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Curb your sweet tooth with these easy, healthy sweet snack options.
Of course prioritizing nutrient-dense foods the majority of the time is important, but sensibly indulging in your favorite foods is important too. And when those sugar cravings hit, choosing a healthier option that still tastes good can help keep you on track with your nutrition and diet. “Naturally occurring sugars like those in fruit come packed with other beneficial nutrients like antioxidants and fiber,” says Registered Dietitian and Deputy Director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab Stefani Sassos. “But added sugars, the ones that literally get added to the food we eat, contribute zero nutrients and added empty calories.” Examples of added sugars include white table sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
We know that consuming too much added sugar, over time, is related to higher rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and inflammation among other health problems. And the average American consumes 77 grams of the sweet stuff per day, which is more than three times the recommended limit set by the American Heart Association. Our nutrition experts say it’s ideal to look for sweet snacks with low added sugar counts and a balance of protein and healthy fats to keep you fueled and satisfied. But most importantly, it has to taste delicious — and healthy food can and should taste good! Together with our test kitchen pros, we’ve rounded up the best healthy sweet snacks to meet every craving, from better-for-you fruit roll-ups to “nice cream” and more.
This fruity smoothie contains only four ingredients and is packed with fiber, protein and healthy fats, making it a balanced snack that hits the spot. Raspberries have one of the highest amounts of fiber of all berries, and while they’re naturally sweet, they are low in sugar. They also contain the antioxidant vitamin C and potassium.
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These little treats taste like candy bars — only they’re filled with protein, vitamins, minerals and no added sugar. The simplest version requires only two ingredients: dates and your nut butter of choice. (Freeze them for an extra chewy texture!) If you’re feeling fancy, sprinkle with your favorite finely chopped nut.
Popcorn is a whole grain filled with fiber. Turn it into a sweet and healthy treat by giving it a light coat of cooking spray and adding 1 tsp sugar + 1/4 tsp cinnamon per 4 cups of popcorn. Bonus: Some studies have shown improvement in blood glucose levels with cinnamon use.
Here’s a great snack to share with friends: Jeat dark chocolate (more than 70% cacao) in a microwave or double boiler and serve with a rainbow of sliced fruit. Dark chocolate is filled with antioxidants and magnesium, and you’re getting fiber from both the chocolate and fruit.
Quick, easy and dairy free, all it takes is frozen bananas and a drop of nut milk to blend up this treat. Add some cinnamon and top with berries, shaved coconut, a drizzle of nut butter or melted dark chocolate to add some pizazz. Overripe bananas are a good choice here because they contain more natural sweetness, and they may be easier to digest due to the resistant starch being broken down.
This quick and easy balanced snack will keep you going from meal to meal. All you need is an apple, almond butter and your crunchy topping of choice. We think pomegranate and chia seeds are a great choice, plus the chia adds a boost of fiber and healthy fats. (Pro tip: Use an apple corer before slicing!)
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These coconut carrot ice pops are the perfect way to cool off on a warm day. The carrots provide plenty of the antioxidant beta carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A, and the ginger adds even more antioxidants and helps with digestion.
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These little seeds are a nutritional powerhouse containing fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and some protein. They swell to 10x their weight when mixed with liquid, so just add your favorite unsweetened oat or nut milk to create a delicious pudding. Top with fruit and nuts for crunch. And be sure to make extra: It can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days.
Fruit and yogurt might already be in your daily snack rotation, but you can dial it up a notch by turning your fruit into a kabob with a dip. As always, plain unsweetened yogurt or Greek yogurt would be the choice here to avoid added sugars.
RELATED: Best Dairy-Free Yogurts
These cutely named snacks have been around for years (a recipe for “Stuffed Celery Stalks” was featured in the 1944 Good Housekeeping Cook Book). The quick and easy version of celery topped with peanut butter and raisins is kid-friendly but pleases people of all ages. The combo also contains fiber, protein and healthy fats.
A healthy twist on a classic dessert, this chocolaty treat is full of magnesium from cacao and satiating, heart-healthy fat and fiber from avocados. With only a few ingredients, it can be whipped up in minutes. Use unsweetened cacao or cocoa powder to reap the full benefits without the added sugar.
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This homemade treat is easy to make and contains only three ingredients: fruit of choice, lemon juice and a touch of honey or maple syrup. Get creative with flavor combos and make in batches — these can last up to two weeks.
Get the recipe from Delish
A healthier version of candy bark, this simple treat combines protein-rich Greek yogurt, fresh berries and your add-ons of choice. Spread yogurt on a lined baking sheet, top with berries and finish with dark chocolate pieces (or granola or nuts); freeze for two to four hours, break up and serve.
This is one of the easiest snacks you could make: Slice an apple and throw it in the air fryer. Top the crisps with cinnamon for a little extra flavor. Use it as a topper on yogurt, stir it into trail mix or simply eat with a handful of nuts for a more balanced snack.
This summer refresher is a great post-workout treat at 180 calories per serving. It’s filled with protein from Greek yogurt as well as vitamins, minerals and fiber from cucumber, pineapple, spinach and banana.
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Easy to make and full of protein and fiber from chickpeas, this vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free dessert is great for sharing. If you’re short on time, there are also many prepared options to choose from (look for one with less than 6 grams of added sugar per 2 tablespoon serving). It’s particularly yummy with apple slices.
Pears contain the soluble fiber pectin, which studies indicate can help to lower LDL, the “bad” cholesterol. Pears also are packed with antioxidants, most of which are located in their skin. With this simple dessert you’ll get it all: Slice a skin-on pear in half, scoop out the core and top with cottage cheese, a drizzle of honey and chopped walnuts. Or get creative and use ricotta (instead of cottage cheese) and add a splash of aged balsamic vinegar.
Make your own healthy granola recipe and surprise yourself at how nutritious it can be. Add rolled oats and a combo of nuts and seeds, then sweeten with dried fruits (or click the link below for inventive ideas from our test kitchen). You can also easily turn your granola into granola bars, though moderation is key here.
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If you’re not already freezing your grapes, you’re missing out on an incredibly refreshing treat. With approximately 100 calories per cup, grapes contain antioxidants such as reservatrol and quercetin and taste like candy when frozen.
RELATED: 7 Health Benefits of Grapes
Quick and easy protein balls that don’t require baking are a favorite pick-me-up for many people. They’re easy to customize and fun to make. They’re also easy to overdo, so moderation is key here. The combination of ingredients such as nut butter, coconut shreds, dates and other dried fruit can provide natural sweetness over using adding sugar.
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This snack couldn’t be easier: Slice a grapefruit in half and place it under the broiler until golden brown. For extra decadence, add a dash of honey, maple syrup or brown sugar and top with fresh or dried thyme. Eat it alone or enjoy it with plain greek yogurt and a handful of raw nuts for a well balanced snack.
Full of crunch factor, these baked maple-cinnamon chickpeas, are a delicious, sweet treat full of protein and satiating fiber. Fiber not only helps to keep you feeling fuller longer, but it also helps to build better gut bacteria and aids in digestion. Easy to prepare, this snack is great on the go.
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Instead of a smoothie bowl, try an açai bowl. Açai is full of antioxidants and contains fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. It can be slightly tart, so combine it with other fruit to add sweetness over adding sugar. Stir in protein powder or unsweetened Greek yogurt to create a nutritious and tasty balance.
The sweet-and-salty combo is not only a visual stunner, it’s also great as a snack or an appetizer. Add basil or mint for an extra flavor burst. The combination of cheese with fruit scores a nutritional trifecta: protein, healthy fat and carbohydrates.
Oats contain the fiber beta-glucan, which has been associated with helping to lower LDL (i.e. “bad”) cholesterol levels. Easy to customize, this snack doesn’t require cooking and can be prepared the night before, hence the name. So tasty that portion control is in order.
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Add some life and color to potassium-rich bananas with this frozen treat. Cut up some bananas, insert a toothpick or Popsicle stick and freeze. When ready, roll in melted chocolate and freeze again (topping with chopped nuts, if desired). These are sure to be a crowd pleaser.
A sweet-and-salty combo that’s great all year round. Pumpkin seeds contain healthy fats and protein. They are also rich in antioxidants, fiber and magnesium, and they’re a good source of potassium. Use in trail mix, as a topping on yogurt or with fruit and cheese.
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Papaya contains papain, an enzyme that may help with digestion. It’s also loaded with antioxidants and vitamins A and C. Papaya’s unique boat-like shape makes it great to load with yogurt and top with cereal, fruit and nuts. Don’t discard the scooped out seeds — they offer many health benefits as well.
You can’t go wrong with this tasty treat as long as you stick to one ounce of dark chocolate, containing more than 70% cacao, and a serving of almonds (about 1 ounce). This snack contains healthy fats, protein, fiber, magnesium and vitamin E among others.
Simple to make and big on flavor, all you need here is fresh figs and a tangy goat cheese. You can eat this cold or heat it up for a delicious sweet-savory appetizer with a drizzle of honey. Figs are in season early summer through late fall, so get them fresh when you can.
Amy Fischer, MS, RD, CDN, has been a practicing dietitian for 10 years. She approaches food and health from an evidence-based orientation. As a practicing dietitian in NYC hospitals, she specialized in dietary issues with oncology, gastrointestinal and cardiac patients. She has worked as a recipe developer for several food companies, and she also has extensive experience in the commercial side of the food business. One of her more popular skills is finding healthy ways to meet any sweet tooth.
As deputy director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab, Stefani Sassos, MS, RDN, CSO, CDN, NASM-CPT, handles all nutrition content, product testing and evaluation. She stays up-to-date on the latest research to provide evidence-based reporting on all things diet and nutrition, and she also runs large-scale tests and analysis for products ranging from protein bars and sweet snacks to supplements. She has a master’s degree in clinical nutrition from New York University and has been a registered dietitian for six years, working in the clinical setting prior to joining Good Housekeeping and obtaining advanced credentials and board certifications in the nutrition field.