Healthy snacks that are anything but boring

Healthy food can get a bad rap. Dry chicken breasts and bland salads can make healthy eating feel like a chore. The truth is healthy food is delicious, and all we have to do is bring out the natural flavors. Unlike the stale chips sitting on the grocery store shelves, fresh fruits and vegetables are available to us without any processing needed. Just dip them in natural peanut butter or roast them in the oven.

For many people on a diet, meal prep can be a little time-consuming, but worth it. Once you have made a plan for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, you can feel confident that you'll be able to stick to your new healthy eating routine. The part that can trip you up, though, is the snacks. When it's 4 p.m. and your stomach is growling, you need a delicious, nutritious snack ready to go so you don't cave in to that vending machine calling your name. Here are six of our favorite healthy snacks that are so good, you'll never believe they're actually good for you.

Popcorn

Popcorn is not only a movie staple, it's a favorite of health-conscious gals for a quick snack on the go. Popcorn actually contains polyphenols, an antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables. This is just one of the reasons why nutritionist Joy Bauer loves popping up a bowl of this healthy snack. "Polyphenols have been linked to a reduction in heart disease and certain cancers," she shared with Today. "And, since it's 100% whole grain, popcorn is also a great source of fiber — you get 5 grams in a 4-cup portion." Making your own popcorn in an air popper is a quick and healthy way to get ready for movie night. If you don't have an air popper, no problem. Just opt for a microwavable brand that does not add butter or salt. Or make your own by placing about three to four tablespoons of kernels in a brown paper lunch bag. Fold the bag to seal it and microwave for about 2 to 3 minutes. Two cups of air-popped popcorn contains only 62 calories and can be mixed with any seasoning or spice for a new snack. Try making your own version of cheese popcorn by tossing together two cups of popcorn and one tablespoon nutritional yeast.

Frozen grapes

If your go-to afternoon snack has always been something cold like ice cream or frozen yogurt, try this cold, sweet treat instead. Red grapes are full of antioxidants and vitamins and are naturally sweet. Registered dietician Sharron Coplin shared with the University of Cincinnati health blog that red grapes provide our bodies with vitamins A and C. "Plus red grapes have an antioxidant in them (a polyphenol called resveratrol) that has been shown to slow atherosclerosis and heart disease by protecting the artery walls from 'bad' cholesterol," she explains.

Enjoy them straight from the fridge, or for a special treat rinse the grapes, then place them in the freezer for about 2 hours. When you take them out, you will have a cool slushy treat. One cup (about 25 grapes) is under 100 calories! Also, enjoying them frozen will cause you to naturally eat them more slowly, so they will last during your entire work break.

Carrots with hummus

Fresh vegetables had to make a list of healthy snacks. They give you that great crunch for a tiny amount of calories. If you typically reach for potato chips while binging on Game of Thrones, keep your fridge stocked with baby carrots and your favorite hummus. Hummus is made from chickpeas and can be a great source of plant-based protein. Try breaking out the blender or food processor to make your own. This recipe from Steamy Kitchen lightens up traditional hummus by using plain yogurt instead of tahini.

For a light snack, place a handful of baby carrots on a plate with a few tablespoons of hummus. One medium carrot has about four calories, so munch away! Try adding other veggies like celery, sliced bell peppers, and cucumbers for a beautifully colorful snack.

Gourmet toast

You might think it doesn't get much blander than toast. Well, it's true that traditional toast with butter and jelly won't excite anyone, but toast has gotten a major upgrade lately. Gourmet toast is trending and can make for an interesting and tasty snack.

Megan from With Salt and Wit has completely stolen my heart with this caprese avocado toast. Toast a nice piece of crusty bread, then pile on sliced avocado, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil leaves, and top with a balsamic glaze.

Kristine from Kristine's Kitchen satisfies your snack sweet tooth with this pear and almond butter toast with granola. I had never considered topping toast with granola, but it is genius! It gives this snack a satisfying crunch. This is quickly becoming my go-to snack for that late afternoon crash.

Greek yogurt with berries

I absolutely love having a bowl of Greek yogurt with berries in the afternoon. Greek yogurt is a protein powerhouse, so it will keep you full until dinnertime. It is also full of amino acids, which are necessary for rebuilding lean muscle, such as after a workout. An individual container of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt contains about 100 calories. Add 50 blueberries for just 39 calories.

There are plenty of flavor options in the dairy aisle at the grocery store, but I prefer to make my own. This way, my snack will taste better and contain a lot less sugar. Buy a tub of plain nonfat Greek yogurt. I like to mix mine with some peanut butter, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and a little stevia. I love the idea of taking a yogurt snack to the next level from Six Sisters' Stuff. This recipe for strawberry and granola yogurt bark is a great way to prep your yogurt for the week, then enjoy it any time you want.

Oatmeal cookies

If cookies have always been your favorite comfort food snack, it can be hard to find a satisfying alternative. Raw carrot sticks are just not going to do it. Healthy oatmeal cookies to the rescue! Because of its high fiber content, oatmeal has been linked to lower your risk factors for coronary heart disease. It keeps you full longer, so you won't be reaching for another snack as soon as you leave work. To make your own healthy cookies, combine one cup of uncooked oats with two ripe, mashed bananas. Drop tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. You can customize these anyway you like. Try adding your favorite nuts, dried fruit, or chocolate chips for the perfect sweet craving. These are great for breakfast the next morning, too.