Snacking not only tastes great, it can also be a major component of an effective weight loss plan. If you’re counting calories and trying to shed a few pounds, a healthy snack a few times a day can help boost your energy in between meals. No matter how old you might be, eating small healthy snacks throughout the day can improve your overall health.
Cut Out the Junk
The hard part about snacking during a weight loss program, of course, is avoiding the kinds of foods that made you overweight in the first place. It’s only natural for most of us to grab some cookies, a candy bar or some chips when we’re in between meals, but that does nothing but pack on the calories and lead to substantial weight gain.
One of the best ways to keep from eating too much at lunch or dinner is to eat a few times a day – many experts recommend you have smaller meals anywhere from three to five times.
Every time you eat, your blood sugar levels decrease a few hours afterward.1 By taking in a few calories through a health snack, you’ll keep up your energy throughout the day, avoiding that “wall” that a lot of us hit during the mid-afternoon time period. If you don’t snack a little bit, your metabolism will slow down too much and increase your risk for weight gain.
What to Eat
By sticking to healthy snack items such as legumes, vegetables, nuts and fruits, you can keep your sugar levels high enough so that you won’t go on a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows. You’ll get the nutrients your body needs and you won’t be so quick to grab the sweet stuff to satisfy your appetite. And you’ll also see that your weight loss program will go a lot smoother.
Snacks filled with sugar might seem like they would be a great source of fuel for your body, but the effects are temporary at best. The crash you experience after eating a candy bar during the afternoon could leave you feeling worse than you did before you unwrapped it. You might experience sleepiness and irritability, and you might not be able to focus on the task at hand.
Eating a healthy snack a few times during the day, on the other hand, provides a steady supply of energy that will keep you engaged and alert. You won’t experience the drowsiness that can come with a post-candy bar crash or consuming too many calories during a big meal. Getting enough proteins through snacking is especially important for mental alertness. Cheese, eggs and small portions of meat and fish make great snacks that will help you maintain your concentration level.
Best Healthy Snacks for a Successful Weight Loss Program?
Again, while snacking is good, you can’t continue to consume the old “standbys” that are filled with calories, such as candy, chips, etc. Focus on these healthy snack items and you’ll find that your weight loss regimen will be a lot easier to stick with.
Eggs are light on calories but heavy on beneficial protein. A hard-boiled egg, for example, contains only about 70 calories and has about six grams or protein. It can also go a long way toward fulfilling your daily recommended requirements of vitamin A and vitamin D.
Studies show that eggs can be a big help when it comes to driving weight loss. One study involved two groups of obese adults who were trying to lose weight. One group ate eggs for breakfast, while the other ate bagels. According to the results, the egg eaters lost 65 percent more weight than the group who ate bagels.2
Avocados are high in monounsaturated fat, which is good for you. It can even help with your weight loss program. One study showed that if you eat an avocado per day, it could even help reduce the presence of “bad” (LDL) cholesterol in your bloodstream. You have to be careful with avocados, however, because if you make them into guacamole dip and eat them with chips on a regular basis you’ll be ingesting a lot of calories.
A lot of people believe that grapefruit can help with weight loss by burning fat. But while it can help you lose weight, that’s not the reason why. Grapefruit are high in fiber and water, which help promote a feeling of fullness. You won’t feel the need to gorge yourself during meals as a result.
In one study, participants who ate grapefruit three times each day – once before each meal – lost an average of about two pounds more than people who didn’t.3 Grapefruit contain less than two grams of fat and are also rich in vitamin C as well as calcium. It’s very important, however, that you speak with your doctor before including grapefruit in your daily dietary regimen because it can interact negatively with certain prescription drugs.
You might not find spinach that appetizing, especially if your parents insisted that you eat it when you were a child. But this vegetable is not only high in water and fiber (again, promoting a sense of fullness) but also low in calories. Studies show that the membranes of green plants such as spinach help stimulate the production of hormones in the body that help you feel full. One study in particular showed that spinach could reduce cravings for as long as two hours or more.4
It turns out that an apple a day could actually help keep the doctor away. A study shows that if you eat an apple before starting your meals that could help you maintain a healthy weight. Participants in the study did so and found that they ate as much as 15 percent less food with their meal. Like spinach and grapefruit, apples are high in water and fiber content that make you feel more full and reduce your risk of weight gain.
Some types of yogurt can help promote weight loss. Unsweetened yogurt, for example, is rich in protein but has a low amount of sugar, making it one of the more healthy snacks around. Yogurt also contains “good” bacteria, also known as probiotics, which can help improve the functioning of the digestive system.
Almonds taste great and they’re also full of healthy fat as well as protein and fiber. But you need to make sure you eat them in moderation or else you’ll be taking in way too many calories. Stick with only ¼ cup of nuts, such as walnuts, pecans, or macadamia nuts, per day.
The Bottom Line
Eating healthy snacks can really help make your weight loss program a success. They provide you with essential nutrients and help you avoid stuffing yourself during lunch or dinner. But eating healthy at snack time is just one component of a sustainable weight loss regimen. You have to make sure you watch your calories when you eat meals and you also have to mix in some exercise so you can keep those pounds off for good.
1 Baertlein L. Healthy Snacking Benefits. EverydayHealthcom. 2016. Accessed June 8, 2017.
2 Wal J, Gupta A, Khosla P, Dhurandhar N. Egg breakfast enhances weight loss. International Journal of Obesity. 2008;32(10):1545-1551. doi:10.1038/ijo.2008.130.
3 Fujioka K, Greenway F, Sheard J, Ying Y. The Effects of Grapefruit on Weight and Insulin Resistance: Relationship to the Metabolic Syndrome. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2006;9(1):49-54. doi:10.1089/jmf.2006.9.49.
4 Rebello C, Chu J, Beyl R, Edwall D, Erlanson-Albertsson C, Greenway F. Acute Effects of a Spinach Extract Rich in Thylakoids on Satiety: A Randomized Controlled Crossover Trial. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2015;34(6):470-477. doi:10.1080/07315724.2014.1003999.