Quick vibe check: how do you feel about snacks?
Do you associate snacks with cheating, 100-calorie packs, or plates of boring raw veggies?
Or are balanced snacks just another opportunity to fuel your day?
As a former dieter, snacking used to be tied to a whole lotta negative energy…but as an intuitive eater, I’ve been able to unlearn those icky vibes that just aren’t serving me anymore. And with full permission to eat when I need energy, my whole day goes more smoothly. I’m not a crank-pants anymore (…well, at least not as often – ha!).
You’re an adult: you get to eat what you want when you want. But if you’re breaking up with dieting, this can be easier said than done. I get it. What Is Chronic Dieting…and Should You Stop?
And even if you’re not in a relationship with dieting, we really aren’t taught nutrition basics.
It can take a little bit of guidance to craft easy, nourishing balanced snacks that have a little more staying power: that’s where this mid-west, snack-lovin’ registered dietitian comes in. Hi, it’s me!
In this blog post, I’ll walk you through what balanced snacks are, how to make ‘em, and a big ‘ole list of 42 beautifully balanced snacks for you to enjoy.
Is snacking healthy?
Yes girl, yes.
If you’re hungry: eat! You don’t need to check your app or tally your points: your body is communicating. She needs an energy boost and a snack can come to the rescue.
As an Intuitive Eating dietitian, I recommend following your hunger cues. Basically, if you were to rate your hunger on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being I’ve never felt so hungry in my life and 10 being I’m so full I’m gonna explore, you want to be in the comfy middle most of the time. If you let yourself get tooooo hungry, you might feel out of control and miserable and then eat past fullness, swinging to the other end of the scale.
By building trust with your hunger and body, you’re able to respond to your body’s needs in a more timely manner (and without diet-y expectations about what you should or shouldn’t eat).
Building balanced snacks honors your taste buds and cravings but also uses gentle nutrition to pair foods together that keep your body feeling fueled and satisfied for longer.
What if I’m not hungry?
In general, we can make decisions about when and what to eat based on our hunger cues.
Here’s where things can get tricky. Many people don’t have clear (or trustworthy) hunger cues because they’ve been dieting for years. Following a restrictive diet means that you’re not listening to your cues, so your body stops sending the message.
(Psst: hunger cues aren’t always a rumble in your tummy. Here are the different Signs of Hunger: Your Body Wants Your Attention).
Good news: snacking can actually help you to get those hunger cues back. We need to “wake those hunger cues” back up and build trust with our bodies that we’ll also take action to honor her requests.
When should you snack?
There is never a “good” or “bad” time to snack. Your stomach doesn’t have an open + close time. It’s never “too late” in the day.
I want you to eat meals and snacks that you actually like, satisfy your cravings, AND keep you fueled.
Let’s dive into the “how”.
What is a well-balanced snack?
The right solution for building a balanced snack is unique to you.
The best-balanced snack for you is something that sounds good and fits into your available timetable.
As for the nutrition part, I usually recommend that you include foods from two out of the three macronutrients:
If you combine more than one macronutrient, your snack will have more staying power.
How about a gold star? “Extra credit” to consider with snacking: fiber and color (a micronutrient punch + increased enjoyment + mindfulness)
But, this is not a “rule” or a “law” that you have to follow (that’s the beauty of Intuitive Eating). “For the most part” are the four magic words here: if having two out of three macronutrients will take away from your satisfaction for a particular snack sesh…don’t do it!
If you’re craving just a cookie or just pretzels…that’s okay!
Not honoring your cravings may just backfire. Building balanced snacks (or balanced meals for that matter) is NOT something we want to approach with a perfectionist mindset.
Let’s walk through a few general tips for balanced snack success and then we’re off to our mega list of ideas!
Tips for snacking
Here are a few general guidelines you can follow as you develop your snacking routines.
- Don’t get too hungry before having a snack. That’s when we get binge-y. If you’ve ever felt out of control around food, my Binge-Free Meal Plan might be just the resource you need to learn to craft a plan for the week that is tasty, fun, and nourishing. Download the free plan right here: 1 Week Plan For Binge-Free Intuitive Eating.
- Be mindful. If you have a moment to pause and pay attention to your snack while you’re eating it, you might enjoy it more and you’ll be able to better connect with your hunger and fullness cues (this also helps to prevent eating way past fullness).
- Be aware of boredom eating. Food can provide us with many benefits beyond fuel – this includes entertainment. This is neither good nor bad, it just “is”. Reflecting on your choices with curiosity helps you to identify what choices are helping you to feel good and balanced and which choices made you feel grumpy, out of control, or yucky. If you’re looking for strategies to eat less out of boredom, check out this post: How To Stop Boredom Eating In 4 Steps.
- Plan ahead. Have snacks on hand so that they’re ready when you need ‘em.
- Notice your fatigue. If you had a crummy night’s sleep, chances are you’ll be craving more food, and your mind might be zeroed in on carbs. Carbs are not the enemy, but it can be helpful to understand WHY carbs sound like the only thing that will do on a day when you’re super tired. Rather than feeling guilty for eating carbs or feeling frustrated that your eating is out of control, notice what it feels like when you don’t have enough rest and work on ways to get more rest soon. I explain all of that here: Why Do Tiredness and Overeating Go Hand in Hand?
Here we go: let’s go over forty-one ideas for making a balanced snack!
And sometimes it is helpful to have ideas handy when you need a little inspo. If this list is helpful to you, please feel welcome to download a PDF of this guide (I made it pretty for you, Gorgeous!) and pop it on your fridge. 42 ideas? Done and dusted!
Your Guide To Balanced Snacking!
Download this free PDF where I’ll walk you through what balanced snacks are, how to make ‘em, and a big ‘ole list of 42 beautifully balanced snacks for you to enjoy.
42 Balanced Snack Ideas
- Pretzels + hummus
- Apple + PB
- Pear + cheese stick
- Crackers + tuna packet
- Trail mix
- Chips + cottage cheese as the dip (so good!)
- A protein/snack bar
- 3 Ingredient peanut butter balls
- Chocolate bliss balls
- Greek yogurt + granola/cereal
- A smoothie
- Peanuts + popcorn
- Toast + greek yogurt + sliced fruit
- Toast + cottage cheese + everything bagel seasoning
- Toast + a fried egg
- Peanut butter + banana
- Pretzels + almond butter
- Bagel with cream cheese
- Cereal + milk (or use a protein shake for the milk for an added feel-full boost)
- Cookie dough protein bars
- Turkey, pear + cheese roll-ups (string cheese, slice of pear, all wrapped in a slice of deli meat)
- Cantaloupe, cottage cheese + honey (recipe from the 1-week meal plan!)
- Graham crackers, PB, chocolate chips
- Boiled egg snack box (egg, cherry tomatoes, cheese cubes + crackers; recipe in the 1-week meal plan)
- Chia seed pudding
- English muffin with tomato and avocado
- Freeze-dried strawberries + peanuts
- Guacamole + tortilla chips
- Peanut butter dates
- Watermelon + feta cheese (throw mint in there for a flavor kick!)
- Ants on a log (celery + PB + raisins)
- Packet of oatmeal + nut butter
- Cheese quesadilla
- Cucumber slices + cream cheese + everything bagel seasoning
- PB & J sandwich
- Smoked salmon + crackers
- Frozen chocolate-y banana bites (place PB between 2 banana slices, cover with chocolate + freeze)
- Chocolate Chip Cookie dough hummus + apple slices or graham crackers
- Chickpea cookie dough
- Caprese bites (Mozzarella, basil leaf + grape tomato)
- Crackers topped with hummus + cucumber slices
- Air fryer pizza bagels
Balanced snacks in action
I help women to unlearn all of the BS-lies that diet culture would have us believe.
It’s hard work, and not always fun, but it is work worth doing.
Life is SO much better when my body and spirit are well nourished. I feel at ease in my body, have trust in my hunger, and am not feeling we are sabotaging one another anymore. Life is a hell of a lot more fun.
These are the kinds of wins that members of The SociEATy are celebrating every day. It is totally awesome.
“I had a bowl of tortilla chips last night as I was craving a snack with a little bit of cheese! Normally because I’d feel bad for snacking at like 9, I’d overeat and feel like shit. I took one bowl, filled the craving, didn’t feel shame about it, and didn’t even make it a weird thing, where I felt guilty at all! This is HUGE as I’ve had this massive food rule around eating or snacking even at all and making it mean the world. Wanted to share this as I was able to not “binge” out of fear that I can’t have it the next day!! Woooo!!”– Olivia R, SociEATy member
“I wanted a late-night snack. I would normally just sit down and mindlessly eat Teddy Grahams, but I stopped and realized that my body did actually want food (instead of just bored noshing). I made a bowl of Greek yogurt and almond butter for dipping! Yay for satisfying snacking!-Erin M, SociEATy member
How I help
I am an intuitive eating dietitian, I help my clients cultivate a positive relationship with eating, their body, and their health. Restrictive diets? Take a hike.
Eating in a way that feels good to your brain and body shouldn’t feel so complicated, but it DOES, because we have so much crappy, harmful messaging in our daily lives. And we are totally missing out on regular nutrition 101 education.
By joining the SociEATy, you’ll feel like you have a road map to navigate eating with confidence, including building balanced snacks! You’ll be joining a community of people who EAT with the guidance of an Intuitive Eating dietitian.