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Cancer Risk and Prevention

Snacks and Dashboard Dining

Grab a cinnamon roll and latte for the morning commute, chips and soda from the vending machine to get through the mid-afternoon slump, a few cookies before bed... and you just might have taken in more calories from snacks than from the day’s meals!

You can avoid this diet downfall, but still satisfy your hunger between meals and on the go, by trying some of the foods listed here. For a healthier snack that will carry you through until the next meal try to include protein.

Quick healthy snacks

Try these suggestions and keep these quick, healthy snacks on hand:

  • Low sugar, 100% whole-grain cereals, and with low-fat or non-fat milk and fruit. Keep single serving sizes handy.
  • No-sugar-added applesauce, sliced peaches in their own juice, or other single serving fruits
  • Fresh fruit, such as pears, apples, oranges, , peaches, kiwi, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, and bananas
  • Mixed nuts and a piece of fresh fruit, like apple or pear. While nuts have many health benefits, they are high in calories, so remember to keep portions small.
  • Dried apricots, apples, nectarines, etc. Keep portions small – dried fruits can be high in calories.
  • Low-fat or non-fat milk and a homemade or store-bought low-fat, whole-grain muffin. Stay away from jumbo sized muffins.
  • At the coffee shop, black coffee, espresso or black tea is best. Remember that flavored lattes and cappuccinos can have as many calories as a full dessert – ordering these drinks with sugar-free flavoring and non-fat milk can help cut down on calories.
  • Popcorn (2½ cups) – instead of a high-fat butter topping, get creative with herbs and spices – like chili powder, garlic, or lime zest - to flavor your popcorn
  • Whole grain crackers and part-skim mozzarella cheese (1 oz.)
  • Grilled chicken kabob: grilled chicken breast with low-fat cheese cubes (0.5 oz. each) and cut-up red or green bell peppers
  • Chopped vegetables from your own kitchen, such as red and green bell peppers; jicama, carrot, and celery sticks; snow peas; button mushrooms; and/or broccoli with non-fat ranch dressing or hummus. Bag them to go.
  • Boost the nutritional value of any snack with single-serving, boxed low-fat milk. For a lower calorie option, try sparkling water with a dash of fruit juice.

Hearty dashboard dining

For safety reasons, you should never eat while driving, and meals eaten at home tend to be healthier and lower in calories than those from restaurants. But sometimes, our hectic schedules just don’t allow for leisurely sit-down, home-cooked meals. If you and your family are running late in the morning or need a quick dinner on the way to soccer practice, you may need to grab something to eat on the way.

You could pull in a fast food drive-thru to get the 550-calorie ham, egg, and cheese bagel that contains 31 grams of fat, but you might also enjoy one of the balanced, portable meal ideas here just as much. Include fruit, vegetables, or low-fat or non-fat milk for their healthy nutrients.

  • Fill a small bag with dry whole-grain cereal, dry roasted peanuts, and raisins for a hearty, homemade trail mix snack
  • Toast 100% whole-grain bread for a sandwich of natural peanut butter - topped with sliced banana in place of jelly or jam, which can be high in added sugar. Take along a low-fat or non-fat milk box.
  • Try a hard-boiled egg, mini-bagel, banana, and a thermos of water
  • Experiment with cheese and crackers: try 100% whole-grain, reduced-fat crackers with part-skim string cheese, an apple, and sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice.
  • Boost calcium and protein with ready-to-go products like low-fat yogurt in a tube, drinkable yogurt, or lunch-sized milk cartons. Single-serving Greek yogurt has even more calcium and protein – just remember to grab a spoon! Flavored yogurt can have high amounts of added sugars – look for varieties that have less than 30 grams of sugar per 8 ounces.
  • Fill whole wheat pita bread with tuna salad (made with low-fat or fat-free mayonnaise) and fresh spinach, romaine lettuce, or green salad mix; take along a milk box and fresh fruit, like a small apple or grapes.
  • Make a dinner wrap using a whole grain tortilla. Fill with grilled chicken, reduced fat cheese, sliced tomatoes, lettuce, sprouts, roasted red peppers, black beans, and/or chickpeas (garbanzo beans). To flavor and hold a wrap together, thinly spread low-fat cream cheese or hummus on the tortilla, or use a small amount of low-fat ranch or blue-cheese salad dressing.

With a little planning, you and your family can stay “on the go” and still get the nutrients you need!

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Revised: October 18, 2021

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