15 Healthy Post-Workout Snacks That Aren’t Protein Shakes

Everyone loves a good protein shake that’s made well, but sometimes we just want something different … like actual food!

By Anna Hugoboom3 min read
Regina Foster/Shutterstock

Now, I love making protein shakes and smoothies, but it’s actually a good thing to give your body some variety, instead of the routine protein shake every single day (unless you’re really good about swapping up the added ingredients). However, substantial protein is still in order after exercising to avoid mindless snacking later on, as well as for toning those muscles you just worked on. This is especially important when you’re in the luteal phase with an increased metabolism, and you need more caloric-dense foods during those few days of spiked appetite. If you don’t get enough protein, you may feel like you “can’t get full for some reason,” and either your stomach or your mind (or both) will want to keep snacking.

Protein Bars or Candy Bars?

Most protein bars are basically just candy bars dressed up as “healthy” because of the added protein. Brands like Cliff, Quest, and Think! produce bars that are chock-full of processed seed oils, preservatives, tons of sugar or fake sugar chemicals, and cheap whey and soy protein – not healthy and no bueno. They might throw in some “organic rolled oats” or “organic peanut butter” to make a percentage of the ingredients look good on the label, usually with the protein-grams count proudly stamped where you can see it, but you still get the majority of the bar in the form of processed sugar/carbs and seed oils

The same thing goes for cereals and granola. Most cereals are completely useless and lacking in nutrition, and the majority of granolas have seed oils and/or tons of sugar added. Sure, it won’t kill you if you have them once in a while, but for go-to snacks, you want to keep a more wholesome list of options that are nourishing for your brain and fuel for your system. Remember to drink plenty of water with your protein so you can actually absorb it!

Remember to drink plenty of water with your protein so you can actually absorb it.

Healthy Bars

Bars are easy to pack and can be convenient for outdoor snacks or a quick grab. Some “healthy” bars taste disgusting, but not these! Junk-free should not have to be taste-free.

  • RX Bars. A personal favorite, these are super clean and tasty bars with only four-to-six simple ingredients. They have no sugar added, rather the sweetness comes from dates, and the protein comes from a nuts and egg whites. For you vegan gals, they also have plant-based options.

  • Aloha Bars. Another personal favorite, these have clean and organic ingredients, are plant-based and low-sugar, and are also very yummy. 

  • Larabars. You know these gals. Short ’n sweet, these simple bars now have protein options with pea protein added. If you grab the regs, the almond butter chocolate chip and the peanut butter cookie have the highest protein content (5 and 6 grams, respectively). 

  • Macrobars. These bars are so delectable they’re slightly addictive, and they have all the checks: certified organic and non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free, some nut-free options, vegan/plant-based, kosher, high in fiber with no fake sugar/artificial sweeteners (whew!). Though they don’t have a ton of protein, they’re still nutritious!

Solid Protein

Need I say more?

  • Boiled eggs. Delicious with hummus or guacamole.

  • Tuna/chicken salad. This tastes best from a homemade recipe (use homemade mayo or an avocado based one, or swap the mayo for mashed avocado). Eat with cucumber slices, baby carrots, bell pepper, carrot sticks, wrap in lettuce, or scoop onto a piece of Ezekiel toast.

  • Leftover meat. The best way to food prep is to just make large amounts of each meal and dress up the leftovers! Grab some rotisserie chicken or steak strips, and maybe wrap them with hummus in a quinoa tortilla.

  • Deli turkey. Pick an organic option and go easy on the portions because of the high sodium content. Try with some hummus or avocado, and slap it onto a piece of Ezekiel bread, a quinoa tortilla, or a serving of healthy crackers. Turkey-hummus pinwheels, anyone?

  • Snack plate. This is a great idea if you’re having friends over to exercise together. Toss some veggies sticks, hummus, fruit, maybe a bit of cheese (chevre is the best, just saying), some healthy crackers, and a few bites of jerky or organic deli meat (charcuterie meat is yum but high in fat and sodium) on a plate, and you’re good to go.

  • Protein baked oatmeal or no-bake protein bites. These are delish and inexpensive to make. Mix in some fruit, nut butter, collagen powder and/or protein powder, bake in squares or muffin cups (or roll into balls for the no-bake bites), and voilà, your healthy DIY snack! These are basically highly customizable trail mix in compact form, so add whatever you feel like (flax meal, cinnamon, coconut flakes). Check out some Pinterest recipes here and here to whip up, and be sure to get creative with the add-ins! 

Healthy Small Bowls

These can be even more delicious with more protein and nutrients if you add foods like chia/flax seeds, walnuts, sliced almonds, berries, banana slices, low-sugar granola, or coconut flakes.

  • Protein cereal. RX and Three Wishes cereal have clean ingredients and a good amount of protein if you’re feeling like a crunchy bowl of cereal. Plus, they’re grain-free for those who like that. These are a bit pricier than your average box of cereal, but you can portion out smaller servings because these options are more nutrient-dense, which makes it last longer. Or Nature’s Path bran cereal is a relatively healthy option for gluten-full peeps.

  • Overnight oats. Mush or Trader Joe’s are delicious options, or maybe explore some recipes. The options for flavors and add-ins are endless! 

  • Greek yogurt. A great choice for those who can digest dairy well. For dairy-free options, use dairy-free yogurt. Some lactose intolerant people can eat sheep milk yogurt just fine. Mix in some collagen powder and add berries and/or healthy granola for a parfait!

  • Smoothie bowl. This can be acai or whatever you feel like! Blend frozen bananas/berries with a liquid and add collagen and/or protein powder. Serve with fresh fruit and toppings.

Elevated PB & J

This classic deserves its own spotlight. Eat peanut butter, sunflower butter, or almond butter with apple slices, or slather with sugar-free fruit spread, mashed strawberries, or banana slices on Ezekiel toast or a rice cake. Jazz up your nut butter by mixing in a bit of raw honey with cinnamon/nutmeg/ginger for a biscoff-y spice spread! You’ll never use regular, plain ol’ nut butter again. Anti-inflammatory add-ins, check.

Closing Thoughts

It’s super important to eat a good chunk of protein after exercising to stabilize your hormones, support your metabolism, and feed those tired muscles! Even if you just need an afternoon snack that’s not necessarily post-workout, you still need to eat consistent protein to stabilize your blood sugar. Protein shakes can be very tasty and convenient, but these delicious snacks provide great food options that are packed with protein, nutrients, and color to satisfy your appetite. After all, the first bite is taken with the eyes

Don’t miss anything! Sign up for our weekly newsletter and get curated content weekly!