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Healthy Alternatives to Snack Food - Nutritious & Budget-Friendly

written by: Dawn Meisch • edited by: Rhonda Callow • updated: 5/19/2011

This Diet & Nutrition article will provide you with healthy snack ideas that can replace high-priced, unhealthy snacks – perfect for those who are eating on a budget or are simply concerned about their health and nutrition. You’ll also be provided with quick and easy recipes for healthy snacks.

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    Healthy Snack Alternatives

    This month I am focusing on replacing high-fat, high price snack foods with healthier and cheaper alternatives. Each of the snack ideas I suggest to replace less than healthy snacks are not only lower in calories and fat, but they will also supply you with vitamins and nutrients. These healthy snack ideas are perfect for those who are eating on a budget because the less processed a food is, the cheaper it is. Some of the suggestions may require a little work but once you get the hang of it, you'll be enjoying extremely healthy snacks. By choosing to replace an unhealthy snack with something more wholesome once a week, the process of modifying your food choices will seem almost effortless.

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    Healthy Alternative to Ice Cream

    Instead of ice cream, choose fat free yogurt or make all-fruit smoothies. Most ice creams are high in fat, additives and preservatives; whereas fruit contains potassium, fiber, vitamin C, and folic acid and minimal, if any, amounts of sodium, calories, and fat. Fat free yogurt can help you meet your daily calcium requirement and reap the benefits of probiotics, which are live bacteria that are beneficial to your health.

    How to Make Fruit Smoothies

    Ingredients

    • Fresh or frozen berries or mangoes
    • Banana, cut into small pieces
    • 1 piece celery or carrot (optional)
    • Ice (unnecessary if using frozen fruit)

    Directions

    1. Place all ingredients in a blender.
    2. Blend until smooth.
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    Healthy Snack Alternative to Chips

    Instead of eating chips, choose carrots, cauliflower, celery sticks, cucumber slices, or homemade pita chips. Chips provide a nutrient-free, high sodium food with no health benefits, while vegetables provide important nutrients such as beta-carotene, calcium, iron, fiber, several B vitamins, vitamin C and vitamin K. They are nearly fat-free, salt free and low in calories. Serve with a healthy dip. Homemade pita chips are a good snack alternative since they provide an easy way to add wholesome grains to your diet.

    How to Make Homemade Pita Chips

    Ingredients

    • 1 package of pitas, preferably whole grain or whole wheat
    • 2 Tbsp olive oil
    • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
    • 1 Tbsp Onion powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp optional flavors like cumin, Cajun seasoning, or paprika

    Directions

    1. Preheat Oven to 350.
    2. Brush pitas with olive oil, sprinkle spice mixture.
    3. Cut pita pieces into bite sized squares.
    4. Bake 15-20 minutes or until browned.
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    Healthy Alternatives to Dips

    Try replacing canned dips and cheese sauces with salsa, hummus, guacamole or Smoky Bean Dip. Commercially available, dips are usually high in fat and don't provide much nutritionally. Salsa and guacamole are better options that provide vitamin rich vegetables, while hummus and Smoky Bean Dip are made of beans which are good sources of protein and fiber.

    How to Make Easy Smoky Bean Dip

    Ingredients

    • 1 can fat free refried beans (Check the ingredients to make sure the brand you are choosing does not contain lard.)
    • 1 Tbsp liquid smoke
    • 1/2 chopped red onion (optional)
    • 1 clove garlic (optional)

    Directions

    • Mix all ingredients in a pot on low until hot.
    • Serve immediately.

    Guacamole and hummus are delicious choices for dips, however, they do contain a significant amount of monosaturated fats ("good" fats). If you are trying to limit your total fat intake, these may be dips you'll want to avoid. On the other hand, if you are trying to eat healthier, you might want to try these. For more information about monosaturated fats, please see this article: Monosaturated Fats: The Healthy Fat. In any case, they are both healthier and less expensive than commercially-prepared high fat dips.

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    Healthy Snack Ideas to Replace Frozen Pizzas

    Instead of frozen pizza snacks, try English Muffin Pizzas. Pizza snacks, like Totino's Pizza Rolls, have an outrageously high saturated fat and sodium content according to the nutritional information found on the boxes. English muffins, if you use the whole grain variety, provide whole grains, while the vitamin content of your pizzas depend on which toppings you elect to use.

    How to Make English Muffin Pizzas

    Ingredients

    • 1 package of English Muffins, preferably whole grain, sliced in half
    • Pizza sauce
    • Toppings: minced garlic, fresh spinach, mushrooms, peppers, mozzarella cheese (optional), or whatever else you'd like on your pizza

    Directions

    1. Preheat your broiler.
    2. Toast the English Muffins in a toaster.
    3. Place face up on a cookie sheet.
    4. Spread each with pizza sauce.
    5. Add toppings.
    6. Broil for 2-3 minutes or until heated through. If you decide to use cheese, broil until cheese is melted.
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    Replace Popcorn or Party Mixes with These Healthy Snack Ideas

    Instead of popcorn, try edamame. Edamame is a delicious and healthy snack of soybeans still in the pod. These are great while watching a movie, which can sometimes lead to mindless eating. Soybeans are low in calories and fat, in addition to other health benefits, so you can eat all you want. They are available in the frozen section of the grocery store, both in the pod and out of the pod. For more information on the benefits of soy, see this article, Health Benefits of Soy: The Power Behind the Beans.

    Instead of eating party mix (like Chex), make your own trail mix with a variety of dried fruits like raisins, apricots and dates, your favorite nuts, and some chocolate chips.

Simple Substitutions Help your Health and Budget

In this series, I will be addressing different aspects of meals and offer several ideas to make your budget and diet healthier.
  1. Healthy Alternatives to Snack Food - Nutritious & Budget-Friendly
  2. Breakfast Substitutions to Help Your Health & Budget