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Smart Snacks

Snacks can be an important part of a healthful diet. Well-chosen snacks can help you manage your weight, hunger, health, and energy. Snacks can help you gain or lose weight. Energy dense snacks can help you eat more in a day for weight gain. Eating several small healthy snacks between meals helps with weight loss by keeping cravings down and preventing excessive hunger that may lead to overeating. Snacks can help you meet healthful guidelines for grain, vegetable, fruit, calcium and protein intake. Snacks keep you going when you are dragging - and nutritious snacks keep you going longer. Small, wisely chosen snacks between meals promote good health and add pleasure to life. Snack with variety, balance and moderation in mind. The following tips can make between-meal eating a nutritious, enjoyable part of your eating style!

Work snacks into your diet – Rather than considering them as "extras," choose snacks that contribute to your calorie and nutrient needs. Snack on foods that compliment your meals and add variety to your diet. For instance, if you mainly eat meats and starch at meals, snack on fruits, vegetables, and milk, cheese, or yogurt.

Match snacks to your calorie needs and weight goals – If your goal is weight maintenance or weight loss, you may want to consume nutrient dense snacks that are between 100-200 calories. If you are a physically active person, however, or a person looking to gain weight, you may need to consume nutrient dense snacks that contain between 200-400 calories.

Watch your snack portions – Snack portions are smaller than meal portions. Snacks shouldn’t “fill you up” but rather help you to be “not hungry.” Although calorie level depends on your activity level and weight goals, snacks should generally not contain more than 500 calories (this would be similar to a meal).

Snack when you’re hungry – Skip the urge to nibble in response to non-hunger eating impulses such as boredom, frustration, or stress. “Nourish” stress or boredom with a walk instead of a donut.

Snack consciously – Eat when you snack, relax when you watch TV, and study when you are studying. Don’t mix snacking with other activities. Snacking absentmindedly, while doing other things, leads to overeating.

Plan ahead for smart snacking – Keep a variety of tasty, nutritious, ready-to-eat snacks on hand at home, work, or wherever you need a light bite to take the edge off hunger. That way you won’t be limited to snacks from vending machines, fast-food restaurants, or convenience stores. You may even consider purchasing a small refrigerator for your dorm room or office.


Refrigerator snacks -
Stock your refrigerator with ready-to-go healthy snacks: low fat dairy (yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, milk, chocolate or vanilla flavored soymilk), lean deli meats, fruit juice, ready-to-eat fruit, and fresh vegetable sticks, baby carrots or baby (cherry) tomatoes, spiced applesauce.

Office snacks - Prepare for unscheduled meetings and deadlines by stashing nutritious snacks in your office or workplace: instant soup, pretzels dipped in mustard, whole-grain cereal, mini cans of water-packed tuna, boxes of raisins, instant oatmeal, dried fruit or single serve fruit cups, or whole-wheat crackers.

Microwave snacks - Heat single-serving soups. Make instant pizza by topping a whole-grain bagel or English muffin with tomato sauce and cheese. Make hot bean dip with refried beans, salsa, and mild green chilies, and serve with baked tortilla chips. Melt cheddar cheese on a microwaved baked potato or a frozen soft pretzel. Microwave a sweet potato and top with low fat sour cream.

Sweet snacks - Try these goodies: pudding with vanilla wafers, oatmeal-raisin cookies, fig bars, graham crackers or rice cakes with peanut butter, hot chocolate, frozen yogurt, dried fruit, raisin toast, frozen fruit bars, whole fruit sorbet, homemade low-fat bran muffins, whole grain toast with peanut butter and sliced bananas, and sugar-free Jell-O made with fresh fruit and marshmallows.

Traveling snacks - Take along on trips or events: canned or boxed juice, crackers and cheese or peanut butter, string cheese, pretzels, air-popped or light microwave popcorn, fresh fruit, dried fruit, cereal-raisin-nut trail mixes, granola bars, single serve boxed soy milk.

It is mid afternoon, you feel drained and you reach for a “pick-me-up” for some re-found energy. Or you are studying for an exam and you forgot to eat lunch and now its 9:30 p.m. and you are starving – but you have few snacking options. Often you reach for convenient snacks like candy bars, soda, and chips. Plan ahead and have healthy snacks at home or bring a snack from home when you are out studying (keep small containers and plastic baggies handy for packing snacks)! Try some of the snacks mentioned below.



MORE SNACK IDEAS – Nutritious snacks containing 200-400 calories

BRAND NAME SNACK IDEAS - nutritious snacks containing 100-200 calories

For more information and recipes, check out these websites: (The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Information Center) (Recipes) (Better Homes and Gardens - food section: recipes, cooking tolls and guides)

The American Dietetic Association’s Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, by Roberta Larson Duyff, MS, FD, CFCS. (3rd edition). 2006.

If you are a registered University of Illinois student and you have questions or concerns,
or need to make an appointment, please call: Dial-A-Nurse at 333-2700


If you are concerned about any difference in your treatment plan and the information in this handout,

you are advised to contact your health care provider.


Visit the McKinley Health Center Web site at:

HEd. III-162

© The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, 2008.



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