So Much Better Than Candy: Easy Guilt-Free Snacks to Make at Home

image: Getty

image: Getty

Many of us were raised to think three square meals a day is all an adult needs to stay fueled during her waking hours. Sure, kids need an after school pick-me-up, but once that real job gets underway, we rely solely on breakfast, lunch and dinner, right? Wrong. For years, doctors have been saying that small meals and/or snacking throughout the day is the best way to keep a healthy, steady metabolism. And as anyone who's been sitting at a desk knows, when afternoon fatigue sets in, it helps to have something to nosh. 

I've been guilty of hitting up the vending machine and grabbing a Snickers from time to time, but you'd be surprised how much better healthy food with real flavor tastes once you rid your palate of the chemical-filled packaged treats that promise a quick fix and instead deliver empty calories. Some of my favorite healthy snacks are listed below. You might have to find the ingredients in a seldom-traveled grocery store aisle, but once you get used to it, you'll make sure your pantry is stocked. And you'll love the satisfaction you get from eating whole foods.

Cheese Amour

Pick up a container of good-sized cherry tomatoes. Then head over to the cheese section and grab a package of fresh goat cheese. Your last stop will be in the produce section for fresh herbs, such as a package of basil, chives or parsley. Once home, prep is crazy simple. Cut the tomatoes in half, spread each with a bit of goat cheese and sprinkle with chopped herbs. It'll keep in the fridge for a couple of days. It's also not a bad dish to prepare for a summer picnic or BBQ. Don't thank me, I got the recipe from Real Simple.

Popcorn Twist

Popcorn has long been known to be a low cal snack. But it can be sort of blah eaten plain. Drizzle sesame oil and toss with sesame seeds for an earthy, nutty flavor addition that doesn't add unhealthy fat. Olive oil and dried herb mixes picked up at the grocery store offer another option. There's actually a lot you can do with your popped corn. Lime juice and chili powder gives it a spicy Tex Mex vibe.

image: Getty

image: Getty

Mediterranean Ants on a Log

If you enjoy raisins and peanut butter, you can't really go wrong with traditional ants on a log. If you want a slightly more grown-up version, pick up hummus, olives and (of course) celery sticks. Spread celery with hummus and cut olives into small pieces to sprinkle on top.

Homemade Nutty Bark

This requires a bit more forethought, but is a snack savior for those of us with an incurable sweet tooth. You'll need a container of unsalted nuts and dark chocolate to melt, as well as wax paper. Melt the chocolate (you can do so slowly in the microwave) and stir in the nuts. Use a spoon to lift out the coated nuts and place on waxed paper. Put in the fridge so the clusters solidify, and don't melt. Enjoy one or two at a time (depending on size) when you start to eye the Snickers in the vending machine. Works like a charm.

Easy Reese's

I couldn't resist one more sweet, honorable mention. This one comes from MSN's Fitbie and I can't wait to give it a try. So simple and obvious after you hear what it is. Take a piece of dark chocolate (the darker you can manage the better) and spoon a small amount of all natural peanut butter on the end or a thin layer over the top. You've got a much healthier and natural take on good old Reese's Peanut Butter cups. Enjoy!