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Guest Post by Melissa Morris
Snacks are necessary when we are on the go or in between meals when we feel that familiar hunger pang. Healthy snacks keep us energized, provide important nutrients, and can satisfy our appetite until the next meal.
Healthy snacks should contain at least two different food groups (fruits, vegetables, grain, dairy, and protein) as well as a source of fiber and protein. If you can also get some heart-healthy fat in there as well, that’s a bonus. Fiber helps keep us regular, can lower cholesterol, and helps give us a feeling of fullness. Protein and fat also help with fullness.
Fruits and vegetables are always good snack options when paired with another food group, like a protein or dairy. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and high in nutrients. They are easy to keep on hand and are non-perishable. Whole grains are a great way to add in some fiber, vitamins, and minerals are also easy to keep on hand and non-perishable. Nuts add protein, heart-healthy fat, some fiber, and lots of vitamins and minerals.
Healthy snacking can help meet your nutrient needs for the day, as well as help you meet your health and fitness goals. Here are five of the best healthy snacks you can keep in your car for when hunger strikes.
Make sure you read the label because some protein bars are just a candy bar in disguise. Look for ones that are lower in sugar, lower in sodium, and have some fiber, protein, and healthy unsaturated fats. One great thing about protein bars is they are non-perishable, so you can keep one of these in your car for when a snack attack strikes.
Some of the best choices in protein bars are RXBARs, KIND bars, and Perfect Bars. These three brands tend to have ingredients you can pronounce and recognize, which means less processing. They are also lower in sugar, lower in sodium, and have a good variety of protein, heart-healthy fats, and carbohydrates.
If you are looking for a protein bar with minimal ingredients, RXBARs usually only have five or six ingredients, like dates, nuts, and egg whites. They have a variety of flavors, but for fall, the pumpkin spice bars are very tasty.
KIND bars have more ingredients, but most of the ingredients are easy to recognize and pronounce, like nuts, honey, added fiber, sea salt, etc. Sometimes you will find sugar in the ingredient list, but KIND bars are still lower in added sugars when compared to other protein bars. KIND bars have protein, heart-healthy fats, some fiber, and are low in sodium and sugar.
Perfect Bars also have more ingredients than RXBARs, but the ingredients are mostly healthy and are easy to pronounce and recognize. These bars have fiber, heart-healthy fats, protein, and are low in sodium and sugar. The downside to Perfect Bars is that they are only recommended to keep a week outside of the refrigerator, but keep for longer in the refrigerator.
Homemade trail mix
You can choose the nuts, seeds, whole grain cereals, and dried fruit that you like best and control the salt if you make your own trail mix. You can buy trail mix but store-bought mixes may have extra ingredients like added sugar or salt. The nuts and seeds have heart-healthy fat, protein, some fiber, and other vitamins and minerals. The whole-grain cereal has fiber, some B-vitamins, and some minerals. The dried fruit will add a few additional vitamins and minerals to this snack.
Roasted chickpeas and apple slices
You can easily roast your own chickpeas or buy them from a grocery store. If you roast them at home, you can control the salt. Roasted chickpeas are crunchy and have a mild nutty flavor. They have fiber, protein, and B-vitamins. In addition to roasted chickpeas, apples are a great fruit to keep on hand. They have a natural sweetness and lots of nutrients, like fiber (especially if you eat the peel), vitamin C, and a bit of potassium. For other fruit options, try one of the other top five fruit choices.
Ants on a log
Peanut butter (or any other nut butter), dried fruit like raisins or dried cranberries, and celery make this snack a great choice. All three ingredients are non-perishable. The peanut butter has protein, a bit of fiber, and healthy fat. The celery has fiber and is very low in calories. Dried fruit adds a few vitamins and minerals. This snack is best eaten within the same day if not refrigerated for the best quality and taste.
Tuna with whole-grain crackers and bell pepper slices
A small package of tuna is inexpensive and full of protein and some healthy fat. Whole-grain crackers add some fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Red, yellow, or orange bell peppers are very high in vitamin C (more than an orange) and also have some fiber. If the red, orange, or yellow are too expensive, green bell peppers are still full of nutrients.
Many protein and dairy-rich foods need to stay refrigerated, so those snacks can be more difficult to keep in your car unless you have a cooler with plenty of ice or ice packs. Healthy snack options if you have a cooler include yogurt, string cheese, hummus, or low-sodium deli lunch meat.
Melissa Morris is a writer for exercise.com who has a BS and MS in exercise science and an EdD in educational leadership. She is an ACSM certified exercise physiologist and an ISSN certified sports nutritionist. She teaches nutrition and applied kinesiology at the University of Tampa and has worked in health education, fitness, and nutrition for 15 years.