The classic road trip jerky you may have grown up eating has undergone a modern makeover in recent years.
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Nowadays, you can find plenty of healthy meat snacks to boost your protein intake throughout the day — from crispy chips to chewy bars and biltong.
However, there are a few things to note before buying your next batch of jerky and sticks.
What to Look for When Choosing a Meat Snack
- The more natural, the better: Look for a snack that's closest to its normal form, recommends Carrie Gabriel, RDN. Choose meat snacks that are made with real herbs and spices with little to no artificial ingredients.
- Go grass-fed when you can: Grass-fed beef is higher in beta-carotene and is up to four times higher in vitamin E than grain-fed cattle, Gabriel says. Grass-fed beef is also generally lower in cholesterol and saturated fat and higher in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Look for low-sodium: Dried meats can be loaded with excess sodium, adding a significant amount to your daily intake, Gabriel says. Try and keep your meat snack below 350 milligrams. But if the product goes over, try and drink a little more water and limit the rest of your sodium throughout the day.
Are You Getting Enough Protein?
Ingredients to Avoid
- Added sugar: Certain meat snack flavors (think barbecue) and brands are far from sugar-free. Gabriel recommends that you avoid more than 6 grams of added sugar per serving.
- Synthetic hormones and antibiotics: Choose a brand that uses hormone- and antibiotic-free meat. Although synthetic hormone use in animals is regulated by the FDA, Gabriel recommends you try and steer clear of animals that have ingested these substances.
8 Healthy Meat Snacks to Try
1. Epic Bison Bacon Cranberry Bar
Per serving: 130 calories, 8 grams fat (3 grams saturated fat), 320 milligrams sodium, 8 grams carbohydrates (1 grams fiber, 0 gram sugar, 6 grams added sugar), 7 grams protein
If you like a little sweet flavor to your jerky, this cranberry bison bar is a great choice. Plus, it's made with 100 percent grass-fed bison.
Epic makes a variety of meat-based protein bars, including beef, bison, pork, chicken and even venison options. But if you want a simple on-the-go snack that you're sure to love, the Bison Bacon Cranberry Bar is a safe bet.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $2.79 per Bar
2. Kalahari Biltong Garlic Air-Dried, Thinly-Sliced Beef
Per serving: 80 calories, 2 grams fat (1 grams saturated fat), 235 milligrams sodium, <1 gram carbohydrates (0 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar, 0 grams added sugar), 16 grams protein
Biltong is air-dried, which helps the meat retain its true flavor. Then, marinated with a blend of vinegar, salt, pepper, coriander and garlic powder, you're left with a snack that tastes like a combo of jerky, slow-roasted beef and prosciutto.
With 0 grams of carbohydrates, Kalahari Biltong is both keto- and paleo-friendly. Plus, it's gluten-free and contains zero soy or sugar.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $23.50 per pack of three
3. Wilde Himalayan Pink Salt Chicken Chips
Per serving: 140 calories, 6 grams fat (1 grams saturated fat), 280 milligrams sodium, 9 grams carbohydrates (0 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar, 0 grams added sugar), 10 grams protein
If you prefer your snacks with more of a crunch, chicken chips may be the way to go. (Yep, you heard that right, chicken chips.)
This high-protein snack is made with antibiotic-free chicken breast, tossed in tapioca flour and crisped into a chip. The pink salt flavor is probably the mildest but the brand does offer other, more zesty and spicy flavors.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $29.99 per pack of three
4. Stryve Hatch Green Chile Biltong Beef Sticks
Per serving: 90 calories, 8 grams fat (4 grams saturated fat), 350 milligrams sodium, 0 grams carbohydrates (0 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar, 0 grams added sugar), 14 grams protein
With a double-digit protein count, low sodium and 0 grams of sugar, Stryve's jerky sticks are pretty much a no-brainer. These convenient green chile sticks are also air-dried and preservative-free, so you won't need to worry about any unwanted ingredients.
While this flavor will give you a spicy punch, Stryve offers a variety of alternatives, including Spicy Peri Peri and Mesquite BBQ.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $27.99 per pack of 12
5. Country Archer Zero Sugar Mustard BBQ Beef Jerky
Per serving: 70 calories, 1.5 grams fat (0 grams saturated fat), 340 milligrams sodium, 2 grams carbohydrates (0 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar), 12 grams protein
Mustard BBQ is a pretty classic sweet and tangy flavor but it can contain some hidden sugars. This Country Archer jerky is free of sugar, blending vinegar, mustard and spices without any added nonsense, according to Country Archer's website.
Country Archer also uses 100 percent grass-fed and grass-finished beef. It's also certified gluten-free and certified keto, making it a diet-friendly option for just about any regimen.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $36 per pack of six
6. Prevail Lemongrass Beef Jerky
Per serving: 70 calories, 1 grams fat (0 grams saturated fat), 310 milligrams sodium, 5 grams carbohydrates (0 grams fiber, 4 grams sugar), 12 grams protein
There's no shortage of unique jerky flavors and you can add lemongrass to that list. Prevail's lemongrass flavor blends a variety of complementary spices to create a sweet and tangy zest unlike any you've tried before.
Prevail's jerky is also low in added sugar and free of saturated fat, making it a healthy choice. This flavor is also formulated with organic matcha tea, too!
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $21.99 per pack of three
7. Chomps Original Beef Sticks
Per serving: 90 calories, 6 grams fat (2.5 grams saturated fat), 290 milligrams sodium, 0 grams carbohydrates (0 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar, 0 grams added sugar), 9 grams protein
Fans of classic beef jerky will want to give Chomps Original Beef Sticks a try. These grass-fed and grass-finished beef snacks pack less than 100 calories per serving and are made with filler-free ingredients.
Slightly smoky and spicy in flavor, these sticks are also made with beef certified by the Humane Farm Animal Care. This leading non-profit certification organization promises kinder, more responsible farm animal practices for all certified companies.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $19.80 per pack of 10
8. Prevail Beef Jerky
Per serving: 70 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 280 milligrams sodium, 5 grams carbohydrates (0 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar, 4 grams added sugar), 12 grams protein
Made with grass-fed beef that's raised without any antibiotics or added hormones, this beef jerky makes a protein-rich snack you can feel good about eating on the go.
This beef jerky from Prevail is low in fat but high in flavor, boasting the tastes of spices like smoked morita peppers, garlic, ginger and cardamom. Coconut sugar adds a hint of sweetness and compliments the saltyness of the meat for a snack you'll love.
Buy it: Bubble.com; Price: $6.99 per pack