In a perfect world, everyone would be roasting their own kale chips or whipping up homemade energy balls, but let’s face it, everyone relies on pre-packaged snacks sometimes. Clever marketing can portray these trendy snacks as the best thing you can do for your body, but are they really good for you?
A nutritious snack should have a combination of protein and fibre to fill you up and keep you satiated; should provide about 100 to 200 calories and some vitamins and/or minerals; and should be low in sodium, added sugar and saturated fat. We took a look at some of the latest “healthy” grab-and-go snacks to see how they really stack up when it comes to nutrition, and the Chatelaine food team weighed in on taste.
Somersaults Crunchy Sunflower Seed Bites (Sea Salt)
$1.40 per serving ($5.99 per 170g bag)
Per 14-piece (40g) serving: 210 calories, 8g protein, 4g fibre, 2g sugar, 12g fat, 360mg sodium. Good source of: iron (15%), vitamin E (25%)
From a nutritional standpoint these crunchy little nuggets are winning: They’re high in protein and fibre, as well as heart-healthy fats, iron and vitamin E. Not everyone was sold on them during our taste-test, but I found them tasty and satisfying.
Three Farmers Roasted Chickpeas (Sea Salt and Lime)
$1.23 per serving ($5.29 per 120g bag)
Per 1/3 cup (28g) serving: 110 calories, 5g protein, 5g fibre, 1g sugar, 2.5g fat, 240mg sodium. Good source of: iron (8%)
These are great for those of us who are forever striving to eat more pulses (chickpeas, beans, lentils) for heart health. The real question is: Are you going to stick to the 1/3 cup serving size, or will you munch your way through half the bag? These roasted chickpeas are slightly dry, but definitely satisfy that hankering for some serious crunch. We liked Sea Salt and Lime best, but they come in a variety of flavours.
Riviera Petit Pots, 40% Less Sugar 0% Greek Yogurt (Raspberry)
$1.25 per pot ($4.99 per pack of 4)
Per 125g serving: 80 calories, 11g protein, 0g fibre, 8g sugar, 0.1g fat, 45mg sodium. Good source of: calcium (15%), probiotics
This company has responded to the consumer demand for lower-sugar foods. These adorable glass jars of yogurt are surprisingly creamy for 0% milk fat (though some testers found it slightly chalky) and delicious (with no artificial sweetener!). With a whopping 11g of protein per serving and their convenient portability, they’re a great option for snacking on the go. Tip: Eat these with a piece of fruit to get some fibre.
Prana Trail Mix (Machu Picchu Exotic Fruit and Nut Mix)
$1.10 per serving ($5.49 per 150g bag)
Per 1/4 cup (30g) serving: 140 calories, 4g protein, 3g fibre, 9g sugar, 8g fat, 10mg sodium. Good source of: iron (10%), selenium (120%), vitamin E (45%), magnesium (25%), manganese (25%)
While trail mix is a healthy snack, if you stash a big bag of this at your desk, it may be hard to stick to the recommended ¼ cup-serving when the 3 p.m. slump rolls around. This stuff is tasty (not your average trail mix as far as flavour is concerned)! It’s also packs a lot of calories. And yes, they’re nutritious calories with protein, fibre and lots of micronutrients, but all calories add up. To keep yourself from going overboard, you can portion single servings in small containers or ziptop bags to grab on your way out the door, and pack a piece of fruit or yogurt to eat with it (a ¼ cup of trail mix might not fill you up).
Fruit and Vegetable Bar: Pressed by KIND (Apple, Chia, Strawberry)
$2.22 per bar ($8.89 per box of 4)
Per 1 bar (35g): 110 calories, 1g protein, 4g fibre, 19g sugar, 0.5g fat, 3mg sodium. Good source of: vitamin C (10%)
Whenever whole foods are processed, some nutrients are lost. When the moisture is removed from the apples and strawberries to make these bars, what’s left is a lot of natural sugar, despite there being no added sugar. A medium apple, which is just as easy to toss into your bag, has 4.5g of fibre and 14% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C. However, if you’re looking for shelf-stable snacks to stash at your desk, and the alternative is a chocolate bar from the office vending machine, this is definitely a healthier option, especially since many people don’t get the recommended 7 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. The ingredient list is just fruit and chia seeds, and the 4g of fibre is a plus. It got mixed reviews on our taste panel, but it’s a bit reminiscent of a grown-up Fruit Roll-Up.
Sabra Hummus to Go with Pretzel Crackers (Original)
$3.49 per pack
Per 129g serving: 370 calories, 11g protein, 7g fibre, 2g sugar, 20g fat, 880mg sodium. Good source of: iron (20%)
Hummus is a tasty way to squeeze in more pulses, and it provides plenty of protein and fibre. For a snack, though, this provides a lot of energy. The pretzels are made with white flour, which adds little in the way of nutrients, and, at 37% of your recommended daily sodium intake, there are healthier snack choices. A better option would be to buy the individually portioned cups of hummus and pack some whole grain crackers and/or some baby carrot sticks.
Beanitos Bean Chips (Original Black Bean)
$1.26 per serving ($3.77 per 170g bag)
Per 56g serving: 280 calories, 10g protein, 10g fibre, 0g sugar, 14g fat, 170mg sodium. Good source of: iron (10%)
As far as chips go, these have lots of protein and fibre, are low in sodium and even provide some iron. Made from beans, they’re low on the glycemic index, so they won’t cause a spike in blood sugars. The downside? They’re pretty high in calories and fat. The recommended serving size is generous, though, so you’ll likely be satisfied with less. They were a staff favourite at our taste-test, and we only wished we had some guac for dipping!
Lorissa’s Kitchen Jerky (Ginger Teriyaki Chicken)
$3.25 per serving ($6.49 per 63g pkg)
Per 32g serving (1/2 package): 90 calories, 12g protein, 0g fibre, 6g sugar, 1.5g fat, 440mg sodium. Good source of: protein
If you’re looking for a shelf-stable snack that provides lots of quality protein, this fits the bill. It’s quite high in sodium, though (18% of the recommended intake), and at $3.25 per serving (a handful of pieces of chicken), this is a bit of a splurge for your usual afternoon snack. The flavour is slightly sweet, and the chewy texture is enjoyable for the jerky-lovers out there.
Chia Pod (Dark Cacao)
Per 170g serving: 140 calories, 5g protein, 7g fibre, 11g sugar, 6g fat, 35mg sodium. Good source of: omega-3 (3g), calcium (9%), iron (10%), phosphorus (10%), magnesium (25%)
Chia pudding is a unique snack in that it’s a great source of omega-3, and this “superfood” also delivers on protein, fibre and micronutrients. It’s pricy, though (albeit convenient), considering how easy it is to make your own chia pudding. Flavour-wise these pods are kind of … meh. They do come with some added sugar, but they don’t taste overly sweet. They have a slightly bitter chalkiness and they received mixed reviews from the taste panel.
Harvest Snaps Snapea Crisps (Low Salt, Original)
$1.61 per serving ($2.99 per 93g bag)
Per 39-piece (50g) serving: 230 calories, 8g protein, 6g fibre, 3g sugar, 10g fat, 135mg sodium. Good source of: iron (20%), calcium (10%)
As far as crispy, savoury snacks go, this one packs a lot of protein, fibre and heart-healthy fats, without a lot of sodium (note that the other flavours don’t come in low-salt versions), plus they’re they’re baked, not fried. A cross between a snap pea and a potato chip, they’re crunchy and snackable and I could see them being a decent alternative to a bowl of chips on movie night, but they’re also highly processed, have a lengthy ingredient list and are a bit high in calories.
Welo Probiotic Snack Bar (Matcha Almond)
$2.92 per bar
Per 40g bar: 150 calories, 4g protein, 4g fibre, 3g sugar, 4g fat, 50mg sodium. Contains: bacillus coagulans GBI-30 6086 (probiotics).
This Toronto-based company makes bars and drinks with added probiotics (live bacteria that contribute to a healthy gut microflora). Especially for those with GI issues or who benefit from additional probiotics, this bar might be a winner. They also provide protein and fibre, while keeping sugar low. We liked the Matcha Almond flavour best and felt like we were eating a “fancy Rice Krispies square”.
Yeah, not really that healthy snacks
Nordica Smooth On-the-Go Cottage Cheese (Salted Caramel)
$1.12 per cup ($4.49 per 4)
Per 100g cup: 110 calories, 10g protein, 0g fibre, 12g sugar, 2g fat, 60mg sodium. Good source of: calcium (15%)
While cottage cheese is a great source of protein and calcium, this one comes with added sugar. Instead, pick the Plain On-the-Go cups (though they don’t come in the “smooth” variety) because they’re lower in sugar and pack another 4g of protein compared to the salted caramel (and top it with some berries or crushed pineapple for natural sweetness and added fibre).
Sensible Portions Garden Veggie Straws (Original)
$0.85 per serving
Per 55 straws (40g): 180 calories, 1g protein, 1g fibre, 0g sugar, 10g fat, 300mg sodium
These highly processed “veggie” straws (made mostly from potato starch and vegetable powder) offer little in the way of fibre, protein or nutrients. The marketing will have you believing you’ve made a healthy choice, but this snack provides nothing but empty calories (not to mention a bunch of sodium). If you’re snacking on these and NOT potato chips, you could argue it’s a healthy choice, but personally, my craving wouldn’t be satisfied by the Styrofoam-like quality of these crisps. I’d rather enjoy a sensible portion of my fave chips.
Quaker Harvest Granola Bars, Quinoa with Yogurt, Fruit and Nut
$0.50 per bar ($2.49 per box of 5 bars)
Per 35g bar: 150 calories, 2g protein, 1g fibre, 10g sugar, 5g fat, 105mg sodium
With quinoa, yogurt, fruit and nuts this has to be healthy … right? Granola bars are one of the most deceptive snacks going. If you check the ingredients list, sugar (disguised as names such as glucose, barley malt or glycerin) appears no less than 13 times. These bars aren’t delivering a lot of protein or fibre, so chances are you’ll feel a spike in energy, followed by a sugar crash not long after. If you’re choosing a snack bar, pick one with at least 4g of protein, 5g of fibre and less than 8g of sugar.