Snacking: What To Snack On, What Not To, And How

When I tell people about the Paleo diet, the first thing most people ask me is “so what do you snack on?”  I can tell you straight up, its not a bag of chips, a candy bar and a soda. Although most college students’ snack plans consist of something like this. Any dietitian or nutritionist, Paleo or not, will tell you that you can’t get or stay healthy while snacking on ice cream, candy, chips and a few beers. Ahhh snacking, seems so easy doesn’t it? There is often lots of food available on campus, and if not, then campus shops and stores are always willing to take your money. Pick up a cup of coffee and a muffin here, a quick power bar there, maybe even a healthy piece of fruit wherever you are. IT ADDS UP. 

Let’s look at some snacks:

The Worst:

Potato chips, universally considered an unhealthy snack, definitely live up to their title of “the worst”. 16 chips (one ounce, one serving):

  • 150 calories
  • 15 grams of carbs
  • 150 mg sodium
  • Some vitamin E, and C
  • Not to mention, the second ingredient in chips: Vegetable oils   


The presumably “not-so-bad”:

Protein bars seem to be a simple, easily accessible, healthy snack on the go. You figure “I’ll just get some protein while I’m at it!” Yah, sure you get SOY protein. Oh, and all of this:

Protein Blend (Whey Protein Hydrolysate, Whey Protein Isolate ), Coating (Maltitol Powder, Palm Kernel Oil, Nonfat Milk Solids, Cocoa Powder, Soy Lecithin, Salt, Natural Vanilla Flavor), Hydrolyzed Collagen, Glycerin (a high calorie sweetener), Soy Crisps (Soy Protein Isolate, Tapioca Starch, Salt), Milk Chocolate Drops (Sugar, Whole Milk Powder, Chocolate Liquor, Cocoa Butter, Butter Oil, Soy Lecithin, Natural Vanilla Flavor), Maltitol Syrup (a low calorie sweetener), Water, Canola Oil, Natural Flavors, Maltodextrin (a high calorie sweetener), Calcium Carbonate, Almond Meal, Wheat Germ, Vitamin and Mineral Blend (Ascorbic Acid, Tricalcium Phosphate, d-Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate, Niacinamide, Zinc Oxide, Copper Gluconate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid, Biotin, Potassium Iodide,
Cyanocobalamin), Xanthan Gum (a sweetener and allergen derived from corn and wheat), Peanut Flour, Sucralose ( aka: Splenda), Soy Lecithin.

That’s 48 ingredients too many.

The Possibly Better?

Clif Bars are synonymous with health for any standard dieter. The packaging even says “made with organic oats and soybeans” right on the front! What could be bad?


  • 44 grams of carbs per bar (23 grams of sugar)
  • 28 ingredients of its own (including sunflower oil, soy protein, and brown rice syrup, which is very high glycemic index)
The Misunderstood: 
  • Peanuts are not nuts, they are legumes. Avoid them and their highly processed oils.
  • Dried fruit is not fruit. It is usually loaded up with sugar, and then dried down into tiny, bite sized pieces so that you will eat more of them. In other words: if its smaller, it wont fill you up as fast and you wont feel as if you have eaten as much. So you will keep eating them, which means you will consume way, way more sugar than just eating “a piece” of fruit. Its candy with a few extra vitamins and fiber.
  • Cashews are not too terrible for you. They do offer some good fats and minerals. However, they are very high in phytic acids (an antinutrient). Thus, if you are going to eat cashews, don’t eat too many and make sure they are first soaked to get rid of the phytates.

When it comes down to it, any packaged snack you buy is going to be loaded with fake sweeteners, preservatives, over-processed vegetable oils and more fake sweeteners. Your best bet, if you’re going to snack, is to stick with fresh, whole, real foods like these:

  • Macademia nuts (great source of saturated fats with a few carbs and a plethora of vitamins and minerals)
  • Almonds (good source of protein, higher in carbs and calories, good source of vitamins and minerals)
  • Cut up veggies (always good sources of vitamins and minerals for very low carb counts, but filled with a nice energy pick-me-up)
  • Cocoa Nibs, aka cocoa beans, are delicious, somewhat bitter tasting nuts that are fun to eat and full of great anti-oxidants, fat and saturated fats.
Or, if you have the time and resources, you can pre-make snacks like these:
Primal Trail Mix:
  • 2 cups of each: Almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamias,
  • 1 cup of each: pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1 cup chopped dried dates
  • 2 tablespoon of Extra virgin coconut oil (melted)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup (make sure it does not have any high fructose corn syrup in it)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon celtic sea salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut shavings
Pre-heat oven to 350. Mix nuts and seeds and put on baking sheet and into the oven for 7 mins. Mix coconut oil, vanilla extract, honey/maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and sea salt in small bowl. Pour mixture over nuts, and sprinkle with coconut shavings and or coconut flour Bake for another 5 mins. Let cool. Mix together with dried fruit and Enjoy as a snack. This should last at least a week or so.
Or try:
The entire notion of “snacking” is something that is a fairly modern invention. As recently as the 1700’s, Americans were eating the bulk of their calories in the middle of the day (and two small meals to start and end the day). “Dinner was the mid-day meal. For most people in the 18th century it was considered the main (biggest) meal of the day.” It makes sense to eat a larger meal in the middle of the day because it is right smack in the middle of our calorie expenditure when we need to replenish our energy sources (fat, protein and some carbs). Back then, one meal a day was enough. Why, you ask? It probably had something to do with the fact that back then, saturated fat was not considered “taboo” in the average diet. When you eat fat, you feel full. That’s why when you eat steak, you feel full and when you eat a piece of bread, you’re still hungry.
There was much less of a need to snack around 100 years ago (if you had money) because you felt full. Surprisingly (or perhaps not), science, once again, backs up our human nature.
A number of studies have come out that say pretty much this:

Did you catch that?

The eating pattern commonly known as “grazing” makes you fat. By eating for only part of the day, and doing an “intermittent fast” the other part of the day, mouse “B” was thinner, and overall more healthy than mouse “A”. What does this mean? well, it probably means if you want to lose weight, you should have set meal times and not really snack, or “graze”. Mice trials are not always accurate and cannot be taken as the 100% truth always. They’re just something to consider.

So, snacking is not quite as simple as we previously thought. Scientific studies done on lab mice have suggested that “time restricting” your food intake can help you lose weight and stay healthy, however, lab rats are not always to be trusted. For now, we should just consider the rats as “food for thought” ;). Hopefully, the snack ideas provided in this post help you feel more comfortable making the “Paleo plunge,” and trust me, they are pretty delicious, too. Every time I make a big batch of trail mix, my friends and family snatch it up before I can even taste it. It even makes your kitchen smell ridiculously good.

Have any other snack ideas? Recipes? Questions? Comments? Complaints? Leave a comment!






About The Author


Max is a passionate pursuer of integrative health. He has been drafted by a professional baseball team, worked in publishing scientific laboratories and spoken to groups of students on health and well-being. He is currently a biology major and philosophy minor at Denison University. Max spends his time reading, weightlifting, traveling and learning. Email Max at

5 Responses

  1. Rachel
    Rachel June 29, 2012 at 2:57 am | | Reply

    I will attest to the deliciosity of the trail mix. It disappears really fast.

  2. Kyle Klingman
    Kyle Klingman October 8, 2012 at 12:07 pm | | Reply

    Steve’s Original grass fed jerky is delicious. I second the recommendation. Tanka is also pretty good.

    1. Josh Singer
      Josh Singer October 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm | | Reply

      Primal Pacs are my personal favorite. I’ve also recently found some wild salmon jerky from Alaska! A company called Vital Choice. Great stuff!

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