10 Vegan Snacks You Can Buy that Are Actually Healthy Too
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Registered dietitian and plant-based diet specialist Cynthia Sass shares her favorite healthy vegan snacks, including both sweet and savory choices that'll satisfy your cravings.
Surprising vegan snacks
Nuts and fruit are obvious vegan snacks. But even longtime vegans are sometimes surprised to stumble across foods they didn’t realize were vegan. Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup and Cracker Jacks, anyone?
If you’re curious, there are plenty of articles online that list junk foods and fast foods that are unpredictably or accidentally vegan. But as a registered dietitian, I love to scope out vegan snacks and treats that offer some nutritional value and are made with better-for-you ingredients.
This includes brand-new vegan goodies that may not be on your radar and vegan versions of products that typically contain non-vegan ingredients.
What does vegan mean?
A vegan diet excludes all animal-derived foods. That means no meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, or dairy.
Vegan foods must also exclude any additives that originated from an animal source, including honey, gelatin, collagen, whey, and casein (the latter two are dairy based).
While fewer than 5 percent of Americans categorize themselves as vegan, according to a 2020 Gallup poll, more and more people are choosing animal-free foods.
During the pandemic alone, sales of plant-based foods spiked by 90 percent, based on data from the Plant Based Foods Association.
Reasons for eating more vegan meals are varied and personal, but may include concerns about animal welfare and the impact of animal-based foods on the environment. Many people embark on a plant-based diet to seek better health.
When it comes to health, eating more vegan foods is indeed linked to benefits.
In a 2018 study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers looked at the effect of a vegan diet on people with coronary artery disease. They found that it fared better than a traditional American Heart Association–recommended diet at reducing levels of high‐sensitivity C‐reactive protein, a blood marker for inflammation and heart disease risk.
How to spot a healthy vegan snack
The most important way to gauge the healthfulness of any packaged product is to read the ingredient list.
Ideally, it should read like a recipe you could have made in your own kitchen.
At the very least, its makeup should be simpler and more recognizable than another highly processed version of the food. Or it should contain at least one ingredient upgrade compared with a conventional equivalent.
For example, in a crunchy snack, pea and lentil flours will offer more nutritional value than white rice flour.
(Plan your snacks ahead with this vegetarian and vegan meal prep guide.)
Benefits of snacking
The best time to snack is during a long stretch between meals. For example, if you eat lunch at noon and dinner at 7 p.m., plan to take a snack break between 3 and 4 p.m.
A healthful snack will help regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, supply steady even energy, and stave off hunger to prevent overeating later in the day.
A snack is also an opportunity to supply your body with nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
For this list, I chose a mixture of both sweet and savory options and a variety of textures to meet various taste preferences.
Whether you’re fully vegan or simply trying to eat more plant-based foods, each of these 10 snacks offers some nutritional value.
I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that all 10 are vegan, or that a vegan version exists (hello, tzatziki).
Sweet vegan snacks
Hail Merry Myer Lemon Tart
Lemon tarts are traditionally made with butter and eggs.
Hail Merry’s is free from all animal-sourced ingredients and is gluten free, soy free, kosher, and non-GMO.
The treat’s virgin coconut oil, cashews, and almond flour provide good fat. And one tart supplies six grams of plant protein and seven grams of fiber, which is 28 percent of the daily value (DV).
It’s also mouthwateringly delicious and filling. If you only need a petite treat to tide you over to your next meal, share it or divide it into two servings.
Hu Kitchen Chocolate-Covered Hunks
Many chocolate-covered nuts are made with non-vegan-friendly milk chocolate and typically contain both sugar and corn syrup.
This brand’s delectable chocolatey cashews (they also make an almond version) are 100 percent vegan and sweetened with unrefined, organic coconut sugar.
Hu Kitchen uses antioxidant-rich organic cocoa and fair trade cocoa butter (the fat from cocoa beans). A one-ounce portion provides 10 percent DV for iron and 4 percent for potassium, along with four grams of protein, and 12 grams of satiating plant fat.
(Need more iron in your diet? Try these great vegan iron sources.)
Theo Peanut Butter & Jelly Cups
Peanut butter cups are one of life’s greatest pleasures, but most are made with dairy.
Theo’s 55 percent dark chocolate cups are vegan, organic, gluten and soy free, non-GMO, and kosher.
I love the PB&J twist, which includes raspberry filling, and a two-cup serving is just 210 calories with four grams of plant protein, 6 percent DV for iron, and 4 percent DV for potassium.
Nelly’s Organics Double Chocolate Bar
Nelly’s lives up to its ‘nature’s candy’ claim.
It’s just as satisfying as a candy bar, but the first ingredient is fruit, in the form of organic, raw dates, an antioxidant- and mineral-rich fruit.
One of these vegan bars provides five grams of fiber, which is 20 percent the DV. It provides 8 percent DV for iron, and 4 percent for calcium.
(To add protein to your diet, check out these plant-based protein sources.)
Aloha Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Protein Bar
There are endless protein bars on the market, but the majority are made with non-vegan protein sources, including dairy-derived whey and eggs.
Aloha provides an impressive 14 grams of protein per bar, primarily sourced from brown rice.
The soft, gooey texture does resemble cookie dough, but each vegan, organic bar also supplies 10 grams of fiber and 10 percent DV for iron.
Savory vegan snacks
Siete Nacho Tortilla Chips
Nacho snacks are typically dairy-based. But Siete’s chips are vegan and free from both grains and soy. They’re just as crunchy, cheesy, and delicious as typical chips.
And in addition to being 100 percent plant-based, they’re made with heart-healthy avocado oil.
(Try these healthy plant-based snacks you can eat any time.)
Skinny Pop White Cheddar Popcorn
With cheddar in the name, you’d expect this popcorn to contain dairy, but this Skinny Pop version is actually vegan and made with no artificial additives.
A generous three-and-a-half-cup serving of this gluten-free, non-GMO snack provides only 150 calories, and a carb count equivalent to just one slice of bread.
Bonus: popcorn is a member of the whole grain family, a food group linked to a reduced risk of death from all causes, including heart disease and cancer, per a 2016 study in BMJ.
PeaTos Fiery Hot Crunchy Curls
Flaming versions of crunchy snacks usually contain non-vegan ingredients, like whey and buttermilk.
PeaTos are vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO, and made with no artificial flavors or synthetic colors. Their superstar ingredient is pulse flour, from peas, lentils, and fava beans, along with pea fiber.
A 130-calorie, one-ounce portion provides three grams of fiber, four grams of plant protein, 8 percent DV for potassium, and 6 percent DV for iron.
(No time to cook? Try these ready-to-eat vegan meal-delivery services.)
Kite Hill Tzatziki Dip
You’ve probably seen plant-based versions of products like milk, yogurt, and cheese. I’m happy to introduce you to a new vegan kid on the block you may not be aware of.
You can now enjoy vegan tzatziki, the yogurt-and-cucumber dip that’s a staple in Greek cuisine.
The primary ingredients in Kite Hill’s version are almond milk and almonds, but it’s just as creamy as the real deal.
The dip/dressing is also prepared with probiotic bacteria associated with gut health and immune support.
A Dozen Cousins Seasoned Refried Beans
Refried beans are traditionally made with lard. This brand’s scrumptious recipe is completely vegan and made simply with pinto beans, veggies, spices, and avocado oil.
A half-cup serving of A Dozen Cousins, which is ideal as an energizing snack, provides eight grams of filling fiber, five grams of plant protein, 10 percent DV for potassium, and 8 percent for iron.
Enjoy it as is or scooped up with fresh, raw veggies.
Next, these are the plant-based food trends for 2021.
- PETA: "Accidentally vegan food and snacks list"
- Gallup: "Nearly One in Four in U.S. Have Cut Back on Eating Meat"
- Plant Based Food Association: "New Data Shows Plant-Based Food Outpacing Total Food Sales During COVID-19"
- Journal of the American Heart Association: "Anti‐Inflammatory Effects of a Vegan Diet Versus the American Heart Association–Recommended Diet in Coronary Artery Disease Trial"
- BMJ: "Whole grain consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all cause and cause specific mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies"