Eating a snack between meals helps curb your hunger so that you don’t inhale your dinner when you finally sit down to eat a meal. Snacking can also help you get in all the nutrients you need. On the flip side, grazing all day-particularly on foods with little nutritional value may result in eating too much. It’s a great idea to make sure you have healthy options on hand and you are prepared when hunger strikes. Many of these weight-loss snacks are also great on-the-go snack options. Here we tackle some common snacking questions and then share 10 healthy snacks for when you want to lose weight.
Can snacking be a part of a healthy diet? Of course! When you choose a snack, choose one with protein, fat and/or fiber. All of these nutrients take longer to digest, so they fill you up. Snacks are also a great way to add extra nutrition to your day. Think of snacks like carrots and hummus, an apple with almond butter or whole-grain crackers with cheese. Also, if you let yourself get too hungry, you’re more likely to overeat at your next meal. So even though we tend to think of chips and candy as “snack” foods, eating snacks can help you from overeating.
You may think that calories are the most important thing for snacking when it comes to losing weight. But you can have 100 calories of jelly beans and not be satisfied at all, versus eating 200 calories of nuts and dried fruit. That’s not to say calories don’t matter at all, but it’s also important to choose a snack that delivers nutrition and fills you up. All of our weight-loss meal plans allow for two snacks a day and on the 1,500-calorie meal plans each snack is around 200 calories per day.
What about evening snacking? The biggest problem with nighttime snacks is most of us typically reach for ice cream and chips—not fruit and yogurt. That’s not to say you can’t have a treat after dinner. Some of your favorite evening snacks may even be on this list (Chocolate! Popcorn!).
One thing to note, if you’re always hungry after dinner, make sure your meal is made up of filling and healthy foods and you’re getting enough food. If all you’re nibbling on is a lackluster salad you may legitimately be hungry and need an evening snack (see our best dinner foods for weight loss).
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If you love an evening snack after dinner, serve yourself a healthy portion onto a plate or bowl so you’re not scooping straight from the container where you’re more likely to eat more. Having your own bowl allows you to check in with your body and hunger levels. Here are our picks for Best & Worst Late-Night Snacks, According to a Dietitian.
More healthy snacking inspiration? These 10 healthy snacks are smart choices that can help you lose weight and include a mix of sweet, savory, crunchy and creamy snacks.
Nuts are a great healthy snack. And even though they’re high in fat, you don’t need to avoid them if you’re trying to lose weight. Plus, almonds deliver filling fiber, protein and healthy fats. Almonds help keep hunger at bay, improve your heart health, and may even help you lose belly fat (learn more about all the amazing health benefits of almonds). Grab a handful, eat them with some dried fruit and dark chocolate or spread some almond butter on an apple.
A serving of almonds, one ounce or 23 almonds, has 164 calories, 4 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein.
You don’t need to go on a grapefruit diet to reap the health benefits of this ruby fruit. A whole grapefruit has about 100 calories and 4 grams of fiber. Not to mention, it delivers 100 percent of women’s vitamin C needs for the day. That’s a lot of nutrition packed into this tart citrus fruit (see other powerful health reasons to eat more grapefruit).
One study found that when people simply ate grapefruit with each meal, they lost up to 3 1/2 pounds over three months. Grapefruit may help manage appetite by lowering insulin levels, say researchers.
Keep chickpeas in the pantry. They have a meaty texture and a nutty flavor along with plenty of satiating fiber and a little protein-perfect when you’re watching your weight. Try roasting them for a crunchy snack that packs up easily.
1/2 cup of chickpeas has about 100 calories, 5 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber.
Toss grapes in the freezer for an easy snack. Because they’re sweet and you savor them individually and slowly, you’ll get a lot of satisfaction for just a handful of calories. Even though grapes are high in sugar for fruit (see our ranking of fruits from lowest to highest carb here) they are a great way to naturally satisfy your sweet tooth. 1 cup of grapes has about 100 calories.
Losing weight doesn’t mean giving up the foods you love. Believe it or not, giving yourself little treats may be the secret to losing weight-for good. Aiming to be “too good” sets you up to fail and doesn’t allow you to fully enjoy your foods.
If you like a glass of wine with dinner, make room for it. Prefer dessert? Skip the drink and go for a small chocolate treat instead. Remember, if you have both-that’s OK too. Don’t beat yourself up. Just enjoy a healthy breakfast tomorrow.
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Popcorn is high in fiber and even delivers a little protein. A 1-ounce serving (about 3 cups) of air-popped popcorn has 4 grams of fiber, almost 4 grams of protein and clocks in at 110 calories. This combination makes it a snack with staying power. Popcorn is actually a whole grain and 3 cups is a huge serving-especially when you compare it to other crunchy, salty snacks like chips. Many companies are making bagged popcorn, see our favorite healthy popcorn picks.
Use snacks to fill nutritional gaps. Choose snacks that provide calcium and fiber—two nutrients that people often don’t eat enough of. Yogurt with fruit delivers calcium and fiber, plus protein and gut-healthy probiotics (learn about what happens in your body when you don’t eat enough fiber).
Choose plain yogurt and add your own fruit for natural sweetness and fiber. Flavored yogurt often delivers lots of added sugar and extra calories. Whole milk and low-fat plain yogurt are healthy choices too. Newer research on dairy has debunked the myth that fat free is healthiest.
If you’re looking for even more of a protein boost in your yogurt snack, Greek yogurt has almost double the protein compared to regular.
Skip the vending machine and satisfy the afternoon “munchies” with a healthy snack you packed at home. You’ll save money and get a bigger bang for your nutritional buck. Try cut up veggies and some hummus. One serving of hummus is 2 tablespoons and paired with vegetables can help satisfy your hunger.
Planning snacks that provide both complex carbohydrates and protein will help tide you over until dinner. Learn more about the health benefits of hummus.
Oatmeal is a complex carb, meaning it helps fill you up without spiking your blood sugar. Plus, it’s a good source of fiber and eating more fiber helps people lose weight and keep it off. While we think of it typically as breakfast, a small bowl of oats makes a hearty, filling and delicious snack. To make this snack more convenient—keep a packet or two of unsweetened instant oatmeal at your desk or make overnight oats in a mason jar.
10. Dried Fruit
Dried fruit is a portable, healthy snack. Eating fruit helps with weight-loss because it’s packed with filling fiber (and important vitamins and minerals). Look for fruit with no sugar or sweeteners added and pair dried fruit with nuts for a snack with a balance of healthy carbs and protein. Dried fruit is also a great option to keep at your desk at work.
Snacks can absolutely fit in your diet if you’re trying to lose weight. Having ideas for healthy snacks to pack for work snacks, grab and go snacks, store-bought snacks and snacks you can make yourself will help vary the nutrients you get and keep you from going hangry between meals. Remember, think nutrient-dense (fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals) and your snacks will help you get the nutrition your body needs and keep you full.