You’re likely pretty vigilant about making sure you eat healthy and nutritious foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but what about snack time?
Numerous studies have shown that snacking throughout the day can actually help you lose weight, but the wrong snack choices could be keeping you from that lean and toned body you’re after.
According to a 2015 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, those who eat at least six times a day have lower body-mass indexes (BMI), and consume fewer calories overall compared to those who limit themselves to three meals.
Still, that’s not exactly an open invitation to grab fistfulls of chips and cookies during those extra three meals. Instead—and especially if you’re looking to whittle your middle—learn how to snack healthier with simple swaps that cut down on calories and sugar while revving your metabolism with extra fiber and protein.
Though that may sound complicated, it’s actually ridiculously easy to do once you know how to slightly alter your eating habits. For tips on how to snack healthier, keep reading! And when you’re done here, you can work on putting your newfound snacking skills to good use with some helpful hints from this list of the 40 Healthy Snack Ideas to Keep You Slim!
Know Your Nuts
Eat This: Unsalted Nuts
Not That!: Vending Machine Bag of Chips
According to the wise minds over at Harvard Medical School, swapping out that mid-afternoon candy bar for a handful of unsalted nuts (such as almonds, walnuts, peanuts, roasted pumpkin seeds, cashews, or hazelnuts) is a snack hack worth embracing. You’ll not only save yourself dozens of empty calories, but you’ll also be giving your body beneficial nutrients that are more likely to leave you feeling full (thanks to the fiber found in nuts) and improve your overall health. Really, it’s a win-win. For more healthy snack regarding how to take your already-healthy diet to the next level, check out The 27 Best Low Carb Snacks!
Pack On The Protein
Eat This: Greek or Icelandic Yogurt
Not That!: Traditional “American” Yogurt
In addition to fiber, protein is another important player in the snack game because it requires more energy to burn than carbs or fats and thus keeps you fuller longer. In fact, in a study in the journal Appetite, researchers from the University of Missouri compared the satiety effects of high-, moderate-, and low-protein yogurts on 24-28-year-old women, and found Greek yogurt, with the highest protein content, to have the greatest effect. For an added boost of protein and flavor, consider topping your Greek yogurt with some fresh berries.
Keep The Sugar To A Minimum
Eat This: Peanut Butter and Whole-Grain Crackers
Not That!: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
For those of us with a sweet tooth it’s hard to say no to a sugary snack, but eating snacks with too much sugar won’t do you any good. Your body breaks down simple sugars quickly, which gives you energy in the short run, but leaves you hungry quickly after you finish eating. So, instead of heading into the break room for a mid-morning donut or sugar-laden cup of coffee, find something with more fiber than sugar to satisfy your hunger pangs. High-fiber crackers (such as Mary’s Gone Wild) with a tablespoon of nut butter will do the trick, as will one cup of raspberries.
And if you do want a touch of sugar, opt for lower-sugar alternatives that are high in healthy protein and fats. For example, Justin’s makes a mouthwatering Chocolate Hazelnut Butter squeeze packet with just 7 grams of sugar per 32-gram serving. For comparison, the same serving size of Nutella has 18 grams of sugar!
You Don’t Have to Deny Yourself
Eat This: Air-Popped Popcorn with Rosemary-Seasoned Salt
Not That!: Extra-Buttery Microwave Popcorn
You can still stay slim, trim, and healthy even by indulging in popular mid-day treats, such as popcorn; you just need to be careful about the varieties that you choose. When picking a popcorn, for example, retain the high-fiber food’s healthy and low cal properties by opting for the air-popped stuff over one of those microwavable packages of popcorn doused with butter or the pre-packaged bags covered in oily, faux-cheese powder. If you need more flavor, simply spice it up with red pepper flakes, cinnamon, cocoa powder, or even a dash of seasoned salt.
Keep Your Balance
Eat This: Cheddar Cheese and Apples
Not That!: High-Sugar Dried Mango
Per those Harvard folks, your in-between meals will be healthier if they’re balanced. In other words, it helps to have more than just one macronutrient (protein, fat, carb) represented at each snacking session. For example, pairing cheese (protein and fat) and an apple (carbs) is a healthy way to go. These balanced munchies tend to keep you feeling satisfied, meaning you’ll have forgotten all about that unhealthy candy bar by the time you take the first bite of your more nutritious nosh.
Don’t Let “Reduced Fat” Fool You into Thinking “Reduced Guilt”
Eat This: Tortilla Chips with Black Bean Salsa
Not That!: Doritos Reduced Fat Nacho Cheese Flavored Tortilla Chips
Snacks marked “low-fat” may seem enticing, but it’s often the case that they’re unhealthier than their fatty counterparts. In addition to frequently being filled with more sugar to compensate for lack of flavor, low-fat snacks are also easier to indulge in. Cornell researchers have shown we’re actually inclined to eat more of these misleading treats. According to the Journal of Marketing Research study, people ate a whopping 28 percent more of a snack (M&M’s) that was marketed as “low fat” than when the snack didn’t have the label. Be vigilant when shopping so snack time doesn’t wreak havoc on your diet. For more helpful snack tips, take a look at The 20 Best High-Fat Snacks!