by Edna Cox Rice, RD, CSG, LDN
“Healthy snacks” for weight loss sound too good to be true? Eating every three to four hours helps avoid getting too hungry. Waiting much longer often leads to overeating. Not including snacks can actually sabotage your resolution to change your diet and lose weight this year. Research indicates snackers tend to have healthier diets. Eating three meals and two or three snacks can help keep you energized all day long.
Strategies for Smart Snacking
Game Plan. Keep healthful staples on hand, such as whole wheat, low-fat crackers or mini bagels; reduced fat cheeses; nonfat yogurt. Prepare fruits and vegetables in advance to save time. Keep healthy options visible and easily accessible. Place a bowl of fruit on the counter; keep sliced veggies in the front of the frig, so they’re easy to grab and go.
Make It Count. Include snacks using whole foods, limit processed foods. Whole foods contain Vitamins, Minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals that help boost your immune system. Don’t spend snack calories on “empty” foods. Whole foods usually cost less than processed foods. Try substituting crispy veggie slices for high fat, high sodium chips.
Measure It. Portion control is a must to limit calories and snack sensibly. Measure, weigh, count, then store portion in small containers. Slash calories by daily, weekly pre-portioning snacks. Buy pre-portioned snacks: 100 calorie bags of almonds, crackers. If you’re not ready to lose the chips, purchasing the smaller bags can save 200+ calories per serving.
Portable. Always bring easy to pack food with you. Keep apples, bananas, baby carrots, whole grain crackers in your purse, backpack, briefcase, or gym bag. At your desk keep snack-size bags – almonds, raisins, or energy bars. Healthier options on hand prevents reaching for candy or chips.
Drink Up. Are you really having a snack attack or just thirsty? The sense of thirst is often confused with feeling hungry. Drinking water, calorie-free beverages before meals or snacks curbs your appetite and reduces calories from sugary drinks. Six to eight glasses of water daily is the goal. Think, drink up first; if you still feel hungry snack strategically.
Go Lean. Lean protein can keep you feeling fuller longer. Snack on a combo of fiber-rich carbohydrate and protein for a satisfying snack. Pair veggies with hummus, or try protein-rich Greek yogurt with fresh fruit. If you need an energy boost to get you through the afternoon, go lean with a higher protein snack.
Tame your Sweet Tooth with naturally sweet foods. Fruit skewers dipped in dark chocolate, only 185 calories. Sliced apples with caramel sauce, 200 calories. An eight-ounce glass of chocolate soy milk, 160 calories.
Skinny Up. Switch from popcorn cooked in oil to air-popped or microwave fat-free popcorn; skip the coffee creamer, use fat-free half & half; fat-free salad dressings; in recipes substitute non-fat yogurt for mayo.