Snacking can get a bad rap but healthy snacks are actually an important part of your nutrition and fueling strategy as a runner. Healthy snacks for runners can be used to provide pre-run fuel, mid-run calories, and post-race recovery and refueling nutrients.
Healthy snacks are also a crucial component of a runner’s overall diet or nutrition plan, helping meet daily caloric and macronutrient needs throughout the entire day, not just in the interval of time right around a run.
The best snacks for runners are nutrient-dense and free from artificial ingredients, chemicals, trans fats, processed oils, and sugars.
The specific nutrient breakdown—including the calories and percentage of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, depends on the timing and purpose of the snack relative to your run.
For example, carbohydrates are most important before a run, though you’ll want to limit fiber, while protein-rich snacks help repair muscles after a workout.
Tired of the same boring snack every day? Keep reading for our list of the 26 best healthy snacks for runners!
Bananas may be one of the most classic healthy snacks for runners. This popular fruit provides plenty of carbohydrates, along with electrolytes like potassium and magnesium, which can prevent muscle cramping.
Bananas can be a good snack before, during, or after a run because they provide quick-acting carbohydrates to top off your blood glucose levels and aren’t particularly water-logged, so they won’t weigh you down before a run like melon or other watery fruits will.
Enjoy them with peanut butter or any other nut butter, or blend them into a smoothie for a more filling snack.
#2: Hummus and Crudités
Hummus, which is made with chickpeas and tahini, is a great snack for runners because it has complex carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, and a little bit of fiber. In this way, it is nutritious and satiating. Eating it with vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, pepper strips, and celery boosts the fiber content, and provides additional vitamins and minerals.
Hummus makes a particularly good snack after a run because it contains a balance of macronutrients to help refuel muscles after your workout.
#3: Snap Peas
Snap peas are sweet, crunchy, and filling. They make a good snack for runners looking to control their weight because they are nutrient-dense without being particularly calorically dense. Snap peas also contain some fiber and a little bit of protein.
Snap peas make a good post-run snack because they contain water, which can help replenish fluids lost in sweat.
Edamame is a staple in the Japanese diet, but all runners would do well to follow suit by snacking on this mighty little soybean. It’s rich in protein, filling fiber, antioxidants, vitamin K, iron, and calcium.
You can buy edamame fresh or frozen. One of the best ways to make edamame a good running snack is to take frozen shelled edamame out of the freezer before a run. Leave it to thaw on the counter while you run and enjoy it as a cooling treat when you get home.
#5: Hard-Boiled Eggs
Eggs can be seen as nature’s perfect little package when it comes to nutrition. They contain a complete source of protein with all the essential amino acids your body needs, as well as iron, B vitamins, and vitamins A, K, and D.
Eggs are a great post-run snack because the amino acids can get to work repairing your muscles. Pair one or two hard-boiled eggs with a source of complex carbohydrates for a more complete snack. For example, enjoy an egg on a whole-wheat English muffin or eat it alongside a piece of fruit.
#6: Trail Mix
Trail mix typically contains nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and possibly some cereal and chocolate. You can make your own or buy pre-made trail mixes, but be sure to look for ones with lower sodium.
Trail mix is filling and contains little to no water, making it an energy-dense snack. For this reason, while you can certainly enjoy trail mix any time of the day, it can be great for fueling on the run if you prefer to go the real food route in lieu of gels and bars.
Trail mix is also a smart snack choice before longer runs because it’s satiating without being heavy or sloshing around in your stomach.
#7: Protein Balls
It is really easy to throw together your own no-bake protein balls or energy bites at home, and they travel really well, so you can grab a few before or after a run even if you’re on the go. You can personalize your recipes and get creative with your flavors and mix-ins.
For an easy base to start with, combine whole rolled oats, your favorite nut butter, shredded unsweetened coconut, chopped nuts, dried fruit, cocoa powder, and protein powder.
Melt some coconut oil to combine the ingredients and bind them together. Roll the mix into small balls and then coat them in more coconut, cinnamon sugar, or a sprinkle of sea salt. You can also add chocolate chips to sweeten them up.
#8: Low-Sugar Cereal and Milk
While there are tons of sugar-laden cereals, there are also plenty of healthy breakfast cereals, which can make a nutritious snack. Look for cereals with less than 5 grams of sugar, and at least 5 grams of protein and fiber.
Cereal and milk can be a great pre-run snack for morning runners, as long as you aren’t sensitive to milk or choose to use plant-based milk. It’s also a good snack after a run because the cereal and milk combo provides the ideal ratio of carbohydrates to protein needed to refuel your body after a workout.
You can make nutrient-packed smoothies with fresh fruit, leafy greens, and yogurt or plant-based milk. Adding protein powder and nut butter can boost the satiety factor as well. If you don’t have a blender or prefer a more convenient, to-go running snack, you can also find pre-made portable protein-packed smoothies like Fuel By Fire and reHarvest.
Smoothies or protein shakes have the nutrient ratios to fuel a hard workout, prime your muscles for a hard effort, or refuel muscles after a run. They also help meet your hydration needs and are packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients, particularly if you use berries and greens.
#10: Yogurt and Granola
Containing an ideal ratio of complex carbohydrates to protein, yogurt with granola is one of the best snacks for runners. Opt for muesli or low-sugar granola, and choose strained or Greek yogurt with no added sugar.
Yogurt with granola is best enjoyed after a run, especially if you’re sensitive to dairy.
#11: Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is packed with muscle-building protein and can be a filling snack for runners. It also contains calcium to strengthen your bones.
Cottage cheese can be a smart snack choice for after a long run, especially when paired with fruit like melon, berries, or pineapple. It’s also a great bedtime snack, as it contains tryptophan, which can promote restful sleep.
#12: String Cheese
Most string cheeses are relatively low fat, protein-packed for lasting energy, and provide the bone-building calcium found in many dairy products.
String cheese can be enjoyed before or after a run, so long as you’re not sensitive to dairy. Pair cheese with fresh or dried fruit or whole-grain crackers for a more balanced snack, especially before a run where you’ll want carbohydrates.
#13: Whole-Grain Crackers and Tuna Fish
Whole-grain crackers contain complex carbohydrates for sustained energy. They can be eaten alone before a run or paired with a lean protein like tuna fish, turkey breast, or hummus after a run when you need a more balanced mix of macronutrients.
#14: Turkey and Grapes or Cherries
Another healthy snack for runners is lean turkey breast and grapes, other fruits, pretzels, or whole-grain crackers. Turkey provides a complete source of protein and can leave you feeling satisfied. After a run, opt for a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein, so enjoy turkey with a source of complex or simple carbohydrates.
#15: Protein Bars
Protein bars and energy bars make for convenient, on-the-go snacks for runners. They are often specifically designed to provide the ideal ratio of macronutrients to fuel your body before, during, or after exercise.
Related: The 7 Best Tasting Protein Bars For Runners in 2022
Energy bars are lower in protein and higher in carbohydrates than protein bars, making them great snacks for runners either before or during a workout. Protein bars are great for refueling after a run, especially if you have to rush on to the next activity or have a long drive and don’t have time or access to a more “real food” snack option.
Look for low-sugar bars with whole, natural ingredients, and no artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols, as they cause digestive distress.
Related: How to Make Homemade Protein Bars: 7 DIY Recipes for Runners
#16: Chocolate Milk
A few years ago, chocolate milk made a splash in the running world as a wonder-snack for runners after research came out that it’s an effective recovery drink. Chocolate milk contains protein, carbohydrates, and calcium to rebuild, repair, and refuel after a run.
#17: Rice Cakes and Nut Butter
Rice cakes don’t provide tons of lasting energy, but they are exceptionally light and easy to digest. This can make them a great snack before a run, particularly for those with sensitive stomachs.
To increase satiety, top rice cakes with a source of healthy fat and protein. For example, nut butter, tuna fish, turkey breast, hummus, or ricotta cheese with sliced fruit make for a tasty, balanced pre-workout snack for runners.
Oatmeal is rich in complex carbohydrates so it provides lasting energy, making it a great pre-workout snack for runners. Oats also contain prebiotics, a special type of fiber that feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut and has been shown to lower cholesterol.
Many runners do well with overnight oats with nut milk, fruit, chia seeds, and berries, or plain oatmeal with fruit and nuts before a morning run.
#19: Veggie-Packed Muffins
You can make your own muffins and add zucchini, carrots, beets, or other veggies, and use applesauce or canned pumpkin in lieu of some of the oil and sugar. Add flaxseeds and chia seeds to boost the fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acid content.
Veggie muffins are a healthy snack before or after a run. If you’re a morning runner, warming up one or two nutritious muffins before you head out the door can be an easily-digestible, palatable way to ensure you’ll be energized and fueled for your workout.
#20: Egg Cups
You can make mini egg muffin cups by scrambling eggs, veggies, and lean meats or tofu cubes and baking the mix in muffin tins. You’ll get tons of protein in a convenient, to-go snackable form.
Enjoy egg cups after a run when your muscles are begging for protein to rebuild and repair.
#21: Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a good snack for runners looking for something filling and healthy. They provide complex carbohydrates and fiber for sustained energy and vitamins A and C, and even make a tasty vehicle for almond butter for something sweet and super satisfying.
Air-popped popcorn is low-calorie but will give you that satisfying crunch we often crave in a snack. Because the calorie density is low—only about 30 calories per cup—popcorn makes a healthy snack for runners looking to maintain or lose weight since you can munch away on quite a large serving without inhaling hundreds of calories as you might with chips, nuts, or crackers.
Popcorn also provides a little bit of fiber (about as much as an apple in a 3-cup serving), and polyphenols, which are antioxidants that combat free radicals in your body.
To boost the nutritional content, try sprinkling air-popped popcorn with nutritional yeast. This superfood has a parmesan cheese-like flavor and is packed with B vitamins.
Because popcorn is light and carbohydrate-rich, it’s a good pre-workout snack.
#23: Protein and Veggie Wraps
A healthy higher-calorie snack for runners is a wrap with a lean protein—tuna, turkey, chicken strips, hummus, tempeh—and then loaded up with veggies like spinach, carrots, sprouts, and avocado.
This filling snack can either be eaten an hour or two before a run for those with less sensitive digestive systems or make a good post-run snack.
#24: Roasted Chickpeas
You can get most of the same health benefits of hummus in an arguably more fun form with roasted chickpeas. You can either buy them pre-made or roast your own.
Providing protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates, roasted chickpeas are a healthier snack for runners looking for something crunchy and satisfying rather than something like conventional potato chips or cheese crackers.
#25: Chia Seed Pudding
Chia seed pudding is made by soaking chia seeds in water or plant-based milk. They swell into a gooey, chewy, pudding-like consistency, and the pudding can be flavored with spices like cinnamon, vanilla, coconut, or cocoa powder. Chia seeds contain protein, fiber, and minerals like selenium, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
Plus, chia seeds provide over 5,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per ounce, making them a great post-workout snack for runners looking to reduce inflammation.
#26: Apple and Nut Butter
Whether you love peanut butter and banana, apple and almond butter, or sliced pear and sunflower seed butter, nut butter and fruit makes an excellent healthy snack for runners because it contains an ideal ratio of all three macronutrients, along with some fiber, water, vitamins, and minerals.
Most runners can tolerate fruit and nut butter before or after a run. The sugar in the fruit provides a quick boost of energy, while the healthy fats support sustained energy and keep blood sugar levels from spiking and then dropping.
There you have it, 26 great snacks for runners that you can try out today! For more information on running nutrition in general, check out our Running Nutritional Guide or our Ultra Marathon Nutritional Guide.