Healthy Salty Snacks

Healthy salty snacks

By Joo Shan Ooi, Dietetics student at Rutgers University

Reviewed by Jinan Banna, PhD, RD

Is snacking bad for you?

Snacks can be part of a healthy diet and serve the purpose of providing an energy boost in between meals and curb your hunger cravings throughout the day. Snacking is not a bad idea if it is implemented the right way with good habits. This article discusses smart snacking and ways to make snacking a good habit. Snacking may seem controversial because of the typical foods associated with snacking such as highly processed or ‘junk’ foods. However, snacks can be made healthy and provide nutritional benefits that are commonly overlooked! 

When is a good time to snack?

The key to avoiding overeating is to plan ahead the times that you would normally eat or feel hungry. It is known that the alteration of meal timing affects your energy and total daily food intake; therefore, planning when to eat your next meals may be a good idea. Depending on your daily schedule, the most common timeframe to snack is the window from after your afternoon lunch and before your last meal at dinner time, as this is often the longest period without eating. The consistency of our meal timing is important because food consumption that is asynchronous with our natural circadian rhythms may negatively affect health. This article reviews the influence of meal frequency and timing on health. The authors suggest that increased meal frequency may lead to higher disease risks due to disruption of the circadian rhythm. A good tip to have a consistent eating pattern is to eat intuitively or follow your hunger and satiety cues. 

Reframing your mindset with food labels and health claims when purchasing snacks

There are abundant health claims on various food products, which can be overwhelming with jargon and often don’t reflect the actual nutritional quality. Many times these health claims tend to align with dietary restrictions such as ‘gluten free.’ These may be thought to be associated with certain health benefits. However, this common mindset may lead to regularly viewing food as either “good” or “bad” thus possibly harming your relationship with food in the long run. Therefore, it is imperative to shift the perspective of food as pure nourishment to viewing food to be good for overall well-being. With that being said, we can celebrate food for all of its glory by not only reaping its nourishing benefits but also with the pleasure of enjoying food.

A good rule of thumb when shopping for snacks in grocery stores is to make sure that at least 2 food groups are found in each snack item. There are a total of 5 food groups which include fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and protein which can provide a host of nutrients. It’s worth mentioning that snacks generally do not contain a lot of fiber per serving and that getting enough fiber is a concern for most Americans. We already know from the previous blog post the importance of fiber in our diet in maintaining a healthy digestive tract. Feel free to stop by this post to find out how to meet your fiber needs with these high-fiber snacks!  

Understanding your relationship with food

Having a healthy relationship with food is important. It allows you to take a non-diet approach in food where you are able to listen to your body and meet your body’s nutritional needs as well as emotional needs without the need for food restrictions. It is evident that food is highly intertwined with mental health, which can affect your food intake.

This article discusses how food intake is controlled by satiety and partly by the food reward system via several cognitive processing mechanisms. Food reward is the feeling we receive in response to eating. As our brain acquires the ability to process food cues (e.g. sight, smell) from the foods we eat, we learn to enjoy the experience of eating the foods we like, and this experience can elicit an eating behavior. This indicates that the way we perceive food is a huge factor in the way we eat and how our eating habits form. The authors mention how the central nervous system can exert its influence on food reward signals, which can play a role in the amount of food intake. Therefore, being mindful of your diet is equally as important as having a healthy relationship with food in order to eat in a balanced way while still enjoying your favourite occasionally. The feelings we have toward food influence our eating, including snacking. 

Maintaining positive food language and mindfulness while snacking

Maintaining a positive food language may be difficult especially when snacking comes to mind, as it is indeed a controversial topic. However, learning how to adopt a positive food language is easy when you have complete freedom with food. Starting with eliminating the preconceived notions from diet culture, give yourself unconditional permission to eat food other than to fuel yourself. This way, food is being valued beyond calories and you are able to let go of the need to justify your food choices. When having meaningful conversations in social settings, it is a good idea to disengage from sensitive topics such as body weight and dieting. This helps to prevent judgements on food choices and respect the differences in others’ food preferences. Try practicing mindful eating. Mindful eating involves being fully present in the times of eating, which allows you to acknowledge the pleasure from eating experiences. The power of mindful eating allows you to bridge the connection between mind and body in a way that could empower your relationship with food. 

Five homemade healthy salty snack ideas

As you may already know, processed snacks normally contain higher amounts of added sodium. One great method to reduce your sodium intake is to prepare your own food if possible. Preparing your own salty snacks also gives you the freedom to add as many food groups as you like, such as fruits and vegetables. Check out this blogpost by a RDN on 5 tips to master your food prep at home. Adding fruits and vegetables is a plus, as these foods normally contain a good amount of potassium to counter high sodium levels. This article highlights the many ways to reduce your sodium intake when preparing your own food including incorporating more vegetables into your diet. Here are some of my healthy salty snack ideas that are easy to make from scratch with few ingredients required. 

  1. Baked Zucchini Fritters

Zucchini is a great option to incorporate green veggies into your diet because of its abundance of nutrients including vitamin K, potassium and dietary fiber. The skin of zucchini contains insoluble fiber which is known to aid in digestion and reduce constipation risks. Zucchini contains soluble fiber as well, which nourishes our gut microbiome. This article presents the health benefits of soluble fiber consumption linked to the prevention of various illnesses. Check out this quick and easy recipe on how to make baked zucchini fritters from scratch! 

Baked Zucchini Fritters
  1. Smashed Baby Potatoes

Baked potatoes are a great option if you enjoy potato chips as a snack because you will get all the benefits of its essential nutrients including dietary fiber, potassium and vitamin C without the hefty amount of sodium and saturated fats. The potato skin offers a great amount of insoluble fiber, which is low glycemic. Therefore, it can improve your blood sugar while keeping you fuller for longer. This article highlights the health benefits of white potatoes and why they should be included as a staple ingredient in your diet. Feel free to try out this recipe on how to make baked smashed baby potatoes with only a few ingredients that you probably already have at home!

  1. Crispy Roasted Chickpeas

Chickpea is part of the legume family and are a great source of vegetable protein and dietary fiber, which are known to curb your hunger cravings and provide a boost of energy when needed. Chickpeas are a nutrient dense food as they contain other micronutrients including vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, folate, magnesium and iron therefore are highly recommended for vegetarian diets. This article points out how chickpeas play a role in blood glucose control as well as having a positive impact on reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. It advocates the consumption of chickpeas for their well-established health benefits. This recipe on making crispy roasted chickpeas is so simple yet delicious!

Crispy Roasted Chickpeas
  1. Kale Chips

Kale belongs to the cruciferous vegetable group, which are known to be nutrient dense. Kale is rich in fat soluble vitamins, including vitamin K, A and carotenoids as well as water soluble vitamins such as Vitamin C and B6. Kale chips are a great snack idea to incorporate more dark leafy greens into your diet. There is emerging evidence on the bioactive compounds found in this food that function as protective mechanisms for chronic conditions. This article discusses all the health benefits of kale and additional ways to use it in the kitchen. If you are not a fan of kale, this recipe might just change your mind!

Kale Chips
  1. Avocado toast

Avocados are a type of fatty fruit and house monounsaturated fats, dietary fiber and essential micronutrients and minerals including vitamin E, K, magnesium and potassium. Avocados are a great fat substitute for butter on toasts due to their creamy texture, which mimics the mouthfeel of rich foods. Avocado toast is a great breakfast or snack idea because you can play with toppings depending on your hunger levels. For example, you can add an egg for additional protein and nutrients for days that need an extra boost of energy or include any other topping such as tomato slices and garnishes. Although making avocado toast is no head-scratcher, be sure to check out this recipe for various ideas on spicing up your avocado toast.

Final thoughts

All foods fit in a healthy diet, including snack foods; thus, snacking can be part of a healthy regimen. Remember that different types of food serve different purposes. Nourish your body in a way that makes you feel your best. If you’re interested in other healthy snacks, check out this previous blog post on healthy sweet snacks! 

Have questions? Comments? I would love to hear what you think below!

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