We love snacks. They break up the day, give us a treat to look forward to and keep us from feeling ravenous when the next meal is hours away. But we’ll admit that a handful of sour gummies isn’t the smartest choice when aiming for that last goal. We can’t quit the sugary stuff for good, but we can mix in a few healthy snacks that are as satisfying to our sweet tooth as they are to our hunger pangs. Here, 30 sweet snacks that fit the bill, plus some expert advice from nutritionists.
MEET THE EXPERTS
Melissa Buczek Kelly, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietician and state-certified dietician/nutritionist in New Jersey
Vanessa Rissetto, RD is a registered dietician and the CEO of Culina Health, a virtual nutrition platform powered by registered dietitians
FIRST, WHAT MAKES A FOR A HEALTHY SWEET SNACK?
Obviously candy and cookies aren’t going to cut it, but what about the less obvious stuff, like yogurt or protein bars? We tapped two nutritionists—Melissa Buczek Kelly, MS, RD, CDN and Vanessa Rissetto, RD—for their take on what constitutes a healthy, sweet snack (because sometimes it’s hard to tell).
Both Kelly and Rissetto stress that choosing a sweet snack requires thinking about more than just the sugar content and calories. “If there is a label and I’m trying to choose between sweet snacks,” Kelly explains, “I look to see what the fiber, protein and added sugar content are. Snacks may have naturally occurring sugars as well as added sugars. Be mindful of the added sugars.”
Likewise, Risetto recommends making sure the snack includes fiber, protein and some fat to hold you over. “I’m also looking for no more than 200 calories and no more than 10 grams of sugar,” she says, which can help keep you focused if weight loss is your goal.
Beyond that, Kelly recommends practicing mindfulness. “I first ask myself, ‘what type of sweet am I craving or looking forward to?’ It’s best to listen to your body and have what you are in the mood for off the bat versus consuming things you aren’t as into. Being more mindful and intuitive with all your food choices, meals and snacks sets us up with a healthier relationship with food overall,” she says.
WHAT SWEET SNACKS DO NUTRITIONISTS RECOMMEND?
If you can hit that, ahem, sweet spot of fiber plus protein, you’ll set yourself up for success. Kelly recommends pairing apple slices, a small banana or a handful of strawberries with natural peanut butter. “I may also reach for a couple of squares of quality dark chocolate, or even a few dates sliced open and smeared with nut butter and a few chocolate chips or a drizzle of honey on top.”
Rissetto is a fan of plain yogurt with dark chocolate—“over 85 percent [cacao] has a good amount of fiber”—or a teaspoon of Nutella. “I love Trader Joe’s mini ice cream cones as well,” she says. “The serving size is three, so you hit the calorie goal while having something seemingly decadent, like an ice cream.”
Want the TL;DR? You should aim for natural sugars over added and pair your sweet treat with fiber and protein for maximum impact. Here, 30 healthy sweet snacks we love.
30 HEALTHY, SWEET SNACKS TO TRY
1. Yogurt with Fruit
Yogurt is an excellent source of protein, and even more so if you go for the Greek stuff. Adding fruit toppings like sliced berries, chopped apples or cubed pineapple gives it a bump of fiber while also enhancing its sweetness.
2. Bananas and Peanut Butter
We’re with Kelly on this one—this classic combination is one of our favorites when we’re itching for something sweet. Reach for natural PB to keep the added sugar to a minimum.
3. Dates and Nut Butter
Both dates and nut butter—whether it’s peanut, almond or otherwise—contain plant-based protein, so they’ll fill you up a bit between meals and quell your cravings for something sugary. (Psst: They taste kinda like a candy bar.)
4. Ants on a Log
It was a lunchbox staple for good reason: It’s tasty and surprisingly nutritious, thanks to fiber and protein. One serving, complete with celery, peanut butter and raisins, clocks in at about 175 calories with 8 grams of sugar.
5. Homemade Granola Bars
Instead of buying a box of bars with a bunch of extra ingredients you don’t need in them, try making your own at home. You can customize the flavors to your heart’s desire and add as much or as little sweetener as you like. Chocolate chips are a must, if you ask us…but nuts and dried fruit add extra fat, fiber and protein.
6. A Fruit Smoothie
The key to a smoothie won’t leave you hungry an hour later is to pack it with plenty of protein, fat and fiber. For this, we prefer yogurt, nut butters and oats over protein powders, which often contain added sweeteners.
7. Frozen Chocolate-Covered Bananas
A creamy banana coated in a snappy dark chocolate shell? It’s like an ice cream bar, but better, since there’s way less added sugar and more fiber.
8. Apples and Nut Butter
It’s an oldie but a goodie. Apples contain plenty of fiber (about 5 grams in one medium apple, per the USDA), and nut butter is rich in filling fat and protein. Combine the two and you have healthy, sweet snack magic.
9. Protein Balls
As it turns out, you can do a lot with some oats and peanut butter. These protein bites contain chia seeds and unsweetened coconut flakes for fiber, with chocolate chips and a touch of honey to satisfy your sweet tooth.
10. Yogurt Bark
Yogurt bark has all the benefits of a regular ol’ cup of yogurt, but in a fun-to-eat format that’s almost like ice cream. Spread a layer onto parchment paper, then top it with fresh fruit and freeze until hard. Voilà, the easiest sweet snack ever.
11. Almonds and Dark Chocolate
As Kelly recommended, a few squares of quality dark chocolate are a great way to satisfy a craving for something sweet, since dark chocolate is lower in sugar than milk varieties. Paired with a handful of almonds, you have a fiber-rich snack for the books.
12. Popcorn and Chocolate Chips
Crisp and salty, popcorn is naturally light (a whopping three-cup serving clocks in at about 100 calories) yet high in fiber, so go ahead and nosh. For a sweet twist, toss your bowl with a tablespoon or two of chocolate chips. (We also like a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar.)
13. “Nice” Cream
Instead of making those overripe bananas into bread, toss a few in the freezer and whip them into “nice” cream with a tablespoon or two of protein-rich nut butter. The toppings aren’t strictly necessary, but a handful of nuts or granola adds texture and fiber.
14. Pineapple Coconut Whip
If you’re more about Dole Whip than bananas, try making a version in your own kitchen with coconut cream and pineapple. It contains just 7 grams of sugar while satisfying your cravings (plus, it’s dairy free).
15. Yogurt Ice Pops
If eating yogurt with a spoon puts you to sleep, try freezing it with fruit into homemade ice pops. Even with added brown sugar, these pops clock in at 15 grams of sugar per serving, and if your fruit is already sweet, you can leave it out.
16. Cottage Cheese and Fruit
Cottage cheese gets a bad rap for being diet food, but it’s so high in protein, we can’t help but love it. Couple it with sliced fruit to transform it into a sweet snack worthy of your healthy eating plan.
We’ll save ice cream for special occasions, but sorbet gets the weekday snack seal of approval since it’s lower in calories. Even better, if you make it at home, you can control the amount of sugar that goes in (and you don’t even need an ice cream maker).
18. Freeze-Dried Fruit
While traditional dried fruit can sneak in a lot of extra sugar, with freeze-dried fruit, what you see is what you get. It’s crisp and tart with concentrated fruit flavor and plenty of fiber. (Plus, the serving size is usually pretty big, so it feels like a real indulgence.)
19. Frozen Berries
You could just grab a handful of berries out of the fridge…but freezing transforms their texture into something craveable. It’ll never be the same as popping cookie dough bites with abandon, but it’s the next best thing.
20. Avocado Chocolate Mousse
Rich, creamy and intensely chocolaty, this treat is also plant-based, rich in healthy fat and low in sugar. And because we know you’re wondering: It doesn’t taste anything like avocado.
21. Cereal with Milk
As long as you skip the sugar cereal and opt for something high in fiber, cereal can make a smart snack when you’re looking for something sweet. Pair it with milk to increase the fat and protein content.
22. Oatmeal with Fruit
Nope, your porridge isn’t just for the morning hours. Opt for plain oats instead of the pre-packaged, instant kind, and add your own fruit for a healthy sweet snack that’s low in sugar and high in filling fiber.
23. Homemade Sweet Potato Fries
When baked instead of fried, sweet potato fries make for a snack that’s the ideal balance of sweet and salty. One serving is about 120 calories with 3 grams of fiber and 3 grams of naturally occurring sugars, so you’ll even have room for a little ketchup.
24. Watermelon-Feta Skewers
Sweet-and-savory snackers will appreciate the flavors of these fruity skewers, which contain less than 10 grams of sugar per serving. Feta adds protein and fat in addition to a briny note. For the sweetest treat, seek out a ripe watermelon at the store.
25. Homemade Nut Butter Cups
Skip the candy aisle and make your own chocolate nut butter cups at home, with dark chocolate and a filling of your choice. Almond and peanut butter are delish, sure, but tahini is an unexpected option that can be sweetened with the tiniest bit of maple syrup.
26. Chocolate Avocado Brownies
Oh hey, chocolaty, moist dessert of our dreams. By swapping the usual oil and butter with ripe avocado, you can add fiber and healthy fat to your brownies without them tasting green. These are sweetened with coconut sugar (which is less refined than granulated and adds fiber) and peanut butter.
27. Sweet Potato Brownies with Date Caramel Frosting
Speaking of brownies, have you ever tried making them with sweet potatoes? They’ll still have all their fudgy decadence, but with only 150 calories and 8 grams of super per serving. Not to mention, sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene, vitamin C, potassium and fiber.
28. Overnight Oats
We love overnight oats because they have all the benefits of regular oatmeal (filling fiber and complex carbs), plus you can make them ahead. Add cocoa powder and sliced fruit to make them sweet without a ton of added sugar.
29. Cashew Cookie Dough
Cookie dough that counts as a healthy sweet snack? It sounds to good to be true…until you try making it with puréed cashews. They make the raw-dough treat creamy and scoopable. Reduce the sugar to ¼ cup or less to make it even healthier.
30. Smoothie Bowl
Spoonable and refreshing, a smoothie bowl can be a smart choice as long as you ditch added sugar in place of naturally sweet fruit. Hot tip: Go for the ripe, in-season stuff for maximum flavor and sweetness.