#1 Best Snack for Weight Loss
Watching your weight doesn’t have to mean snacks are off-limits. In fact, the opposite can be true—incorporating (carefully chosen) snacks into your daily routine in a smart, strategic way can help keep your energy levels up and lessen the likelihood that you will feel deprived or binge on unhealthy treats.
For those who are trying to lose weight or become more fit and healthy, it’s important to choose the right snacks that can support those goals. We asked registered dietitians for their advice.
What To Consider When Choosing Healthy Snacks
When contemplating the best snacks, think about how they will fit into your overall diet regimen and daily menu. “Snacks can help to maintain your energy levels between meals, and folks can choose to consume one to three snacks per day,” says Angel Planells, MS, RDN, a Seattle-based Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and National Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. “Snack calorie ranges can vary from 200 or less to up to 300-350 calories per day. The important thing to keep in mind is a snack can potentially serve as a meal replacement so folks should be mindful that a ‘snack’ can pack in as much as a meal.”
You’ll also want to consider both the size and nutritional content of your snacks. “Make sure the portion is in fact really a snack-sized portion,” says Dolores Woods, RDN, a nutritionist with UTHealth Houston School of Public Health. “Sometimes, we tend to eat snacks that are kind of like another small meal, so snacks should be just enough to hold us over till the next meal.”
Be sure you know what’s in the snacks you choose—paying particular attention to things like fat and sugar content. “It shouldn't be too high in fat,” says Woods. “I like nuts, but sometimes people tend to overeat them, and they are very high in fat. When picking snacks, make sure there's a protein in there and less saturated fat content. A lot of processed foods are going to be higher in fat and sugar—and with the sugars, it’s important to make sure it's not high in added sugar.”
Related: 57 Easy and Delicious Low-Calorie Snacks for When the 4 P.M. Slump Hits
Satisfying Snacks Can Help Your Weight Loss Plan
Experts say a key element of snack planning is picking options that will make you feel satisfied. “Satiety is very important when it comes to snacking,” says Planells. “If at all possible, try to add some protein into the mix—this will allow you to be more satisfied. For example, if I eat a donut, after about 15 minutes, my body and stomach will be asking me subconsciously, ‘What’s next? I’m ready to eat.' However, if I were to consume an apple slice with some peanut butter, my body and stomach will say, ‘Ok, I am satisfied,’ so I can wait until mealtime for more food.”
This smart-pairing approach is something other dietitians also recommend. “I like to pair food groups to create a hunger-satisfying, yet nourishing snack,” says Cristina Flores, RD, LD, of Top Nutrition Coaching. “I often pair protein and produce or fats and fiber to create snacks that satisfy since protein, fiber and fats are nutrients that can keep you fuller for longer. Sometimes the snack that is lowest in calories is not the best option, because it will not satisfy hunger and may lead to more snacking.”
The Best Snack for Weight Loss
Most of the experts we consulted cited bananas as an excellent snack choice. Planells suggests frozen bananas. “Eat it straight up, or you can dip a banana in low-fat yogurt, roll them in crushed whole grain cereal or nuts, and then freeze afterward. You get potassium, vitamin B6 and C, and dietary fiber.”
Fruit in general gets a thumbs-up from dietitians. “I really like fresh fruit in season or even frozen food is also nice, especially the berries just because you get those all year round,” says Woods. “And then maybe just combining with some Greek yogurt—that's high in protein and low in sugar and low-carb.”
Related: Mid-Afternoon Craving? Here Are Delicious 25 Paleo Snacks to Try
Other Good Snacks for Weight Loss
Some other healthy snack choices recommended by experts include:
Veggies and dip
Planells suggests combining carrots, bell peppers or cucumbers with two tablespoons of your favorite dressing. “The calorie amount varies, but you are getting dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and beta carotene.” However, he notes that “dips are not all equal,” and can vary widely in calories and nutritional content, so it’s wise to read the labels carefully.
“I like air-popped popcorn because it's high in fiber and low in calories,” says Woods. “So it's a good substitute for chips that still provides the crunch that people are looking for. Microwave popcorn is also a great option. It's easy and affordable—for the price of a bag of chips, you're getting 10 bags of microwave popcorn.”
“Greek yogurt is packed with protein to keep you full,” says Flores. “My favorite way to pair it is topping it with berries for some extra fiber and micronutrients.”
Planells says, “A one-ounce portion of almonds allows you get to get a decent amount of protein, Vitamin E, niacin, iron, dietary fiber and heart-healthy unsaturated fat.”
Related: Raw Nuts Vs. Roasted Nuts: Which Is Healthier? Here's What Registered Dietitians Say
“Cheese sticks are a quick and easy grab-and-go option that packs 5 to 8g of protein, depending on the brand,” says Flores. “Pairing a cheese stick with popcorn, whole wheat crackers, or some raw fruits and veggies will add extra fiber to the snack and provide carbohydrates for energy.”
Planells suggest making your own trail mix by combining items you enjoy—things like granola, nuts, seeds and dried fruit. “You can save money if you buy in bulk, and this can provide Vitamin E, dietary fiber, heart-healthy unsaturated fat and iron.”
Next up, check out these 20 delicious high-fiber snacks that will benefit your health and keep you full for hours.
Angel Planells, MS, RDN, a Seattle-based Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and National Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics
Dolores Woods, RDN, nutritionist with UTHealth Houston School of Public Health
Cristina Flores, RD, LD, of Top Nutrition Coaching