By now you probably know the drill when it comes to looking for a healthy packaged snack: Ignore the front of the package and look at the nutrition facts and ingredients list on the back. Aim for fewer ingredients, words you can pronounce, no sugar in the first three ingredients, minimal amounts of the stuff you don’t want (sugar, sodium), and more of the stuff you do want (protein, fiber).
But sometimes you just really want a peanut butter cup or cheese crackers. And luckily, with all of the new products always coming out, there are tons of healthier snacks to buy at the grocery shelves that still taste great.
How to Find Healthier Snack Alternatives
It’s always important to check the label on your packaged goods, regardless of the brand. Some brands that seem healthier may have almost identical nutrition facts to the traditionally less-healthy brand you love.
And this doesn’t have to be complicated — keep it simple. “When you’re grabbing that bag of chips or brownie or trail mix, take a look at the nutritional label and ask yourself if that is something you want in your body,” says Cameron Fiorenza, BS-NDTR, culinary and nutrition expert for Openfit.
The snacks below tend to have one or more of the following healthier highlights: fewer processed ingredients, less sodium, less sugar, fewer calories, more protein, and more fiber. And most importantly — they all taste amazing and will satisfy your craving.
Healthier Option for Chocolate Chip Cookies
It’s hard to find cookies that are somehow “healthier” than the classics. For example, some “healthier” brands of your favorite chocolate cookie sandwich actually have more calories per cookie. Eek.
When it comes to chocolate chip cookies, Tate’s is a great choice thanks to their use of ingredients that you’d use at home: semi-sweet chocolate chips, unbleached flour, butter, cane sugar, brown cane sugar, eggs, baking soda, salt, and vanilla extract. And six grams of sugar per cookie is relatively low, when you’re talking about a cookie.
Healthier Option for Peanut Butter Cups
Look at the ingredients on a pack of your favorite peanut butter cup brand, and you’ll probably find the acronyms PGPR (polyglycerol polyricinoleate, an emulsifier) and TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone, a synthetic food preservative). Compare that with UNREAL, which has no acronyms in their ingredients, and only 80 calories and 5 grams of sugar per PB cup. Plus, they’re individually packaged, so you can really eat just one!
Healthier Option for Cheesy Puffs
Made from chickpeas and rice flour rather than corn meal, these vegan puffs have that same satisfying, cheesy crunch without anything extra. You can enjoy a serving for 130 calories, plus three grams of fiber, and an impressive four grams of protein! As for the stuff you want to avoid, these puffs don’t have any artificial flavors or colors. Not bad for a cheesy snack.
Healthier Option for Flavored Tortilla Chips
This snack from Late July tastes just like cheesy chips with ranch dressing flavor dusted on them, but are made with organic yellow corn and are free of MSG, artificial colors and flavors, and other ingredients that read like a chemistry experiment. Oh, and they’re vegan and gluten-free!
Healthier Option for Cheese Crackers
Warning: These gluten-free crackers are addictive. The hardest-to-pronounce ingredient in these Simple Mills Farmhouse crackers is probably cassava (a root vegetable), or annatto (a natural food dye from the seeds of the achiote tree). Hard-to-pronounce words that these crackers don’t contain include TBHQ — tertiary butylhydroquinone, the synthetic food preservative. All the baked, cheesy goodness, none of the nonsense. And yes, since they’re made from almond flour, these crackers are gluten-free!
Healthier Option for Potato Chips
When you really want potato chips, you want potato chips — not kale chips, beet chips, lentil chips, or any other non-potato chip. And the truth is, all you need to make a basic potato chip is potatoes, oil, and salt. Unfortunately, it’s kind of hard to find something that clean… unless you know where to look.
These Deep River chips are made with just those three ingredients. They have far less sodium (95 milligrams) than most competitors, but not so little that they taste bland. Golden and crunchy, they’re the perfect chip fix.
Healthier Option for Butter Microwave Popcorn
Sure, you can find bags of pre-popped popcorn that contain just popcorn and salt, which is pretty healthy. But sometimes you want that warm, buttery, crunchy popcorn in front of Netflix. While many microwave popcorn brands contain palm oil, added flavors and colors, and preservatives, Quinn contains only non-GMO popcorn, high-oleic sunflower oil, grass-fed clarified butter, and sea salt. That results in a movie snack with minimal saturated fat and sodium, and maximum flavor.
Healthier Option for Fruit Snacks
How many times have you dived into a bag of fruit snacks only to realize that it doesn’t actually contain much… fruit? In contrast, the snack bars from That’s It contain only fruit. Really. That’s it.
For example, the cherry flavor contains apples and cherries, while the kiwi flavor contains apples and kiwi. Pretty spot on with the names! This let’s you enjoy a sweet, chewy treat on-the-go while also getting the nutrients from whole fruits without having a rogue apple floating around in your bag.
Healthier Option for Granola
Most of us know that, tasty as it is, granola is often loaded with added sugars in the form of sugar, coconut sugar, honey, maple syrup… you name it. If you want to limit the excess sugar, you could make your own… or you could grab this gluten-free, vegan granola from Wildway. It’s sweetened with only dates and, in some flavors, other fruit. And the only other ingredients are nuts, seeds, and spices.