5 Filling, Nutritious Snacks That Keep Inflammation at Bay

Curb hunger and inflammation.

Doesn't everyone need an arsenal of snacks for that mid-morning or afternoon pick-me-up? Whether you're looking for healthy afternoon eats for the kids or need a quick, filling, and good-for-you bite during the workday, it's important to choose nutritious snacks that serve your body well. Instead of reaching for something sugary, overly-processed, or nutritionally empty, what if you eat not just to fuel up, but to help tone down the inflammation in your body?

Is Inflammation Bad?

Now, inflammation has gotten a bad rep, but let's remember that not all inflammation is bad. "Inflammation is a normal part of the body's response to infection or injury," says Brynn McDowell, R.D. "It's typically followed by a period of resolution that heals your tissues after inflammation. The goal is to keep the balance between inflammation and restoration. Chronic inflammation happens when the balance is never restored." And when it comes to chronic inflammation, the foods you eat can play a huge role in fueling the fire—or taming it.

How Can Food Help?

According to Kirstin Kirkpatrick, M.S., RDN, we can put food in one of two groups: foods that have been shown to increase inflammatory factors in the body, and foods that have been shown to decrease them. When we consume more of the latter than the former, our bodies thrive. Anti-inflammatory foods can help your body fight off oxidative stress, something that can cause inflammation. "Eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods is important because chronic inflammation can lead to heart disease, depression, joint pain, and GI issues," says McDowell.

What Makes a Snack Anti-Inflammatory?

When it comes to choosing a snack that helps lessen inflammation in the body, there are certain types of ingredients you can look for. "Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, extra-virgin olive oil, and fatty fish (think: a very Mediterranean pattern of eating) are known contributors to an anti-inflammatory diet," says Ale Zozos, M.S., RDN. "Many of these foods contain antioxidants or molecules that fight against free radicals to reduce the risk for chronic disease. In fact, foods that are vibrant in color like blueberries, beets, leafy greens, turmeric, and other berries, contain a healthy dose of antioxidants, which is why it's so important to eat in color." And when in doubt, just go for a plant-based option. "Virtually every plant has been shown to have anti-inflammatory impact," Kirkpatrick says.

Satisfying Anti-Inflammatory Snacks for the Whole Family

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Veggies and Hummus

Pink Hummus
Victor Protasio

"A variety of colored veggies (carrots, bell peppers, radishes, cucumber, mushrooms, snap peas) is a snack filled with fiber and antioxidants that can help decrease inflammation in the body," McDowell says. The addition of hummus provides a dose of protein that will help you stay satisfied until your next meal. You can go store-bought for the ultimate convenience, or try making your own hummus at home and experimenting with different flavor combinations, like white bean and horseradish.

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Plain Yogurt Topped With Blueberries and Walnuts

Getty Images

Whether for breakfast or a snack, yogurt is always an easy option. Stay away from sugary blends and opt-for a plain variety (dairy-free or regular) that you can customize with your own inflammation-fighting toppings. "The yogurt provides fat and protein, while the blueberries and walnuts are considered anti-inflammatory superfoods," McDowell says. "Plus the walnuts provide omega-3s, which help the body restore balance after inflammation."

RELATED: 4 Reasons to Make Pecans Your New, Nutrient-Dense Nut of Choice

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Smoked Salmon and Avocado Toast

Smoked Salmon Toast
Caitlin Bensel

A piece of hearty, whole grain toast lathered with smashed avocado and slices of smoked salmon is a delicious way to keep midday hunger at bay. "Salmon is a fatty fish that's a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and thought to help reduce inflammation in the body," says McDowell. "It's also a good source of protein, so combined with the healthy fats from the avocado, it's a snack that will keep you full for a while. Choosing a whole grain slice of bread for the toast will provide extra dietary fiber, something most people are lacking in the diet."

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Protein Power Bites (or Balls)

Superfood Bars
Kick start your morning with these no-bake bars, which star a variety of good-for-you nuts and seeds (buy them in bulk to save money at the grocery store). Each hearty square is the perfect blend of chewy and crunchy, and every bite is packed with nutty flavor. Pistachios add a pop of gorgeous green color, yes, but they’re also packed with nutrients and are a good source of calcium. Quinoa lends crunch and protein, while dried goji berries are rich in antioxidants. Be sure to store the bars, which will keep for one week at room temperature and two weeks in the fridge, between layers of parchment paper to keep them from sticking. Get the recipe:Nutty Superfood Breakfast Bites. Grace Elkus

Mixing up a batch of homemade protein power balls is easy to do in advance and the perfect snack to keep on hand for both kids and adults. "They can be the perfect bite of protein and fiber, and they're filled with anti-inflammatory ingredients," says McDowell. You can keep them basic or add in a whole food-based greens and plant-based protein powder (like Memore) to get in more inflammation-fighting superfoods.

McDowell's favorite power ball recipe combines a quarter cup of oats, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, 1 tablespoon of shredded coconut, and a touch of honey and dried fruit, as desired. Add in 1 scoop of your favorite greens blend and mix together, roll into balls, and let set in the fridge. Don't feel like making your own? Check out the Seed Bars by 88 Acres that are packed with anti-inflammatory ingredients like pumpkin seeds and cinnamon, but free from most common food allergens, making them a fantastic back-to-school option.

For more protein-packed snack options, check out recipes for Fruit-and-Nut Energy Bars and Walnut Energy Bars

RELATED: We Tried 182 Snack Bars—Here Are Our 5 Favorites

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Produce-Packed Smoothies

This Mango Turmeric Smoothie is so much healthier than it tastes.
Caitlin Bensel

The amazing thing about smoothies is that they're essentially a blank canvas, ready to be filled with healthy, anti-inflammatory ingredients. The key to keeping your smoothie healthy is to avoid high-sugar ingredients (consuming too much added, refined sugar can cause inflammation). Skip the added honey, maple syrup, and other sweeteners and rely on bananas, dates, or berries for that sweet taste you're after. Up the anti-inflammatory factor by adding in leafy greens like spinach, vibrant veggies like beets, and dark, antioxidant rich blueberries.

RELATED: 3 Incredibly Easy Ways to Boost Your Energy With Food

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