5 Simple, Smart and Satisfying Snack Hacks

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Snacking is the latest and greatest food trend. Many individuals are foregoing the classic three meals a day and replacing it with six small meals or snacks a day. There are many reasons behind this shift, such as people having less time to cook and less knowledge about how to prepare meals at home.

Just look at these market research statistics:

  • A Nielsen survey of 1,139 people found that 91 percent of adults snack at least once a day, including 25 percent who say they snack three to five times a day; and 3 percent who claim to be always nibbling.
  • According to a 2013 report from the Hartman Group, 48 percent of respondents replace meals with snacks at least three times a week.
  • As many as 30 percent of Americans reported eating a frozen entrée as a snack, according to a 2014 report from Mintel. The report also found 41 percent of 25-to-34-year-olds surveyed were inclined to do so.

Snacking can be healthy — but not if we replace healthy meals with unhealthy snacks. The key to healthful snacking is all about balance. Each time you reach for a snack, be sure it includes protein. Protein helps your metabolism work more efficiently at burning calories and keeps your blood sugars stable so you do not experience bouts of intense hunger and cravings.

Here are five healthier common snack replacements. Each has less than 250 calories and packs a protein punch of five or more grams per serving.

Replace Cookies with “Apple Cookies”

What You’ll Need
1 medium apple, 2 tablespoons peanut butter (or other nut butter), 2 tablespoons mini-chocolate chips, 2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats

Slice the apple and circle out the core, leaving five to six slices. Spread peanut butter on apples, and sprinkle with oats and mini-chocolate chips.

Replace Potato Chips and Dip with Homemade Corn Chips and Dip

What You’ll Need
3 corn tortillas, non-stick cooking spray, salt to taste, 1 small container of plain fat-free Greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons salsa

Preheat oven to 350° F. Cut tortillas with a pizza cutter into four pieces (for a total of 12 chips). Lay tortilla slices flat on a baking sheet and spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until desired crispiness. Meanwhile, mix Greek yogurt and salsa. Serve tortilla chips with dip.

Replace Cereal Snack Mix with “Power Snack Mix”

What You’ll Need
1 ounce shelled pistachios (about 50 nuts), 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes, 2 tablespoons raisins

Combine pistachios, coconut flakes and raisins. A serving of this “Power Snack Mix” is about ½ cup.

Replace Crackers with Flavored Popcorn

What You’ll Need
1 tablespoon popcorn kernels, olive oil spray, 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning blend, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, ¼ cup of sunflower seeds

Air-pop popcorn kernels. While popcorn is still warm, lightly spray with olive oil and sprinkle on Italian seasoning blend, garlic powder and sunflower seeds.

Replace a Sugary Coffee Drink with “Craving Crusher” Latte

What You’ll Need
8 ounces coffee, 1/4 cup fat-free milk, 1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder

Brew and cool coffee. In a blender bottle, mix coffee with milk and protein powder. Shake until well blended.

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Anne Cundiff
Anne Elizabeth Cundiff, RD, LD, FAND, is a retail dietitian in Iowa, author of "I’m a Registered Dietitian ... Now What?" and host of Conversations with Anne Elizabeth podcast. Read her blog, Nutritional Noshes, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram