How to Build Balanced Snacks (With Ideas From a Dietitian)

It’s 3 o’clock, and the dreaded slump hits you hard. You don’t have any balanced snacks with you or time to get one so, you reach for a bag of pretzels to recharge. While they may satisfy your salty cravings, they don’t sustain you for long.

A couple of hours later, hunger pangs strike, and you find yourself eating everything in sight while trying to cook supper. You start to realize the amount of random foods you eat and feel not so great. The feeling of food guilt starts to set in, and now you have no appetite for dinner.

This scenario occurs far too often leaving you wondering why you don’t have control around food. Contrary to popular belief, snacking doesn’t have to induce guilt. Creating a balanced snack can leave you feeling full, energized, and in control of your food choices.

I’m here to help you learn how to build a balanced snack with ideas and tips that will make snacking more enjoyable and satisfying.

Hey, I’m Jenn, a Registered Dietitian who has a passion for helping individuals fuel, think, and move towards the best versions of themselves without sacrificing their relationship with food. If you want practical, evidence-based nutrition advice to improve your performance and wellness — Learn how I can help

Let’s dive in…

What is a Balanced Snack

Balanced snacks are snacks made from a combination of protein, fat, and fiber that are ideal for maintaining energy levels, managing appetite, and fighting off hunger between meals. 

How to build healthy snacks that fill you up

To build balanced snacks follow my simple snack formula of combining protein, fiber, and fat.

It’s best to combine foods from at least two different categories, but if you can fit all three, even better! By doing this, you can regulate your energy levels, curb cravings, and feel more in control around food.

Balanced Snacks

Protein ideas to build a balanced snack

Protein helps in muscle growth and repair, while also providing brain energy. Adding a protein source to your snacks can help regulate blood sugar levels, preventing spikes and helping you stay fuller longer. 

Protein ideas to add to your snacks:

  • Greek Yogurt
  • Hard Boiled Eggs
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Cheese
  • Deli Meat
  • Tuna
  • Smoked Salmon
  • Meat Sticks
  • Jerky
  • Protein Powder
  • Nuts & Seeds
  • Hemp Heart
  • Bean/Lentils
  • Edamame Tofu

Fiber ideas to build a balanced snack

Fiber has many advantages, including slowing down the digestion of carbohydrates, which helps regulate blood sugar levels to keep you satiated for longer periods. 

Additionally, it encourages regular bowel movements and feeds the good bacteria in your gut.

Fiber ideas to add to your snacks:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Seeds (Flax, Chia)
  • Bread **
  • Tortillas **
  • Crackers **
  • Bagels **
  • Pita **
  • Pretzels **
  • Granola Bar
  • Oatmeal
  • Granola
  • Popcorn
  • Potatoes
  • Beans
  • Dried Fruit

(**Preferably whole grain)

Healthy Fat ideas to build a balanced snack

Fat takes the longest to digest, providing you with sustained energy and keeping you feeling full for longer. 

Additionally, it assists your body in absorbing vitamins, maintaining balanced blood sugar levels, regulating hormones, and reducing inflammation.

Fat ideas to add to your snacks:

  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, peanuts, or cashews)
  • Chia Seeds
  • Hemp Seeds
  • Avocado or guacamole
  • Olives
  • Nut butter
  • Pumpkin Seeds 
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Higher Fat Dairy (Cheese, Milk, Cottage Cheese, Greek Yogurt)

Balanced Snack Ideas from a Dietitian 

Shelf stable snacks to keep at work or school

  • Fruit (banana, apple, pear, orange, etc.) + Nuts (walnuts, peanuts, cashews, almonds, etc.)
  • Trail Mix 
  • Snack Bar (KIND Bar, GoMacro, RXBAR) + Fruit (banana, apple, pear, orange, etc.)
  • Whole Grain Crackers + Tuna
  • Popcorn + Nuts or Nutritional Yeast
  • Apple Sauce + Hemp Hearts or Nuts 
  • Fruit + Nut Butter
  • Instant Oatmeal + Nut Butter + Fruit
  • Chocolate + Nuts
  • Muffin + Nut Butter
  • Crackers + Nut Butter
  • Jerky + Granola Bar + Fruit
  • Pretzels + Nut Butter
  • Roasted Chickpeas + That’s It Bar

On-the-go snacks to keep in a lunch bag with an ice pack 

  • Mixed Berries + Greek Yogurt + Granola
  • Veggies (carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, etc.) + Hummus
  • Whole Grain Bread + Nut Butter + Honey  + Banana
  • Cottage Cheese + Fruit (Berries, Peaches, Pineapple)
  • Muffin or Granola Bar + Cottage Cheese
  • Energy Bites + Fruit
  • Roasted edamame or Chickpeas + Veggies
  • Turkey Rollup: Whole Wheat Tortilla + Cream Cheese + Deli Turkey + Spinach + Tomato
  • Overnight Oats
  • Carrots + Hummus + Whole Grain Crackers
  • Whole Grain Crackers + Cheese
  • Apple + Cheddar Cheese
  • Veggies + Guacamole 
  • Chia Pudding + Fruit
  • Tortilla + Banana + Peanut Butter

Easy Snacks to Make at Home

  • Flat Bread: Mini Naan Bread + Pizza Sauce + Mozzarella + veggies (tomatoes, roasted red peppers, spinach, etc.)
  • Toasted Bread + Avocado mixed with Cottage Cheese or mashed White Beans + Hemp Hearts
  • Smoothie: Fruit + Greens (Spinach, Kale, etc.) + Protein Powder or Greek Yogurt + Nut Butter or Avocado + Liquid of Choice 
  • High Fiber Cereal + Fairlife Milk + Fruit
  • Quesadilla: Whole Wheat Tortilla + Cheese + Chicken + Peppers 

Dietitian Tips for Building Balanced Snacks

Build a Balanced Snack Stash

My recommendation is to create a balanced snack stash for home, work, school, and when you’re on the go. This ensures that you always have a satisfying and nutritious snack to tide you over between meals.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed and reduce food waste, select 1-3 snacks to shop for and prepare each week. Gradually adding more options each week will introduce more variety, making snacking more enjoyable and satisfying.

Buy Pre-Packaged and Portioned Foods

Simplify your snack preparation by using store-bought items, such as veggie trays, fruit trays, and pre-packaged foods like cheese, yogurt, tuna, guacamole, and hummus that are already portioned.

Prep the Produce 

After returning home from grocery shopping, take some time to wash, cut, and prepare your fruits and vegetables. Store them in produce-friendly containers to keep them fresh for longer.

Portion Foods into Individual Servings

Make sure your snacks are easy to grab and go by portioning bulk items such as crackers, nuts, trail mix, and cheese into individual containers or bags.

 If you prepare recipes like granola bars, muffins, or energy bites, portion them into individual bags or containers and freeze them. This way, you can easily grab them in the morning and enjoy them within a few hours as they thaw.

Final Thoughts

Snacking doesn’t have to leave you feeling out of control around food. Instead building balanced snacks and creating a snack stash can leave you feeling full, energized, and in control of your food choices

My snacking preference is to start with what you want and add the nutrients you need. This leaves you happy, satisfied, nourished, and ready to take on the rest of your day until the next meal. 

If you are ready to leave dieting behind and want to fuel, think, and move to the best version of you, book a free 15-minute discovery call today!

Banner for scheduling appointment
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist | Website | + posts

Jenn Schmidt is a licensed and board-certified Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Minnesota. Her specialty is in performance nutrition and wellness, which focuses on helping individuals fuel, think, and move towards their best selves without compromising their relationship with food. Jenn is passionate about all things food-related and enjoys making complex science easy to understand for her clients and readers.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top