One of the most challenging parts of dieting is eliminating your favorite food items from your daily rotation. However, it's important to identify things that you can have to eat—especially when it comes to snacking in between meals. We know snacking may seem like a major faux pas when you're trying to lose weight, but let's be honest: It will likely happen anyway! It's best to be prepared with healthy, nutritious snacks to lose weight and gain muscle. We spoke with the experts who reveal some of their top picks when snacking for weight loss.
There are a few things to keep in mind when selecting or preparing snacks. One of them is making sure your snack offers satisfying protein. "Protein is known for its ability to promote feelings of fullness and satiety," explains Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, a registered dietitian and certified specialist in sports dietetics who sits on our Medical Expert Board. "When you consume protein-rich snacks, you're likely to feel satisfied and less prone to overeating later on. This can help control overall calorie intake, contributing to weight loss."
When your goal is weight loss, you want to trim fat rather than lose muscle mass. Your body needs protein to repair and preserve muscle. By incorporating snacks filled with protein into your diet, you'll ensure your body is receiving all of the crucial components to maintain lean muscle mass through your weight-loss journey.
Now, let's get into the 10 best snacks to lose weight and gain muscle, according to the experts. Keep reading to learn more, and when you're done, be sure to check out these 10 Common Nighttime Habits That Can Make You Gain Weight.
Cottage Cheese With Whole-Grain Crackers
Cottage cheese is a true staple when it comes to snacks. Goodson recommends enjoying half a cup of low-fat cottage cheese with fresh cucumber slices and whole-grain crackers. The beauty of cottage cheese is that it's low in calories but high in protein to boost satiety, which is key when you're looking to lose weight. A half-cup serving is just 90 calories and provides around 12 grams of protein. You're also getting an impressive dose of calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
Hummus With Mozzarella Cheese Sticks and Carrots
You can always count on fresh hummus to hit the spot when snacktime rolls around. Goodson suggests enjoying two tablespoons of your favorite hummus with two mozzarella string cheese sticks and some baby carrots for a snack that's less than 250 calories. Two tablespoons of hummus amounts to around 82 calories and provides three grams of filling protein and two grams of fiber.
"A healthy tuna-packed snack like StarKist® Tuna Creations® Whole Grain Dijon Mustard Tuna Salad is only 80 calories but offers 12 full grams of protein in each pouch. It's a 'guilt-free' treat that will fill you up, keep your blood sugar stabilized, and help you avoid energy crashes and unhealthy cravings, all thanks to its protein content," The Nutrition Twins®, Tammy Lakatos Shames, RD, CDN, CFT, and Lyssie Lakatos, RD, CDN, CFT, who sit on our Medical Expert Board, explain.
"When it comes to building muscle, protein is essential throughout the day and can be especially helpful at snack time to meet your requirements," The Nutrition Twins tell us. "Tuna contains inflammation-taming omega-3 fatty acids, which may help to improve muscle strength and [make] weight loss easier. Plus, StarKist is wild-caught, so it's less likely to contain contaminants that cause inflammation in the body that make it harder for muscles to repair and rebuild themselves, making it harder to lose weight."
This snack is seamless to prepare. All you have to do is open the pouch and enjoy the tuna on its own, or add some baby carrots or whole-grain crackers into the mix. On days you're super hungry, indulge in two pouches for a mere 160 calories and an impressive 24 grams of protein.
A Creamy Vanilla Plant Protein Beverage
This is another quick, easy, and delicious snack. All you need to do is mix the Om Master Blend Creamy Vanilla Plant Protein with some cold water, and you can enjoy 21 grams of muscle-building protein for only 120 calories.
The Nutrition Twins tell us, "You'll also get 3.7 grams of the 16 to 20 grams of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA's) you need each day that may be able to help to reduce muscle soreness and enhance muscle growth. Om also contains a potent full-spectrum ashwagandha root extract that may help to improve stress levels; this means you'll reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, aka the belly fat hormone, helping to make it easier to lose abdominal fat."
When in doubt, snack on some hard-cooked eggs. Eggs are an excellent weight-loss food, as they're low in calories and provide six grams of satiating protein in every egg. They'll also keep you full! Eggland's Best Eggs, specifically, only contain 50 calories per egg, compared to other eggs that can be upward of 70 calories.
"While all eggs contain high amounts of the amino acid leucine, which is very important for muscle gain, Eggland's Best Eggs special hen feed means they also have 25% less saturated fat, more than double the inflammation-fighting omega-3s, and six times the vitamin D content of ordinary eggs," The Nutrition Twins explain. "This is of extra importance because research shows that getting adequate vitamin D can increase weight loss while reducing body fat."
If you're craving something crunchy and savory, look no further than Sunfood Raw Organic Heirloom Pumpkin Seeds, which provide a whopping 10 grams of protein and two grams of fiber and are just 160 calories per ounce. These pumpkin seeds are the ultimate nighttime snack, since they're a stellar source of magnesium, which promotes better sleep. Plus, more sleep can lower your calorie intake.
"If you're vegan, pumpkin seeds are one of the top ways to get the amino acid, leucine, which is needed to trigger muscle growth and recovery," The Nutrition Twins say. "Most plant foods contain very little leucine. Sunfood uses a special heirloom variety of pumpkin seeds for a unique nutty flavor and they dry the seeds at low temperatures that keep the nutrients intact. Plus, there's no added salt or sugar like many other pumpkin seeds, which typically makes you crave other salty and sugary foods and can contribute to overeating."
Plain Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is often recommended as an ideal weight-loss snack by dietitians—and for good reason. Maia Grassfed Plain Greek Yogurt, specifically, is just 100 calories and provides 16 grams of protein.
"This grass-fed yogurt contains an ideal calorie-to-protein ratio for a weight-loss snack, with a satisfying punch of protein that also will help to build and repair muscles," The Nutrition Twins explain. "Most non-fat yogurts contain six to 20 grams of added sugar, but Maia's plain yogurt doesn't add any sugar. Even Maia's flavored yogurts contain only three grams of added sugar. All of the added sugar found in most other brands of yogurt increases inflammation, making it harder to lose weight—but not so with this yogurt."
Whether you're looking for a snack pre or post-workout, a ProMix Vanilla Protein Puff Bar comes in clutch. It's packed with 15 grams of protein and five grams of fiber and will only cost you 150 calories.
"[The] main ingredient [in these bars] is whey protein, and research shows that having whey protein before or after a workout can help to build muscle and increase muscular strength and endurance," The Nutrition Twins tell us. "ProMix uses grass-fed whey and it doesn't contain seed oils like many other bars, so it helps to keep toxins and contaminants that drive inflammation and make the body resistant to weight loss at bay."
Editor's Disclosure: The Nutrition Twins are paid partners of Eggland's Best and StarKist. All information contained herein is vetted by our editorial team, and Eat This, Not That received no compensation from Eggland's Best and StarKist for this content.