Those 3:30 hungries are the worst. When my kids and I get home from work and school, it's like, Food. Now. And it can be tough to resist the temptation to stop at the bakery or grab a bag of chips at the supermarket on the way home. That's why I'm glad there are so many healthy snacks from Costco that satisfy both our hunger and our taste buds. One trip to the mega-warehouse store gets us a trunkful of good-for-us goodies that we know will be waiting for us after a busy day.
Snacking in and of itself isn't a bad thing. In fact, as the National Institutes of Health's Medline website affirmed, between-meal snacks can keep you from overeating and provide energy after you exercise. Snacking also helps keep active kids going and is a source of added nutrition, explained WebMD. The trouble happens when your main source of snacking is packaged or processed foods that are loaded with added fat, sugar, white flour, and unpronounceable ingredients. You know: all the good stuff like chips, doughnuts, cookies, and so on.
Happily, Costco makes it easy to snack smart with their ample variety of good-for-you products. These are the current offerings at the location in Queens, New York. Many of them are organic, and most are minimally processed and low in sugar and fat without sacrificing taste. Have these on hand (at home, in your purse, and even your car) for after-school treats or to nosh on when you're craving a little something, and you'll be able to pass up the less healthy options more easily. (Though it's still okay to have some chocolate once in a while... antioxidants, y'know.)
1. Roasted Seaweed
Both my daughter and I are huge fans of this Asian-inspired snack. It has the saltiness and satisfying crunch of potato chips, without the guilt. Each pack has no sugar and just 1.5 grams of fat, none of it trans fat. Plus, the seaweed has only 20 calories per serving, but with five servings per pack, you could eat the whole thing (not that I'd ever do that...yeah, right) and still come out ahead.
2. Nut Bars
Nuts about nuts? You should be: Nuts contain all kinds of heart-healthy nutrients, including fiber, unsaturated fats, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids, according to Mayo Clinic. These store-brand snack bars are made with almonds, cashews, and walnuts for a triple dose of nutty goodness, along with 7 grams of fiber and only 6 grams of sugar.
3. Organic Cashews
If you prefer your nuts in their natural form, Costco has you covered there, too. Cashews are rich in protein and magnesium, and one of the best nut sources of copper and iron, which are vital for healthy red blood cell production. Keep a container handy in the pantry so you can munch a small, satisfying handful.
Easy to peel and eat, clementine oranges are rich in vitamin C, and they also have thiamine and potassium, according to Bon Appetit. Plus, as a whole fruit, they have more fiber than a cup of orange juice, and they're only 35 calories each, so go ahead and have a few if you're really hungry; a five-pound bag is only $6 at Costco.
5. Chickpea Puffs
Your kids love cheesy puffed snacks, but you'd rather give them something more nutritious. Enter Hippeas ($7 for an 18-ounce bag at Costco), to make everyone happy. Made from chickpeas and baked instead of fried, they get their cheesy flavor from natural plant-based ingredients such as yeast extract, so they're vegan, too. To up the feel-good factor, Hippeas works with Feeding America, the largest hunger-relief organization in the country.
6. Nutritious Cookies
Is this an authentic Aussie snack? Who cares? It's low in sugar, thanks to the sweetness of its dried apricots, raisins, and shredded coconut. Flax seeds, quinoa, and sunflower seeds add an extra punch of nutrients. One package contains 32 cookies.
7. Gluten-Free Cookies
As the friend of a mom who has a child with celiac disease, I know all too well that gluten intolerance isn't a "fake" illness. For some families, living gluten-free is the difference between living a normal lifestyle and spending their days at the doctor's office. So having a snack like this around is a godsend for many. For families without gluten issues, this still scores high on the healthy-yum scale, thanks to all-natural ingredients and a calorie and fat content that's way below your average cupcake.
8. Sweet But Not Sinful
Let's face it: When your kids are craving chocolate, they're not going to get psyched about being handed a banana or a box of raisins. But a portion and calorie-controlled treat like these frozen fudge bars, which have only 110 calories per pop and almost no fat, will satisfy their sweet tooth without going overboard.
9. Veggie Cakes
When you're looking for something savory, pop one or two of these morsels into the oven for a veggie-laden treat (they have broccoli, carrots, red peppers, kale, onion, and zucchini). They're only 90 calories per cake, and super low in fat and sugar, too.
10. Multigrain Chips
Crunch without guilt on these tasty trans-fat-free chips. They're made with all-organic, non-GMO ingredients and a variety of healthy grains and seeds, including chia, millet, quinoa and flax.
11. Lentil Crackers
Shake up your cracker-and-dip game with these all-organic crisps. They're made with stone-ground corn and lentils, and get an added zing from turmeric, the curry spice that naturally fights inflammation in the body.
12. Mango Pops
When you're in the mood for something sweet and chewy, reach for these instead of a pack of gummies. Made from mango, apricot, coconut, quinoa and granola, they provide natural energy without added sugar, and two pops are only 100 calories with 2 grams of fat.
13. Granola Cups
A packaged treat that's refreshingly free of artificial ingredients and corn syrup, these two-cup packages are less than 200 calories. They also have a very reasonable 8 grams of sugar, which is less than you'll find in your average fruit-flavored yogurt or even most sweetened cereal brands.