10 Healthy Snack Ideas for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Healthy snacking options can enhance a rheumatoid arthritis diet. Look for low-calorie, anti-inflammatory foods. You'll be surprised how tasty your menu can be.

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A healthy snacking strategy can help you both feel full and stick to your rheumatoid arthritis (RA) diet. Snacking can also help you get needed nutrients into your daily menu. If you plan ahead to have healthy RA snacks on hand, you'll be less likely to dig into foods you crave but know you should avoid.

"With rheumatoid arthritis, it would be to people's advantage to choose foods that have anti-inflammatory properties," says Ruth Frechman, RDN, owner of On the Weigh in Burbank, California, and author of The Food Is My Friend Diet. "It's also important not to have excess weight, so choose snacks that don't have a lot of calories," she advises.


Power Up With Produce


"Fruits and vegetables are full of potential anti-inflammatory compounds," says Lona Sandon, PhD, RD, associate professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. A plant-based diet promotes lower inflammation and possibly boosts the immune response, according to study published in the March 2019 issue of the journal Advances in Nutrition.

Start with a variety of berries, citrus fruits like oranges or mandarin oranges, celery sticks, broccoli, and cauliflower. Dr. Sandon also advises looking for snacks with edible peels, like apples, grapes, peaches, and pears — those skins are rich in nutrients and anti-inflammatory compounds.


Opt for Easy Snacks


Rheumatoid arthritis snacks don't have to be a canapé contest. Prepare simple snacks that are easy to carry so you're ready for any eventuality, including painful hands. "Buy chunks of watermelon, pineapple, or cantaloupe pre-cut," says Sandon, who's had rheumatoid arthritis for 20 years. She also suggests looking for veggies that can be bought in snack sizes, like cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, and snap peas.

"Frozen fruit or fruit canned in water or its own juice is another option," she says. Think, too, about the tools you can use to help you. To make things easier, use kitchen scissors to open bags instead of trying to tear them open bare-handed, and invest in an electric can opener to save on effort.


Go Nuts


A serving of nuts makes a filling, good-for-you RA snack. Nuts are rich in fiber — healthy fats, and nutrients like magnesium — are smart additions to a rheumatoid arthritis diet. Nuts are also especially convenient snacks: Just pack a 1 to 2 ounce portion size in advance to carry with you.

"Shelled nuts and seeds are also easy for people with RA to handle," Sandon notes. For an additional RA snack option, go for nut butter on whole-grain bread or crackers.


Look for Vitamin D


People with rheumatoid arthritis are susceptible to vitamin D deficiency. According to a review and meta-analysis published in the October 30, 2020, issue of Frontiers in Medicine, vitamin D supplementation seemed to benefit people living with rheumatoid arthritis when compared with placebo.

Your best sources are sunlight or supplementation, but why not think about vitamin D when you're picking snacks as well? Sardines are an excellent source of vitamin D, according to Frechman. She recommends a healthful rheumatoid arthritis snack of canned chunk sardines prepared in tomato sauce and eaten on crackers.


Stave Off Hunger With Green Tea


Include green tea in your rheumatoid arthritis diet. Green tea contains polyphenol compounds that could play a role in countering the inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

"Green tea is also in the flavonoid family and can be a filling healthy drink," Frechman says. Green tea can be enjoyed hot or cold, making it a perfect refreshment for all seasons, although people sensitive to caffeine might want to cut off their green tea consumption around midday.

RELATED: 5 Iced Tea Recipes for Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptom Relief

Green tea is naturally lower in caffeine than other teas and is also available decaffeinated. Enjoy in the evening for a calming warm drink before bed.


Try Out Kale or Other New Foods


Kale chips, anyone? Frechman is an advocate of trying new flavors and treats when snacking. She recommends new cooking techniques, such as lightly oiling and spicing kale and baking it, then serving it like chips.

RA snacks are also a good way to try new flavors and spices, such as ginger, which the Arthritis Foundation notes has a variety of health benefits and may play a role in protecting painful, inflamed joints. When you're planning your rheumatoid arthritis diet, think outside the box for new and exciting snacks you'll look forward to.

We've put together a list of healthy options, and you'll be hard-pressed to find better rheumatoid arthritis snacks in a vending machine or corner store. Your best bet is to plan ahead and pack a few snacks to carry with you throughout the day.

A bag with nuts, dried cherries, low-fat string cheese, and a piece of fruit can all go with you almost anywhere without needing refrigeration. Save the more labor-intensive RA snacks for days when you know you'll be near a kitchen to prepare them.


Snack on Edamame


For a healthy anti-inflammatory treat, Sandon recommends trying the spicy combination of wasabi and edamame, a soybean. Snacking on high-protein soy foods, which include edamame, has been shown to be both filling and may be a way to boost your mood and reduce risk of cognitive decline, say researchers in an article published in the February 2020 issue of Nutrition Reviews. You can eat edamame steamed in the pod or try them with a new flavor, like wasabi, Sandon says.


Enjoy Salmon and Crackers


“You can get healthy omega-3s in fatty fish like salmon," says registered dietitian Leah Hoffman, PhD, an associate professor and director of the coordinated program for master of arts in dietetics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City.

"Try mixing cooked salmon with an olive-oil-based vinaigrette and eating it with whole-wheat crackers for a scaled-up version of tuna salad. In addition to the healthy fish oils in salmon, the olive oil in the vinaigrette contains additional compounds that fight inflammation.” The Arthritis Foundation also recommends including fish and healthy oils in your diet.


Try Curry Roasted Chickpeas


You might find your new favorite snack in a foreign cuisine. Curry mixes contain spices like turmeric and ginger, which are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties. Rinse a can of chickpeas and roast them, then toss them in curry seasoning for a new flavor.

“Chickpeas roasted in curry, which is anti-inflammatory, are a healthy and delicious snack,” Frechman says. Researchers have been able to directly observe the anti-inflammatory effect of turmeric (curcumin) in a rat model, according to research published in the Acta Cirurgica Brasileira.