There's no use sugarcoating it: Reaching weight loss goals be tough. Setting the intention is the easy part. Sticking to that goal can feel near impossible, especially if you're making drastic changes to your diet in the process.
That's why you may have better luck keeping certain elements of your diet the same, e.g., continuing to eat snacks throughout the day if you're already accustomed to that. Contrary to what old-school dieting advice might have led you to believe, you don't need to stop snacking between meals in order to make progress toward a weight loss goal. You may consider checking in with a dietitian to get a sense of how snacks can factor into your diet, based on your goals. (On that note, make sure to touch base with a dietitian or doctor to confirm that weight loss is a healthy goal for you in the first place.)
Need some inspiration? Here are some factors to consider when choosing snacks if you're aiming to lose weight, plus a few ideas to get you started.
What to Look for In a Snack
Quick refresher: Protein, fiber, and healthy fats all increase the satiety factor of meals and snacks, which means you’ll feel full longer, says Sheri Vettel, R.D., a registered dietitian from the Institute from Integrative Nutrition. This trio is also digested slower than simple carbohydrates, which helps to regulate blood sugar levels, she adds. Add whole-grain carbs into the mix and you’re sure to steer clear of plummeting blood sugar (and the irritability and cravings that come with it).
While protein, fiber, and healthy fats are all key components of an overall healthy eating style, they’re also important parts of a diet geared toward reaching weight loss goals. That’s because they keep you full for a long amount of time and for a lower number of calories. (Remember: Cutting back on calories, even slightly, can play a big role in weight loss.) Protein, for example, takes twice as long as carbohydrates to digest, keeping you twice as full for the same amount of calories (both have four calories per gram), says Audra Wilson, R.D., a registered bariatric dietitian at the Northwestern Medicine Metabolic Health and Surgical Weight Loss Center at Delnor Hospital. Healthy fats also help with satiety and add flavor for about nine calories per gram, she adds.
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Another important component to consider, according to Vettel? Bio-individuality, aka the idea that everyone has different needs or nutritional requirements. For example, how much protein you need varies depending on age, overall health, and physical activity level, she explains. This means that for many individuals, focusing on specific grams of fiber or protein isn’t entirely necessary.
“I also suggest focusing on the nutrient-density of your food choices, rather than a strict calorie goal,” says Vettel. “Listen to your body to identify how much fuel you need, if any, between meals.”
When you want to have a snack, consider pairing two of the following: a vegetable, a fruit, a whole grain, a healthy fat, or a lean source of protein, suggests Vettel. “Honor that some days snacks may contain more calories than others, and that's okay,” she says.
The Best Snacks for Weight Loss Goals
Ahead, a list of the best store-bought and homemade snacks for filling your pantry.
Eating directly out of a can of chickpeas might not sound very appetizing, but turn them into crunchy little bites and they become an alternative to chips that’s higher in fiber. While you could DIY, you may also spot pre-packaged roasted chickpeas at the grocery store. Available in a variety of sweet and savory flavors, the snacks are also “a great alternative for those with nut allergies,” notes Bethany Doerfler, R.D., a registered dietitian at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Pepitas and Applesauce
Rich in mood-boosting magnesium, pepitas — essentially pumpkin seeds without a hull (shell) — make for a healthy snack no matter your goals. For an even more fibrous option, use pepitas as a topping for unsweetened, no-sugar-added applesauce, says Doerfler.
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Flaxseed Crackers and Spread
With all of the crackers cramming the market, it can be hard to figure out which are truly worth the buy — that is, however, until now. Next time you're looking for one of the best snacks for weight loss goals, scan your local supermarket for crackers that are high in fiber, such as that from flax seeds, to keep you fuller longer. Flax seed crackers “pair nicely with seed butter, smashed avocado, or cheese,” says Doerfler.
Fruit and Nut Granola Bars
When it comes to granola bars, remember these three words: keep it simple. Limit your consumption of those with long ingredients lists and lots of sugar if you have weight loss goals, and instead go for bars with dried fruit (such as dates) and nuts, as they’re full of filling fiber and protein, says Vettel.
Unsweetened Instant Oatmeal Packets
No need to stop the oatmeal train at breakfast; keep that bad boy running all day long. Oatmeal contains beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that lowers cholesterol and, in turn, can help reduce your risk of heart disease, says Doerfler. And when soluble fiber comes into contact with water and other fluids, it forms a gel-like substance that makes this type of fiber so filling — it takes up physical space in your stomach and helps form stool as it moves through the GI tract. Stash these single-serve packs at your desk for an easy snack.
Raspberries and Walnuts
This powerful pairing makes for one of the best snacks for weight loss goals, according to Vettel. Raspberries are full of fiber (with 8 grams per cup) and raw, unsalted walnuts are packed with fat and protein for satiety. What’s more, walnuts are also rich in inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids, which can be particularly helpful for reaching your goals, since inflammation is often associated with weight gain and can make losing weight more difficult, she explains.
Hard-Boiled Eggs and Cheese
“A fast and easy snack I love is two hard-boiled eggs with 1 oz aged cheese, such as sharp cheddar, parmesan, bleu, swiss, or brie,” says Autumn Bates, C.C.N, a certified clinical nutritionist in California. It’s high in protein and fat at nearly 20 grams of each, she explains. “Aged cheeses also have the lowest lactose levels which can minimize GI distress,” says Bates.
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Greek Yogurt and Berries
One cup Greek yogurt provides 12 to 14 grams of filling protein for around 80 to 120 calories, says Wilson. Look for Greek yogurt that's unsweetened or low in sugar. Adding berries takes this healthy weight loss snack to the next level with extra fiber, vitamins, and minerals, says Wilson. And lower sugar fruits (such as berries) or vegetables can help you feel full but are low-calorie, she adds.
Raw Vegetables and Ranch Dip
Sometimes food is just a vessel to eat some dip. Instead of chicken wings, pair one cup raw veggies — e.g. carrots, celery, or bell peppers — with a delish DIY dip. All you have to do is mix 2 percent fat Greek yogurt with a ranch seasoning packet, explains Wilson. “It’s a great snack with a bit of healthy fat and lots of protein — about 12 grams per 4 oz,” she adds. And ICYDK, veggies are considered one of the best weight loss snacks because they are low in calories and packed with nutrients.
Medjool Dates Topped with Nut Butter
Rich in disease-fighting antioxidants, dates are the perfect post-meal (or even in-between-meal) treat to satisfy your sweet tooth. Simply top two to three dates with nut butter, which contain a mix of protein and healthy fats which make for an extra satiating snack. You can even try freezing this duo if you love ice-cold treats.
Protein Snack Box
While there are versions available at Starbucks — which Bates recommends if you’re on the run — and from the grocery store, you can save money by making your own protein box. Start with a few cheese cubes or lean deli meat, add in about 1/4 cup almonds or pistachios, and finish it off with 1 cup grapes or berries, says Wilson. This healthy weight loss snack has the trifecta: fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Best of all you can mix up the flavors and options every day.