Snack aisles used to be dominated by candy bars, cookies, chips, and other grease-laden, sugar-filled treats. Those who were craving a quick bite had to have one that came in some form of processed, refined carb — until about 6 years ago.
In 2013, “paleo” ranked as the number one most Googled eating plan of the year. People were hungry for more information about this back-to-basics way of eating that encouraged “eating like a caveman.” As it turns out, sticking to a diet of simple, whole foods proved to be quite beneficial.
Since then, paleo books started filling the shelves, paleo apps and paleo food databases started popping up, and restaurants started offering more grain-free, gluten-free, and low-carb options.
Food manufacturers also took note. From sweet to savory to umami, there's now an ample selection of less processed, all-natural snacks in every grocery store. Instead of cheese curls, have some preservative-free plantain chips. Swap that granola cup for a 100% animal-based meat snack.
And for those who prefer more homemade fare, a number of cookbooks and websites out there have heaps of paleo-friendly snack recipes just waiting to be made.
Whether you choose to buy or make your own, there are so many delicious, healthy paleo snacks you can feast on. The following is a round-up of some of the best.
Off the Shelf
In the mood for something sweet? Salty? Sour? Smoky? There’s a paleo-approved product to satisfy every craving. Plus, all these healthy snacks can go conveniently from the shelf to your bag, desk, car, or, in many cases, straight to your mouth.
Sometimes, you just need something that snaps, crackles, or pops. Roasted seaweed snacks are a popular potato chip alternative for those on paleo.
While they’re not the most filling (just like potato chips), they do have an addictively salty crunch to them (also just like potato chips). It’s hard to eat just one, which in this case, is a good thing — seaweed is the best known food source of iodine and contains significant amounts of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.
A good selection of bars these days have much fewer ingredients, and therefore many more health benefits. Two top paleo-friendly bar brands — RXBar and LÄRABAR — print their ingredient list clearly on each packet and keep it pared down to about five or six ingredients per bar.
Take the Chocolate Sea Salt RXBar, which is made with a minimum of three egg whites, six almonds, four cashews, two dates, and no B.S. Or check out Lärabar's Apple Pie, with dates, almonds, unsweetened apples, walnuts, raisins, and cinnamon.
Both brands have no dairy, gluten, or artificial ingredients. And while they do contain a bit more sugar than the average paleo snack, it all comes from natural sources, like dates and fruit.
Meat plays a big role in the paleo diet. Nutrient dense and substantially filling, it was a dietary staple and one of the main food groups associated with our paleolithic ancestors. Meat was prepared simply back then — sliced, seasoned, and dried. This is also a form of protein that’s ideal for those on the paleo diet.
Dried meat, like beef jerky, biltong, and meat sticks, are perfect snacks to sneak in some protein throughout your day. Biltong in particular is one of the healthier options as it keeps the meat as true to form as possible, using no preservatives, fillers, GMOs, or any other artificial ingredients.
Pure Dark Chocolate
Although we have yet to unearth any evidence of cavemen munching away on chocolate bars, the core cacao ingredient is plant-based and offers a number of health benefits. The cacao seed is rich in antioxidants and minerals that could help improve blood flow, reduce inflammation, and prevent many diseases.
So yes, there’s a place for chocolate in the paleo lifestyle. As long as it’s organic, has little to no added sugar or artificial additives, and is as close to pure chocolate as you can get — definitely above 70%, but ideally above 85%.
Almond Butter Squeeze Packs
Although almond butter is best served straight from the jar, these travel-friendly packs will do in a pinch. Brands like Justin’s, Barney Butter, and Artisana know we need our nut butters — and they offer great paleo-approved options, made with simple, organic raw almonds. (Although Justin’s and a few other brands also contain some palm fruit oil to create a creamier texture.) Throw a few of these packs in your bag for whenever you need a quick squeeze or have them on fruit, like a banana, for a more satiating snack.
From the Kitchen
There will be times when you won’t be able to find something that satisfies your paleo standards. During those times, it’s good to have something you’ve prepacked from home. And while the paleo lifestyle does require a bit of meal prep and planning, these paleo recipes can make it just as easy and delicious as any other eating plan.
Hard boiled eggs are a simple snack that everyone can enjoy. Making them is a one step process — really just heating water — and it’s easy to boil big batches at a time. After a few weeks of eating them plain, however, you’ll probably want to change things up. Try slicing them onto a salad, pairing them with a breakfast plate, or mashing the yolks with some avocado, paleo mayonnaise, or natural spices for a tray of delicious deviled eggs.
It can be a challenge to fit in five servings of vegetables a day — unless you’re turning them into veggie chips. Then, it’s easy to go through bowls and bowls of crispy, crunchy greens. Some vegetables make much better chips than others, such as Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, beets, or kale chips. A douse of olive oil or coconut oil, a dash of salt, and a quick 30 minutes in the oven is all you need to turn this produce into a tasty paleo snack.
If you’re on a paleo diet, feel free to use bacon like you would a tortilla. Wrap avocados, cantaloupes, pears, asparagus, scallops, chicken chunks — as you’ll soon discover, bacon goes with just about everything.
Roasted Seeds and Nuts
Seeds and nuts are a naturally perfect snack — they’re small, crunchy, and packed with protein and healthy fat. They’re also so simple to prepare in big batches that it’s really better to create your own homemade mix.
Select 3-5 of your favorite varieties, and go salty with garlic powder and rosemary, spicy with chili and smoked paprika, or sweet with cinnamon and coconut sugar. You can even experiment with different flavored oils, and soak or sprout your seeds and nuts for an even healthier snack.
Paleo Granola or Trail Mix
Since you're already roasting seeds and nuts, why not go the extra step and create your own paleo granola or trail mix? To an existing mix (a popular mix includes almonds, cashews, pecans, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds), throw in some unsweetened coconut flakes, chopped dried fruit (preferably sugar-free), cinnamon, and coconut oil. Pair it with some dairy-free, sugar-free yogurt or coconut milk for an easy paleo snack idea.
Dips are a great way to dress up any vegetable or chip. And if made with the right ingredients, they can also pack in a lot of natural nutrition. Blend a batch of creamy guacamole, smoky baba ganoush, or cheesy cashew dip. Chop up some fresh tomatillo, pico de gallo, or jalapeño mango salsa. No matter what you’re munching on, a good dip can make it much, much better.
Paleo Snack Packs
When it comes to paleo, a good rule of thumb is to aim for the least processed and most natural food available. Thankfully, these days, there's a lot to choose from. From dried meats to roasted nuts to veggie chips, eating like our ancestors is now much more delicious and satisfying.