Best Snacks, Worst Snacks

Last Editorial Review: 1/31/2005

Feel a snack attack coming on? Follow this list of dos and don'ts to indulge without blowing your healthy diet.

WebMD Feature

Noted nutritionist and author Elaine Magee, PhD, RD, says there's no reason to deprive yourself of a snack. To make wise choices, print this list and post it on your fridge.

Best Snacks


If you microwave, buy microwave popcorn that's 98% fat free. It's OK to drizzle on a teaspoon of butter if you crave the flavor. You're still consuming less fat than you would if you popped a bag of regular microwave popcorn, says Magee.

Fruit and Fruit Smoothies

"Awesome, awesome healthy snack choice," says Magee. For a complete snack that will sustain you through the afternoon, make a fruit smoothie in your blender. Use low-fat yogurt, fruit such as berries and banana, ice and -- if you want -- a little 100% fruit juice, milk, or soy milk as your base.

Yogurt and Frozen Yogurt

Yogurt doesn't need sugar to taste good. Buy plain yogurt and add something to it, like low-fat granola and fresh fruit, for a truly healthy snack.

Frozen Fruit Bars

These are fine snacks. Look for 100% fruit-juice choices in your supermarket freezer, says Magee.


You can't find a healthier snack. "I usually have a dip, like light ranch dip, and assorted vegetables on a platter," says Magee. Kids love this!


Ah, the favorite snack of the young and single set! To keep it healthy, choose the higher-fiber, lower-sugar options such as oatmeal.

Peanut Butter

True, peanut butter is loaded with calories, but it's an OK snack if you eat just one tablespoon spread over several whole-grain crackers or a slice of whole-wheat bread.


Chocolate?! Sure, says Magee, as long as you opt for a small piece. "Almost every day, I have a little bit of chocolate," she says. "If you deprive yourself, you'll end up compulsively overeating."

Ice Cream

Get real. We all know ice cream isn't an everyday snack. But there are healthy choices. Breyer's Light Vanilla is a good-tasting vanilla ice cream, says Magee, and Smart Ones fudge bars are "really delicious -- they hit your chocolate and ice cream craving, plus they have four grams soluble fiber, 80 calories, hardly any fat, and very good flavor."

Worst Snacks


"If they're fat-free, the cookies aren't so great, and you end up eating more," Magee says. "Cookies are something you should enjoy, but not as a regular snack."


As much as we love it, cake is not a snack. With about 400 calories per slice, cake is more like a mini-meal without nutritional value, says Magee.

Granola Bars

The chewier they are, the more sugar and fat they have, Magee says. "The healthy ones are crunchy, and not coated in chocolate." If you truly crave granola bars, make your own. "There are good recipes out there," she says, "and then you can choose the oil, fruits, grains that go into them."

Cheese and Crackers

This snack sounds healthy, but both cheese and crackers are usually loaded with fat. Try using Kraft 2% and Jarlsberg Light cheese on whole-grain, low-fat crackers for a lighter version of this snack.

Chips or Nachos

True, there are reduced fat chips and chips made with canola oil. But chips are still the type of snack that people tend to overeat. Says Magee: "You're better off eating a real potato."

Published July 30, 2003.

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD.

SOURCE: Elaine Magee, PhD, RD, author of numerous nutrition books, including The Recipe Doctor Cookbook: Light and Healthy Versions of America's Favorite Dishes.

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