Losing weight doesn’t mean you need to stop snacking. Here’s your easy guide to creating the best snacks for weight loss.
There seems to be a common belief when it comes to weight loss that snacks are “bad” and the best snacks for weight loss are no snacks at all.
Many people are sure that snacking is the main reason they can’t lose weight, so I’m often asked for advice on how to stop snacking. The truth is, not all snacks are created equal, and snacking is just as likely to help your weight loss journey as harm it – it just depends on the kind of snacks you’re choosing.
For anyone who is unsure of whether they should have snacks, I have a pretty simple answer:
If you get hungry between meals, have a snack. If you don’t get hungry between meals, don’t have a snack.
If you’re hungry between meals you don’t listen to that hunger and have a snack, you’re more likely to overeat at your next meal because you’ll be ravenous.
On the other hand, the type of snacking that isn’t ideal when you’re trying to lose fat is mindless snacking or grazing when you’re not hungry. This is when you grab a little bite of something every time you pass by the kitchen, or you always have something next to you while you’re working to pick away at. Most likely, you’re not having these kind of snacks because you’re hungry, but because you’re bored or stressed.
Snacks contribute to weight gain when they result in consuming more calories than you burn, which is more likely when you’re snacking mindlessly or eating very calorie-dense and sugary snacks.
If you’re snacking constantly throughout the day, there are many possible reasons for this pattern, including emotional ones. But one common reason for excessive snacking is your snacks aren’t satisfying enough.
If my clients are going to incorporate snacks into their day, I don’t recommend a handful of nuts here, a couple crackers there, and a protein bar while running out the door. Instead, I suggest trying to sit down for a balanced, satisfying snack the same way you would for a meal, which helps satisfy your hunger without mindless grazing.
One of our Planos dietitians, Coach Dana, teaches the 3 Fs approach to snacking which explains how to make a balanced and filling snack.
Here’s how to build great snacks for weight loss using this method and why it works:
The easiest way to create a filling snack is by including a source of protein and/or fiber, both of which are digested slowly so you stay full for longer. Both protein and fiber regulate levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, and studies have shown their effects on long-term satiety (1, 2, 3, 4).
Fruits and vegetables add volume, micronutrients, and fiber to your snacks. Many fruits and vegetables have low energy density, meaning you can eat more of them while taking in fewer calories.
For example, 100g of French fries contains 312 calories, while 100g of broccoli, a high fiber vegetable, contains only 34 calories. Therefore, including a fruit or vegetable in your snack will help fill your stomach without adding a ton of extra calories to your day.
This is key! You should look forward to the snacks and meals you eat. This might mean including foods you’re craving so you don’t overeat them later and eating a variety of different snacks throughout the week.
It’s completely okay to include higher sugar or higher fat foods, like jam, Nutella, cheese, granola, and other delicious options to your snacks.
Because what’s better – having a bit of Nutella on your apples because you know you can eat the foods you enjoy without restrictions, or eating a jar of Nutella on the weekend because you told yourself you “shouldn’t” have it all week?
To make a great snack, try to include 1 item from each of the 3 categories: FILLING (Protein OR Fiber), FRUIT (Fruit OR Vegetable), and FUN (Sweet OR Savory).
But remember: this is not a set rule, and some foods fit in multiple categories (as you can see from the graphic). Also, what is FUN for you, might be different for someone else. These lists are just meant to provide some ideas!
Here are a few snack combos based on the 3 Fs Method:
For most of my clients, I recommend that they create a meal timeline, which outlines the times of day they plan to eat to ensure they’re getting balanced nutrition throughout the day. It’s a particularly good strategy for people who tend to skip meals throughout the day and overeat at night. Additionally, it’s helpful for people who are tempted to snack all day. Knowing when your meals and snacks are and making those foods things you enjoy can help remove the urge to snack mindlessly.
Creating a meal timeline starts with drawing a straight horizontal line on a piece of paper, and jotting down the times of your main meals. Then, fill in snack times so your meals are evenly distributed throughout the day, with no more than 3-4 hours between meals and snacks. Waiting more than that can result in being overly hungry at your next meal and overeating.
So, make your meal timeline today, and start using the 3 Fs method at snack time! It may be helpful to go throughout the lists in the graphics above and write down some combinations. Then, you can add those components to your grocery list this week so you have all the foods you need on hand.
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