Snacks may sound like a dirty word now that you've decided to lead a healthy lifestyle, but it doesn't have to be that way. The truth is, having a healthy snack in the middle of the day may be better than restricting your calories.
Snacks — now, don't be afraid to say the word with us — can provide you with much-needed energy between meals, help decrease hunger, and prevent overeating when it's time for lunch or dinner.
But before you go eyeing that muffin or cookie, remember that not all snacks are created equal. The key to good snacking is choosing good-for-you ingredients that steer clear of artificial fillers or hidden additives. It also means breaking up with sugar.
Choosing the Right Type of Sugar-Free Snacks
It's not going to be an easy break up, we know. There might be tears and maybe some soul searching. And yes, you'll need to pack up all your candy bars and other sugar-laden snacks and throw them out. The reason why we're suggesting you go sugar-free is simple: sugar is bad for you.
Just how bad?
The American Heart Association advises that men have no more than 36 grams (9 teaspoons) of added sugar per day, while women should not exceed 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day.
Today, sugar is added not only to obvious foods such as candy, cake, and soda, but it’s also hidden in not-so-obvious foods like salad dressings, crackers, and bread. As a result, the average American consumes three pounds (6 cups) of sugar a week — that's just under one cup of sugar a day. Read that again: Almost one cup per person per day.
Sugar is nothing but empty calories. This means it has no nutritional benefits. Consuming too much sugar for too long can also lead to type 2 diabetes or heart disease.
At the same time, it’s important to remember that many sugar-free snacks are loaded with artificial sweeteners, which research shows isn’t great for you. The key to enjoying a healthy sugar-free snack is to choose options that use natural ingredients with low- or zero-glycemic levels, such as stevia or monk fruit.
Rules for Healthy Snacking
The little white crystals aren't the only thing you should avoid when choosing healthy sugar-free snacks. There are a few other ground rules to keep in mind.
- Focus on a mix of protein, healthy fats, and fiber. Combined, these three can help you feel fuller for longer.
- Focus on whole foods, such as whole grains, fruits, and veggies.
- Portion your snacks just enough to tide you over to the next meal without filling you up.
Savory Sugar-Free Snack Ideas
Don't really have a sweet tooth anyway? As mentioned, it's not just the usual suspects you have to watch out for when it comes to sugary snacks. Some store-bought peanut butter can contain a high amount of sugar, although it may be called something else, such as dextrose or maltose.
For a savory sugar-free snack, try:
- Carrot sticks with hummus or guacamole
- Whole-wheat pita topped with cottage cheese
- Hard boiled eggs
If you're feeling a little more adventurous, you could also try making your own healthy, sugar-free snacks using the following recipes for inspiration.
1. Beef Jerky
While you can easily find jerky in grocery stores, the ones you can buy often have added sugar or high sodium content. It's better to make your own jerky so you know exactly what does (and what doesn't) go into your delicious and chewy snack. You could also try to make your own jerky from different meats such as veal, pork, or turkey.
2. 30-Minute Cheesy Kale Chips
Image: Minimalist Baker
These tasty kale chips make for a crispy, salty, and vegan sugar-free snack thanks to the use of nutritional yeast for the cheesy flavor. As the golden child of the cabbage family, kale packs in more nutrition — especially iron, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin K — than most other foods. Enjoy your cheesy kale chips on their own or as an alternative to nachos. You could even ditch the nutritional yeast and go old-school by simply sprinkling on some olive oil and sea salt.
3. Garlic Parmesan Roasted Chickpeas
Image: Sugar-Free Mom
Nuts and seeds may make a good sugar-free snack, but it can get pretty boring pretty fast. Plus, they're not an option f you have a nut allergy. Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are an excellent vegan and gluten-free source of protein and fiber, and contain exceptional levels of iron, vitamin B-6, and magnesium.
The best thing about this recipe for roasted chickpeas? You can use canned beans. Simply rinse the canned beans and lay them on a paper towel to dry for about half an hour. They'll come out as crunchy and tasty after 45 minutes in the oven.
Sweet Sugar-Free Snack Ideas
No, it's not an oxymoron. You can enjoy sweet treats without sugar. Here are some great sugar-free snacks you can make in just minutes:
- Chia pudding (just add chia seeds to milk or water)
- Dark chocolate (check labels to make sure there's no sugar added)
- Greek yogurt topped with blueberries.
Read on for more sugar-free snack options.
4. The Cereal School
We know, we know, breakfast cereals are possibly one of the worst offenders when it comes to sugar content. Then again, you're probably thinking that because you haven't been introduced to The Cereal School.
The Cereal School has absolutely zero sugar but tastes as sweet as your favorite childhood cereals. It has just one incy wincy gram of carbs per serving and is packed full of protein (16 whole grams per serving) to keep you going longer.
We all know snacks are more fun when you're sneaking a handful of breakfast food in the middle of the day when nobody's watching. Even better if you're enjoying it the way snacks should be eaten: straight from the packet.
5. Chocolate Avocado Smoothie
Image: Sweet as Honey
This chocolate avocado smoothie is a decadent sugar-free snack that's also vegan thanks to almond milk. Avocado is naturally creamy and helps make a perfectly thick smoothie. It's also a healthy fat with fiber and protein to help you feel fuller for longer. With just six ingredients and ready in five minutes, your sweet craving will be met in no time. Have it as a low-carb breakfast on the go or a refreshing summer afternoon snack.
6. Chocolate Chip Sweet Potato Muffins
Image: Ela Vegan
You won't believe these vegan muffins are made without flour, refined sugar, or eggs, which are the three basic ingredients for a traditional recipe. But hey, we're all about reinventing timeless favorites, so why not your regular muffin?
The thing about sweet potatoes is that they contain high amounts of beta-carotene, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. But on top of that, they also act as an egg replacement and add moisture. They're the simple reason these healthy muffins are soft and sweet.
Time to Enjoy Sugar-Free Snacks
Just because you've gone healthy doesn't mean you have to sacrifice snacking. Contrary to popular belief, snacks can be a good way to manage your weight. Just be sure to select healthy options made with real, whole foods and no chemical ingredients.
Finding sugar-free snacks can sometimes feel like an insurmountable task. But all it takes is a little determination, a lot of label reading, and a good dose of creativity.
And for days when you don't feel like making your own sugar-free snacks, The Cereal School's got you. Stock up on our cereal packs in your favorite flavors. Place them in every nook and cranny you can think of: in your bag, backpack, desk, car, whatever. This way, you'll never have to search far when you're in the mood for some snacks.