9 cheap and healthy snack foods to buy when you’re craving something salty
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We’ve all been there — eyeing the pantry or fridge again, taking a peek to see if anything new has magically arrived to feed the craving of the moment. Snacking is something we all do, especially as we’re spending more time at home during the pandemic. But is that really such a bad thing?
In-between meal noshes now contribute to about one-fourth of our daily calories. That being said, there is no correlation between the number of daily snacks you’re eating and weight. I actually wrote my first book, The Snack Factor Diet, about debunking the negativity surrounding snacking. Studies suggest that eating every few hours helps stabilize blood sugar, and when you eat a healthy snack once or twice a day you’re more likely to make better food choices throughout the day.
In fact, choosing smart snacks that are high in fiber, protein and healthy fats can be a smart part of a weight-loss plan. When you do this, you’re not sitting down to your main meals feeling ravenous and devouring way more than you’d originally planned. Plus, it’s an easy way to get important vitamins and minerals into your diet.
For most adults, one to two snacks per day is a wise way to keep energy levels humming from morning to night. The next time you find yourself craving something salty, crunchy or both, here are nine healthy — and inexpensive — options to tide you over till mealtime.
Add these wallet-friendly snack foods to your shopping list:
Chia seed packets
1. Beef jerky
Though most processed meats are a major no-no, some types of beef jerky can be a healthful option for satisfying salt cravings. There’s a whole new category of healthy beef jerky out there made by companies using high-quality, grass-fed meat higher in healthy fats like omega-3s that don't contain any nitrates.
Try: Jerky Variety Pack by Think Jerky
Jerky Variety Pack by Think Jerky
Jerky Variety Pack by Think Jerky $18.99 at Amazon
Jerky Variety Pack by Think Jerky $23.92 at Walmart
Made from 100% beef and free-range turkey, Think Jerky is packed with 12 grams of protein and it's low in calories, salt and fat. When ordering, do it in bulk so you can get more savings than purchasing individual packages. We like the sweet chipotle and sesame teriyaki flavors.
Related: From quinoa and yogurt to black beans, a nutritionist shares her favorite inexpensive foods and how to use them to liven up your morning meals.
Many of us have been taught to be weary of high-fat, calorie-heavy foods like cheese. However, the protein-fat combo in cheese makes it super satiating. This means that a little bit goes a long way. A healthy portion is one ounce, which equals about one slice, depending on the cheese. Pro tip: Choose cheeses with bold flavor, like extra sharp cheddar. They provide a lot of flavor in small amounts, so your craving will be satisfied quickly. Choose the least processed cheeses and opt for organic and grass-fed when possible — to avoid harmful hormones that may wreak havoc on the body.
Try: Cabot Sharp Cheddar Cheese Snack Pack
Cabot Sharp Cheddar Cheese Snack Pack
Cabot Sharp Cheddar Cheese Snack Pack $14.99 at Instacart
A perfect pre-portioned option, the cheese in this snack pack will pair well with veggies, nuts and seeds for a balanced bite. With 24 per package, you get each snack for under 50 cents.
3. Chia seed packets
There are many nutrient-dense options on this list, but an extra sprinkle of something special can take your snack to the next level. High in protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds are a super easy way to add a nutritious crunch to any snack. Simply sprinkle on popcorn or stir into yogurt. One tablespoon has only 70 calories, will fill you up and add that crunch factor.
Try: Chia Co. Shots
Chia Co. Shots
Chia Co. Shots $5.99 at Amazon
These come in individually portioned packets (for 60 cents per serving), so you can enjoy them on-the-go without having to measure anything.
Chips are one of the most popular snacks, and for good reason: They have that crunch that so many of us tend to crave. A recent study, however, found that this addictive snack was among the foods most strongly linked to weight gain. Before you say buh-bye to chips, rest assured that you can still enjoy your fave crunchy snack — you just have to be mindful of which ones you’re munching on. An even better idea is to make your own for a cost-saving way to use what you already have at home. We love this zucchini chip recipe. But you can also thinly slice potatoes, sweet potatoes or even carrots, and add them to your air fryer or bake them in the oven until crispy. Sprinkle a little sea salt and, voila, you have your own.
Try: Safe and Fair Popcorn Quinoa Chips
Safe and Fair Popcorn Quinoa Chips
Safe and Fair Popcorn Quinoa Chips $3.00 at Safe and Fair
Safe and Fair Popcorn Quinoa Chips $3.49 at Mercato
These are one of my go-to’s. A satisfying source of plant-based protein with an easy-to-read ingredient list, these vegetarian chips are made with “clean” ingredients and are not fried.
Also try: Siete Sea Salt Tortilla Chips
Siete Sea Salt Tortilla Chips
Siete Sea Salt Tortilla Chips $4.99 at Amazon
Siete Sea Salt Tortilla Chips $3.99 at Thrive Market
A grain-free brand made with avocado oil, these tortilla chips offer a healthier alternative to chips made with highly refined oils. Unlike most chip bags, the 6-ingredient list is simple and easy to understand.
5. Coconut chips
Looking for an unexpectedly salty snack without all that sodium? Check out coconut chips. In addition to a unique taste, coconut has a fatty acid profile that offers many health benefits. Enjoy coconut chips at snacktime, then add them to your salad or yogurt parfait the following day.
Try: Creative Snacks Organic Toasted Coconut Chips
Creative Snacks Organic Toasted Coconut Chips
Creative Snacks Organic Toasted Coconut Chips $19.99 at Amazon
Creative Snacks Organic Toasted Coconut Chips $13.79 at Instacart
These chips are made only from organic coconut, organic cane sugar and sea salt. Just like any snack, you can overdo it on these, so keep in mind that about a half an ounce will get the job done.
We love a good cracker. You can crumble crackers in soup, enjoy with fun toppings like peanut butter or cheese or just nibble on them, plain and simple. But many store-bought crackers can be high in sodium, made from refined grains and devoid of any fiber. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them, just follow a couple guidelines: Make sure the first ingredient says whole grain, check the sodium content and make sure there’s more than 3 grams of fiber.
Try: Mary’s Super Seed Gone Crackers
Mary’s Super Seed Gone Crackers
Mary’s Super Seed Gone Crackers $5.49 at Amazon
Mary’s Super Seed Gone Crackers $6.70 at Walmart
Mary’s Super Seed Gone Crackers $4.79 at Thrive Market
These organic crackers are a healthy and surprisingly tasty treat. Plus, they’re a great source of fiber, protein and healthy fats. They don’t contain any gluten or added sugar either. Mary’s crackers are packed with grains and practically every type of seed, so they’ll leave you feeling full for a long time. And while most organic crackers can be on the more expensive side, you can enjoy a box of these for under $5 (comparable to other common cracker brands).
Related: We may still be cooking mostly at home, but that doesn’t mean our meals have to be boring — or overpriced.
Eating nuts, almost any nuts (except those that have been sprinkled with too much salt or sugar), is a good idea. Nuts are a great source of plant protein and healthy fats. They also provide vitamins, minerals and powerful antioxidants. For the highest level of antioxidants, opt for walnuts and pecans. Nuts can be costly, but buying them in bulk can be more cost-efficient.
Try: Fisher Chef's Naturals Walnuts
Fisher Chef's Naturals Walnuts
You can roast them in the oven — and even add spices or herbs — for extra flavor. Divide them into 1/4-cup snack bags for the perfect portion.
Popcorn is a great option that’s full of fiber and antioxidants. You can actually eat a good amount of it, too, without overloading on calories. Where most of us go wrong is adding on the sugary and saturated fat-filled toppings. Pro tip: Make it on the stove instead of in the microwave and sprinkle on nutritional yeast for a healthy, cheesy flavor.
Try: Pipcorn Classic Sea Salt Popcorn
Pipcorn Classic Sea Salt Popcorn
This is a non-GMO, dairy-free and gluten free option packed with fiber and protein. It’s made with just popcorn, sunflower oil and sea salt, rather than unhealthy additives.
For that fresh-out-of-the-theater taste, try Whole Foods 365 Organic Popcorn. The high-fiber treat is free from oil and salt, and contains half the fat found in most microwave popcorn.
9. Seaweed snacks
Seaweed is not just for sushi. It’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world — and is naturally loaded with protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. It provides the body with gut-healthy prebiotic fiber, and is believed to be beneficial to our skin.
Try: gimMe Seaweed Snacks
gimMe Seaweed Snacks
gimMe Seaweed Snacks $19.99 at Amazon
gimMe Seaweed Snacks $4.49 at Thrive Market
Made from premium organic seaweed, these seaweed snacks are roasted to crispy perfection, and simply seasoned with salt and avocado oil. They’re designed to be eaten like a potato chip. Who knows, you may not even notice a difference.