional yeast in place of cheese for a plant-based option," she states. "Popcorn is a whole-grain snack with lots of filling fiber for few calories, and it helps satisfy cravings for salty snacks."

Offering a word of caution, MacPherson notes that adding excess salt to popcorn can potentially interfere with one's sleep. ​​"You can have this snack any time of day, but if you're adding salt, beware that salty foods can make you thirsty, and you may drink more water which could, in turn, make you wake up at night for a bathroom trip," she states. "In this case, simply keep the snack lower in salt."

However, MacPherson acknowledges that homemade snacks aren't always an option for everyone. "When you can't eat these types of homemade snacks, try to choose a couple of easy pre-made snacks from a store or machine that will provide similar elements, such as a bag of pretzels and a cheese string or a pre-boiled egg and piece of fruit, or a carton of milk and a high fiber granola bar," she advises. "Look for higher fiber, lower added sugar, and protein-filled items for your best bet."

Snacks don't have to be just one thing

Concluding the interview, MacPherson tells Health Digest that when we think of healthy snacks as a combination of items, our options are seemingly endless. "Instead of thinking of snacks as a single item, it's wise to plan snacks that resemble complete mini-meals," she says. "This will help keep your blood sugar balanced and stave off cravings for sugar or caffeine when you have an energy slump." 

"Many prepackaged or single-item snacks, such as a single piece of fruit or a granola bar, may not offer enough healthy fats, protein, and fiber and may not be balanced in terms of sugar content," she explains. "While natural sugars and simple carbs are good fo[r] you in many cases, they are best paired with these other nutrients (protein, fiber, fats) to slow digestion and provide sustained energy," MacPherson states. "Choosing snacks with a combo of protein, fiber, and nutrients is ideal for keeping you full and energized throughout the day."