Whether you’re an athlete looking to take your training to the next level, or you’re experiencing the mid-afternoon workday slump, a quick snack that’s rich in protein, complex carbohydrates and nutrients can give you the energy boost you need to perform at your peak. Many store-bought energy bars contain nuts, so if you have a nut allergy, you may need to look for other on-the-go snack options. Luckily, there are plenty of nutritious, tasty, nut-free snacks that can keep you full and ready to take on the day.
- More Americans, especially American teens, are snacking than ever before. The Food Survey Research Group (FSRG), part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, tracks Americans’ eating habits over time. In a survey from 1977-1978, 61% of American adolescents were snacking. That number increased to 83% in the data from 2005-2006. And according to an article by Shape magazine, nearly 100% of Americans in all age groups now say that they eat a snack each day.
- Snacking provides just over a third of Americans’ daily fruit intake, according to nutritionist Rhonda Sebastian of the Food Surveys Research Group
- According to the FSRG, snacks can provide anywhere from 7-38% of an adult’s daily intake from crucial food groups
While more people are snacking now than in the past, nutritionists are split over whether this is a positive trend. That’s because many of the snack foods that are marketed to consumers are high in unhealthy fats and sugar, while providing little in the way of nutrition. Many Americans reach to chips, cookies, and energy bars that contain more sugar than a Snickers when they could be using their snacks to round out their diet and fill up on the nutrients they aren’t getting enough of at mealtime.
Healthy snacks have the potential to increase satiety—that is, to keep people feeling full—which in turn prevents overeating. Unhealthy snacks simply add to a person’s overall calorie intake while providing little in the way of nutrition or satiety. We went ahead and compiled a list of some healthy, filling nut-free snacks for the next time you need an energy boost between meals.
With roughly six grams of protein per serving and only 77 calories, a hard-boiled egg is the perfect protein-rich snack to help you feel full, especially if you’re looking for a lighter snack that’s low on calories but rich in healthy fats that help boost your energy. If you’re looking to cut down on fat or cholesterol, you can also toss the yolk and eat only the boiled egg white, which contains most of the protein with virtually no fat.
Greek yogurt is a protein powerhouse, with 17 grams in a serving of only 100 calories. A single serving also contains 18% of your daily calcium and 21% of your Vitamin B12 needs. Mix in some fruit or a little bit of granola for flavor, and you have a healthy, well-balanced snack that will fill you up and help you meet your daily nutrition needs.
In the US, most edamame is served frozen, and it’s easy to prepare by boiling, steaming, frying or microwaving, often with a pinch of salt. It’s also rich in protein, vitamins and minerals, especially folate and Vitamin K1. Some studies have even linked it to a decreased risk for breast and prostate cancers and improved bone health. Like other soy products, edamame contains all nine essential amino acids, which are crucial for building and maintaining muscle tissue, along with other health benefits.
According to a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only one in ten Americans get enough vegetables in their diet, and only 12.2% of American adults meet the minimum fruit requirement. In an article for Fitness magazine, dietician Tara Gidus emphasized the benefits of snacking on fruit, saying, “It’s got vitamins, minerals, and good carbs, which give you quick energy.” Apples, oranges and bananas don’t require refrigeration, and they’re easily portable.
Vegetables and Hummus
If the state of fruit consumption among Americans is bleak, the state of veggie consumption is dire: according to the same CDC study, only 9.3% of American adults meet the minimum vegetable requirement for a healthy diet. Cutting up some carrots and celery to toss in your bag before work is an easy way to boost your intake, and pairing them with hummus adds protein and flavor to round out your snack (you can even get small to-go hummus packs). With 7.9 grams of protein per serving, as well 6 grams of fiber, 39% of your recommended daily intake of manganese, 26% of your daily copper, and 21% of your daily folate, hummus is a nutrient-dense food with inflammation-fighting properties and heart-healthy ingredients. You can read more about the health benefits of hummus here.
Homemade Granola Bars
Try making your own energy bars at home, where you can control how much sugar is added and replace nuts with ingredients like quinoa, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and rolled oats. This recipe from Ambitious Kitchen contains over 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. And this recipe from Yummy Mummy Kitchen has a prep time of about ten minutes, with nutritious ingredients like sunflower seed butter and flax meal.
Sometimes planning out healthy snacks can help you avoid reaching for junk food in the stretch between meals. If you take a few minutes at the start of your day to cut up some vegetables, boil an egg, or toss an orange in your purse or backpack, you might find that it’s easier to choose foods that boost your energy and improve your nutrition, rather than foods that provide little nutritional value or a sugar crash.