When you hear the word “snacks,” fried potato chips, salty pretzels, or buttery popcorn may come to mind. While this variety of snacking doesn’t exactly fit into a diet meant for weight loss, snacking can be a part of a healthy diet. When done correctly, it can actually aid in your weight loss goals. There are certain snacking tips that are essential for maintaining a healthy weight. They just involve a new way of looking at snacking.
“Snacking can 100 percent be part of your weight loss strategy, as long as snacking is proactive vs. reactive,” says Lindsey Joe, RDN, LDN. “Proactive snacks are planned to be nourishing, aka they provide vitamins, minerals, and nutrients and not just calories. They are also satisfying and take the edge off your hunger until you can sit down for your next meal.”
To make sure that you stay nourished without sabotaging your diet, you’ll want to utilize these six snacking tips.
When choosing a snack, try to find an option that contains different nutrients, especially a combination of fiber and protein. “If you eat snacks high in fiber and protein, you’ll be much less likely to overdo portions later in the day,” says Megan Casper, MS, RDN. “Protein and fiber both break down slowly, keeping you full[er] longer. So you won’t be starving when it’s time to sit down for your next meal.” Studies show that snacks like nuts, which are high in both fiber and protein, can help with weight control. This makes them a great snack option.
Be conscious of calories.
Although it’s most important to focus on the quality of your snacks, you still want to be aware of the calories. “You don’t have to go as low-calorie as possible, but rather be aware of the bigger picture,” says Joe. “If your snack packs 350 calories and you’re aiming for 400 calorie meals, you might need to fine-tune the quantities you’re including in your snacks.” Try aiming for snacks around 200 calories or less with at least five grams of protein and/or fiber, suggests Casper. Some of her recommended options: a handful of nuts, a hard-boiled egg, half a cup of edamame, two tablespoons of hummus with carrot sticks, or some fruit with Greek yogurt.
Avoid getting too hungry.
Don’t wait until you’re starving to decide what you’re going to eat for a snack. Research shows that people reach for more high-calorie foods when they haven’t eaten all afternoon. “Avoid a snack attack when hunger hits, especially if it’s been a while since you last ate,” says Joe. “Aim to refuel your body with a small satisfying snack every three to four hours.”
Incorporate fruits and vegetables.
Ditch those packaged, processed products. Incorporate more whole foods into your snacking. “Use snacks as a way to get ‘Five-A-Day,’” says Joe. “If you’re like most Americans you’re likely not getting enough servings of fruit[s] and vegetable[s] day to day. Use snacks as a way to increase your intake of produce (whether fresh, frozen, canned, or dried). They’re naturally fat-free, lower in calories, and full of fiber.”
Take your time eating.
It’s important to look at how you’re snacking, not just what you’re eating. For instance, how quickly you eat matters. Just because you’re eating a snack in between a meal doesn’t mean that you should rush through it. Take your time to enjoy the snack, as research shows that people who eat more quickly, eat more calories and gain more weight. How can you slow down? “Put your fork down between bites, take a sip of water, sit down instead of eating on the move, and turn off the TV and other gadgets,” says Casper. “Eating more slowly and mindfully will help you tune into cues that you are full. Enjoying your food will make you less likely to jones for more later.”
Carry snacks around at all times.
Making sure that you’re prepared is one of the most important snacking tips. If you don’t have healthy snacks on hand, you’re more likely to turn to the vending machine or some fast food. “Always carry a nutritious snack with you,” says Casper. “Whether you’re heading to the movie theater or [are] on the run, having a healthy snack with you, like a portioned bag of nuts, will make you much more likely to make a healthy choice.”
Snack smart to help reach your weight loss goals!