Craving Something Salty? These 20 Nutrient-Dense Snacks Will Satisfy
While sodium tends to have a bad (mixed, at best) reputation, the mineral supports electrolyte balance, nutrient absorption, and kidney function. So, next time you have a hankering for something salty, listen to your body instead of suppressing it. Of course, it's still important to ensure you're getting the right amount of salt from a high-quality source, like these R.D.-approved, nutrient-dense options:
With at least six different varieties, pickles are certainly a versatile snack. As long as you're not opting for sweet pickles, this electrolyte-rich food should satisfy salty cravings. Plus, the naturally occurring probiotics in fermented pickles make this option an ideal gut-friendly snack, says registered dietitian Ella Davar, R.D., CDN. Learn to make pickles at home so you always have them on hand.
Similar to pickles, sauerkraut (a fermented cabbage) also contains gut-friendly probiotics and prebiotic fibers. Along with supporting a healthy microbiome, studies have shown that probiotics may lower blood pressure1 and improve blood sugar2. "For these reasons and because sauerkraut contains fiber3, it can also support heart health," registered dietitian Abby Cannon, J.D., R.D., CDN, previously told mbg.
Olives are rich in both heart- and brain-healthy fats. "Olives and olive oil are considered such great health foods, not only because of the monounsaturated fat and oleic acid but because they, too, are chock-full of polyphenols," cardiologist Steven Gundry, M.D., once wrote for mbg. This compound helps manage inflammation, maintain healthy blood sugar levels,4 and support brain health5. Snack on them solo or paired with a creamy goat cheese.
Beef or bison jerky
If you're a meat-eater, beef or bison jerky is a great protein-packed option. "It is a convenient on-the-go snack that is made with real food," Davar tells mbg. Try to look for grass-fed, organic, or regeneratively raised meat—like these options from Epic Provisions or Roam Free.
Though it can get a bad rap, when sustainably sourced and eaten in moderation, red meat is a healthy source of zinc, iron, and vitamin B12.
For those who don't eat red meat, salmon jerky is another nutritious option. "It's packed with protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which makes this snack option a winner," Davar says. When it comes to choosing sustainable fish jerky, she recommends the wild and organic options, like VitalChoice or Alaska Seafood Company. This is a great snack for anyone following a Mediterranean or pescatarian diet, as well.
When you're in need of a filling, fiber-rich snack, grain-free crackers can hit the spot. "I love the convenience and appreciate the creative recipes of food companies, such as Simple Mills, Mary's Gone Crackers, and Hu Kitchen, for their nut- and seed-based crackers," Davar says.
"They are savory and salty, satisfying hunger without spiking blood sugar," she adds. Plus, they can serve as a vessel for protein-packed nut butter, hummus, or tuna salad. These are especially beneficial for people with celiac or other grain or gluten sensitivities.
"Foods like nuts and seeds contain fiber, omega-3s, and antioxidants, so snacking on a trail mix or a handful of nuts can be very heart-healthy," Seattle-based registered dietitian Ginger Hultin, M.S., RDN, previously told mbg.
Here are a few favorites and their benefits: Brazil nuts are rich in the thyroid-supporting selenium; walnuts have been shown to improve gut and heart health; pistachios are considered a complete protein (one of the few plant-based sources); and almonds may lower cardiovascular disease risk.
"Seeds contain significant levels of essential fatty acids, protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants—which are vital to any healthy diet," integrative health coach Ximena Araya-Fischel, M.A., once wrote. "And because they are so nutrient-condensed, you don't need to eat many to reap their benefits." Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are two of the most salty, snackable options, but there's also chia, flax, sesame, and more to choose from.
Bonus: Combine the nuts and seeds for extra nutrients. "Salted pumpkin seed and cashew mix is a great midday snack idea," women's health dietitian Valerie Agyeman, R.D., says. "Packed with heart-healthy fats and magnesium for a mood boost, they are a great nutritious combo worth having."
Canned sardines are an affordable, sustainable source of fish, which happen to be lower in mercury6 than some larger fish. Registered dietitian and mbg Collective member Jess Cording, M.S., R.D., CDN, considers them a favorite snack, and nutritional psychiatrist Drew Ramsey, M.D., eats them as part of a brain-healthy diet.
Whether you're eating them bone-in or bone-out, "you're getting a good amount of protein, vitamin D, and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids,"" Cording once said. Research has also suggested that eating two cans of sardines per week may lower diabetes risk.
Salmon roe is "high in a phospholipid form of omega-37, which is scientifically shown to be the most beneficial form, capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier8," Davar explains. It has a slightly salty, fishlike flavor that works well on its own, or as a topping for eggs, crackers, or toast, Davar says.
Edamame is high in mood-enhancing folate and fiber, to keep you feeling full longer. "It's also a good source of soy protein, an option for vegetarians and vegans, as it is one of the highest sources of protein in a plant-based eating routine," Agyeman tells mbg. They can be sprinkled with a bit of sea salt or—as Agyeman likes to eat them—drizzled in sriracha. "Not only does it taste amazing, but it's also super nutritious," she says.
"Popcorn is a whole grain, adding fiber to your day. It's also light and airy, so you can have a few cups in one serving," registered dietitian Adrienne Ngai, R.D., MSc, CDE, previously said of the R.D.-approved snack. You can top it with a variety of flavors, like nutritional yeast, salt and pepper, or chili and lime—depending on your preferences.
Chips and guacamole
Guacamole, made primarily from avocado, is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. In addition to the good fats, functional medicine doctor Frank Lipman, M.D., once stated that avocados contain other health-supporting nutrients, including over 14 minerals, protein, soluble fiber, phytosterols, polyphenols, carotenoids, omega-3s, and vitamins B-complex, C, E, and K, to name a few.
Season it with a bit of salt and eat it with veggies, or pair it with grain-free tortilla chips, like these from Siete Family Foods.
Canned chickpeas are an affordable shelf-stable legume that can work in, well, just about everything—including snacks. Simply roast them in olive oil and sea salt to satisfy a salty, crunchy craving. These beans are rich in magnesium (making them a decent bedtime snack), vitamin B6, fiber, and protein.
"Seaweed crisps are a unique yet nutritious snack to try out," Agyeman says. "Seaweed contains a concentrated source of iodine and an amino acid called tyrosine, which supports thyroid function." You can pair the crispy snack with a hard-boiled egg, make a wrap with veggies, sprinkle onto your popcorn, or mix into your favorite dip, she suggests. "It's super versatile, and there are so many creative ways to enjoy it."
Most cottage cheese brands provide between 15 and 25 grams of protein per cup9, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Protein is essential for muscle recovery and growth, registered dietitian nutritionist Shana Spence, M.S., RDN, CDN, once told mbg. Pair it with tomatoes or crackers for a savory snack.
Kale chips (i.e., kale roasted in olive oil, sea salt, and other seasonings of choice) are rich in antioxidants, like beta-carotene, vitamins A and K, and lutein, according to Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D. Because of their hearty texture, these leafy greens hold up well in roasting and make for a crispy, crunchy, salty snack: Potato chip, but make it superfood.
Cheese and crackers
Cheese and crackers (aka the bare bones of a cheese board) serves up protein, fiber, and that touch of sodium you're seeking—all in one. And unless you suffer from a sensitivity or allergy to dairy, there's no real reason to fear the food. While certain processed cheeses can contain unnecessary additives, dietitian Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, previously told mbg minimally processed "cheese can absolutely add nutrients, like protein and calcium, to your diet."
Here: 10 of the healthiest cheeses, which you can pair with grain-free crackers, pretzels, or nuts.
Hard-boiled eggs with sea salt
Cording recommends boiling eggs and sprinkling them with sea salt for a filling, nutrient-dense snack. According to the USDA, boiled eggs10 contain a considerable amount of protein, selenium, folate, vitamins A and D, and more—making this an affordable, healthy, and easy-to-make snack option.
Roasted broccoli or cauliflower
While roasted broccoli or cauliflower is "maybe not conventional," Cording says both veggies are "delicious as a snack." With a proper amount of salt and olive oil, these cruciferous veggies will crisp up nicely in the oven, emulating the texture of chips—but with added vitamin, mineral, and gut-friendly benefits. If that doesn't feel "snacky" enough for you, make this roasted broccoli dip instead.
Now that you know what you're snacking on, follow these tips for maintaining a well-stocked snack shelf, and browse these sustainable snacking markets to load up.
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.