Salt gets an unfair reputation. While it's true that too much sodium can be harmful, it plays an important role in things like balancing fluid levels and maintaining a healthy blood pressure. It's a nutrient that the human body needs, which is why people can find themselves craving salt when they're deficient.
The key to incorporating salt into a healthy diet is to keep its intake at the recommended daily level: 2,300 milligrams or less. It's also crucial to keep an eye on calories since many salty foods can be calorie dense.
To satisfy that salty urge, here are a few snacks that will hit the spot without also hitting the waistline.
Sardines are one of the biggest "superfoods" on the planet. They have more calcium than a glass of milk, more iron than a cup of spinach and more of vitamins D and B12 than some nutritional supplements. Ounce for ounce, they also contain just as much omega-3 fatty acids as other forms of seafood such as salmon and cod.
If the taste of plain sardines isn't appealing, consider eating them with veggies, crackers or other finger foods. They can make a delightfully salty snack for everyone from kids needing an energy boost to desk workers who like having something to munch on between rounds of typing.
Chips are often the go-to snack for people who want something crunchy and salty. There are better alternatives, however, and they can be made right at home.
One option is DIY potato chips made with thinly-sliced potatoes that are baked in the oven until crispy. These can deliver the same crunch as store-bought chips without the usual frying or excessive sodium dumps.
Another option is the veggie chip. Prepared the same way as potato chips but with beets, yams, kale or Brussels sprouts instead, they can be a great way to get one's daily serving of veggies while also indulging in a salty snack.
Outside of movie theaters, popcorn is a very low calorie snack. It's only the gallons of butter and oil dumped on top that make it fatty and unhealthy.
The good news is that it's easy to buy unbuttered and unsalted popcorn. Some brands offer it in the same microwavable bags as the buttered stuff; others market it as kettlecorn with unpopped kernels that have to be put on the stove.
Regardless of how it's purchased, plain popcorn can be a very healthy, filling snack. It's also possible to add toppings in safe and moderate moderates if the plain taste doesn't appeal. Just stay away from Orville Orville Redenbacher!
Pretzels are a free space on the weight loss bingo card. They aren't particularly healthy, but they aren't particularly unhealthy. They're low in fat, high in carbs and decently salty for those with a craving.
The real magic of pretzels is their versatility. Pretzels can be paired with all kinds of dips and sides for a much more nutritious snack than the usual cakes and candies. They can be eaten with hummus; they can be added to trail mix; they can be drizzled with ranch or dunked into cream cheese. Hard pretzels are satisfyingly crunchy while soft pretzels have that ooey-gooey goodness.
Long story short, a person could definitely do worse than pretzels.
Offering fat, protein, fiber and salt, peanuts are a very nutrient-rich food. They're high in calories for their size, so they're best enjoyed by the handful rather than the jar, but they can be a quick and easy treat for the snacker who just wants something to munch on for a minute.
Another nice thing about peanuts is that they're readily available in dozens of flavors. From honey roasted to smoked bacon and cheddar, they can be flavored to anyone's taste.
Even chocolate-covered peanuts can be considered a healthy snack as long as the chocolate is dark and the serving size is small!
Seaweed has been a staple food of East Asia for centuries, but it's only in recent years that the Western world has cottoned on to its numerous health benefits. It has vitamins and minerals; it has antioxidants; it supports thyroid function. It's also salty enough to satisfy the palate without being a major source of calories. In fact, many dieters use seaweed snacks since a handful-sized portion can have as little as 45 calories!
The trick to enjoying seaweed is to buy seaweed squares or seaweed rolls. Don't just pluck it out of the ocean and chow down. Look for cut, cleaned, thinned and salted seaweed that will provide both taste and texture.
These are just a few salty and savory snacks that can still be considered healthy. They won't ruin any diets, and they won't harm the body with excessive amounts of sodium like many store-bought products. They're a better way to indulge in a treat.