Budget Friendly and Healthy Snacks
What Makes the Perfect Snack?
First, let's talk about what makes a snack both nutritious and filling! Snacks fill in the gaps between meals. For this reason, you want your snack to hold you over you for a few hours. One way to ensure that your snack is both filling and satisfying is to make sure you have a source of protein, beneficial fats, and complex carbohydrates.
What is a Beneficial Fat?
Beneficial fats are the unsaturated fats. Research has documented reduced risk of heart disease when saturated fats (less nutrient dense fats) are replaced with unsaturated fats (the beneficial fats).¹
One prospective cohort study found that monounsaturated fatty acids coming from plant foods related to a reduced risk in heart disease and certain cancers. Monounsaturated fats raise the HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) in your body, thus may be one mechanism responsible for these health benefits.²
Unsaturated fats are found in foods such as nuts, seeds, avocados, fatty fish (such as tuna or mackerel), olives, and olive oil.
What is a Complex Carbohydrate?
In our digestive systems, carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars. Sugars are absorbed into our bloodstream and delivered to various tissues. In these tissues, the sugars enter the cell and are used for various functions. Inside the body, a hormone called insulin is responsible for aiding in the transport of sugar from the bloodstream into the cell. However, if too much sugar enters the bloodstream at once, insulin has to work extra hard in order to clear the sugar from the blood. When this cycle continues over prolonged periods of time, a condition called insulin resistance can occur. This is when your cells do not respond to insulin signals and as a result, sugar builds up in the blood. If this continues, damage to the blood vessels, nerves, eyes, kidneys, and heart can occur.
In comparison to simple carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates take a longer time to break down into simple sugars. Therefore, the sugar from complex carbohydrates are released into the bloodstream at a much slower pace. This way, insulin can work at a steady pace to clear the sugar from the blood.
How do I eat more complex carbs? Glad you asked! Breads and pasta labeled whole grains OR whole wheat bread are complex carbs.
Additionally, high fiber foods found in: fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, etc. require more work in order to break down. Therefore, these nutrients aid in blood sugar control and weight management, as they enhance the feeling of fullness.
5 Budget Friendly, Healthy Snacks
Trail mix is a quick, easy snack that's both nutritious and filling! Nuts are a fiber and protein-rich staple in trail mix while also providing considerable amounts of healthy fats.
Budget friendly products to include in your trail mix:
Raisins and craisins
Protein: from the nuts or seeds
Beneficial fat: from the nuts, coconut shredding's
Complex carb: From the raisins, craisins or popcorn
2.) Energy Bites
Energy bites are quick, grab and go snacks offering convenient nutrition. See the no bake recipe below.
Energy Bites Recipe¹:
1 cup of oats
½ cup of a nut butter of choice
¼ cup of either honey or maple syrup
3 tablespoons of dark chocolate
¼ cup of Craisins
Directions: Add the nut butter and honey (or maple syrup) in a bowl and microwave for 15 seconds. Check and microwave for an additional 15 seconds if needed. Stir the mixture until ingredients are dispersed evenly.
Next, mix all of these ingredients in a bowl. When ingredients are evenly distributed, refrigerate the mixture for 1-2 hours. After refrigerating, roll a portion of the mixture into small, snack size balls.
Protein: Nut butter
Beneficial fat: Nut butter
Complex carb: Oats
3.) Fresh Fruit and Dip
Save money by choosing in season produce. When produce is in season, it is more abundantly available and therefore it is cheaper!
Pick an in season fruit and/or veggie and pick your dip. Some of my favorite combinations include apples with peanut butter or carrots with homemade hummus. To find out what fruits or vegetables are in season, check out the USDA’s Seasonal Produce Guide!
Peanut butter is a cheap, protein rich option which also provides a considerable amount of healthy fats.
Hummus is a protein rich addition to your snack: Check out a simple hummus recipe below!
Homemade Hummus Recipe²:
1 can of garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas)
2 tablespoons of water- add more until desired consistency is reached.
2 tablespoons olive oil (or canola oil, vegetable oil, or whatever oil you prefer to use)
1tablespoon of lemon juice
Add any of the following seasonings depending on what you have and enjoy: - Cumin, paprika, cayenne, minced garlic or garlic powder, onion powder
A pinch of salt
Mix these ingredients into a food processor until a smooth and cohesive mixture is formed.
Enjoy and refrigerate leftovers!
Pro tip: Use either dry beans (black beans or garbanzo beans are my favorite) or canned beans when making your hummus. Dry beans take a longer time to prepare, but they are the most cost friendly. Canned beans are also a cost friendly option for preparing your hummus.
If you choose canned beans, rinse the beans before you use them. This gets rid of some of the salt. Look for low salt or salt free cans.
Beneficial fat: oil
Complex carb: Beans
4.) Fruit with Cottage Cheese or Yogurt
Cottage cheese is a creamy, slightly savory snack.
Top this snack off with nuts, seeds, granola, chocolate chips, in season fruits or anything else that you feel will pair well! And there you have it, a nutrient rich, satisfying and delicious snack!
Cottage cheese and yogurt are high in vitamins and minerals, most notably, calcium. Calcium is important for maintaining bone health and reducing the risk of fractures in both men and women.³
These snacks are also great for your gut! Cottage cheese and yogurt are both probiotics which means they contribute to your healthy gut bacteria.
Protein: Greek yogurt, toppings such as nuts, seeds
Beneficial fat: Yogurt or cottage cheese (unless low-fat options are used)
Complex carb: Fruit
Oatmeal contains soluble fiber which aids in lowering cholesterol levels, thus it is protective against heart disease.⁴ Additionally, soluble fiber promotes weight management, blood glucose control and normal digestive functioning.⁴ Fiber is a prebiotic. Prebiotics feed the good bacteria in the gut, promoting a healthy gut flora.⁵ Just make sure you’re drinking enough water!
A quick, on the go snack, or breakfast, is overnight oats. Check out the recipe below!
Overnight Oats Recipe³:
To an empty mason jar or container, add the following ingredients in this order
½ cup of oats
½ cup of milk
Yogurt (preferably plain yogurt as we will be sweetening this up with some toppings)
Your choice of toppings! My favorite ones are granola, seasonal fruit, dark chocolate chips, nuts, and seeds
Refrigerate overnight and enjoy!
Protein: Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt
Beneficial fat: Small amounts found in the oatmeal. Toppings such as nuts and seeds can increase the amount of beneficial fat found in this snack.
Complex carb: Oats and toppings such as fruit
Written by Helayne Speroni on behalf of Supriya Lal
References (to be edited later)
Morton AM, Furtado JD, Mendivil CO, Sacks FM. Dietary unsaturated fat increases HDL metabolic pathways involving apoE favorable to reverse cholesterol transport. JCI Insight. 2019; 4(7):1-14
Gillingham LG, Harris-Janz S, Jones PJ. Monounsaturated fats raise the HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) in your body. Lipids. 2011;46:209-228
Zhu K, Prince RL. Calcium and bone. Clin Biochem. 2012;45(12):936-42 DOI: 10.1016/j.clinbiochem.2012.05.006
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Fiber. https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/fiber Published November, 2018. Accessed October, 2020
Jayachandran M, Chen J, Chung SSM, Xu B. A critical review on the impacts of β-glucans on gut microbiota and human health. J Nutr Biochem. 2018;61:101-110 doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2018.06.010.
¹ Energy bites recipe: Original Recipe by Helayne Speroni
² Recipe inspired by the wholesome dish. Adjusted for the purposes of this blog by Helayne Speroni
³ Overnight Oats recipe: Original Recipe by Helayne Speroni