Cutting out and sacrificing snacks in hopes to lose weight? You might actually be stalling or derailing progress.
That’s right, unlike popular belief, snacking can actually help and accelerate weight loss! But do not reach for that chip bag so quickly…
First find out how snacking can assist in health goals and work in your favor, all while satisfying those pesky savory and sweet cravings!
How Snacking Supports Weight Loss & Health
A healthy snack supports weight loss and health in a number of ways, including by controlling appetite, enhancing micronutrient intake, and boosting both energy and concentration levels.
A healthy snack can control appetite, keep hunger levels at bay, and lessen the risk of overeating come mealtime. Research also shows those who consume a high-protein snack have steady and sustained weight loss.
When it comes to healthy snacking, macronutrient composition and portion size matters most. A snack should be rich in protein, as the macronutrient helps induce satiety. Snacks offering fiber and healthy fat are also favorable for controlling appetite.
Enhances Micronutrient Intake
When choosing healthy snacks over highly-processed products, there is a great opportunity to enhance daily micronutrient (such as vitamins and minerals) intake.
For instance, not only does Greek yogurt supply satiety-inducing protein, but bone-supporting calcium. Topping with fresh berries supplies fiber for digestive and heart health, along with vitamin C to boost the immune system. Highly processed snacks, including snack cakes and crackers, tend to be empty calories and lack any sort of nutritional value.
Micronutrients are often overlooked for weight loss, but they are undeniably helpful for supporting a strong metabolism. And not to mention, foods rich in micronutrients tend to be the calories for your metabolic buck!
Boosts Energy & Concentration Levels
If reaching for sweets to trigger that so-called "sugar high”, sugary products cause blood sugars to drop just as quickly as they spiked and plummet energy.
A healthy snack, especially when balanced with the right nutrients, helps regulate blood sugars and increase energy levels. Greater energy means more motivation to crush that evening workout or whip up a healthy meal with the family.
What Makes a Healthy Snack?
A healthy snack is one that is rich in nutrients and able to subside hunger whenever it may arise.
As mentioned above, snacks should be rich in protein, as it helps reduce appetite, boosts metabolism, provides lasting energy, and blunts cravings towards carbs. As a general rule, snacks should contain about 150 calories and supply between 10 to 15 grams of protein.
Including healthy fat in a snack can also help induce satiety. Pairing fiber with protein, including from fruits and veggies, can also enhance satiety. The pairing likewise provides a number of nutrients, all without worry of adding empty calories.
If ever in doubt on how to replace junk food with healthy snacks, always go for whole foods. These include whole grains, fruits, veggies, low-fat dairy products, and nuts and seeds.
Healthy Snack Recipes & Ideas
- 1/4 cup (1 oz) mixed nuts
- 1 Tbsp nut butter with 1 apple
- 2 hard boiled eggs
- 1/2 cup low fat-cottage cheese with fruit
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup blueberries
- Protein shake (enough to reach at least 10 to 15 grams protein)
- 2 oz jerky
- 1/4 cup edamame
- Mini can of tuna or salmon (water-packed) with 1/2 cup grapes
The number of snacks recommended varies on a number of factors, including gender, body size, and activity level:
- Gender: Women are often prescribed to one high-protein snack per day while men often benefit from two. This mostly comes down to body size, as men tend to have a large body frame and muscle mass, thus requiring more calories and protein.
- Body size: Again, men will often need another snack due to their naturally larger body size. However, a female who is 5’1 will likely need one snack to support weight loss and health compared to a taller female who might need two.
- Activity level: People who are active will likely need to add a protein snack to support higher activity levels. For instance, the dietitian may recommend a second protein snack to the 5’1 female mentioned above if she is active. This especially serves true if the female is experiencing a weight loss plateau or lacking energy on the plan.
BistroMD generally recommends eating every 3 to 4 hours to keep energy and hunger levels at bay. You can customize the order of meals and snacks to maximize the program, including these eating timelines:
- 7:00am breakfast, 9:30am snack, 12:30pm lunch, 3:30pm snack, 6:00pm dinner, 9:00pm snack
- 9:00am breakfast, 11:00am snack, 1:30pm lunch, 5:30pm snack, 7:00pm dinner
- 7:00 am snack, 9:00am breakfast, 12:30pm lunch, 3:30pm snack, 7:00pm dinner, 9:00 pm snack
What you choose depends on your lifestyle and preference. Below describes some scenarios that might best help you decide:
- Late Breakfast Eaters: If not so hungry in the morning for breakfast, a protein-packed snack is a great way to jumpstart the metabolism.
- Morning Exercisers: For those who exercise in the morning, fueling with a morning snack can give the body the fuel it needs to work out after a night of fasting.
- Evening Exercisers: For those who exercise after work, a midday snack can give the body fuel to crush a workout.
- Nighttime Snackers: If you crave a salty or sweet treat following dinner, save the snack for the night.
Overall, snacking with intent can not only lead to weight loss success, but enhance your progress. If you have additional questions on the type, frequency, and number of snacks to include, reach out to one of our registered dietitians for help!