It's 3 p.m., do you have your hanger under control? You might think those afternoon hunger pangs are just a friendly reminder that you're losing weight, but you're wrong.
Many experts say that healthy snacking is a kick-ass way to get closer to your goals without having an emotional breakdown when someone brings cupcakes to your post-lunch meeting. “Snacking can keep your hunger at bay, prevent overeating at meal times, and actually keep your weight in check,” says Kara Lydon, R.D., author of Nourish Your Namaste e-book and The Foodie Dietitian Blog.
The key here is munching on snacks that are packed with protein and fiber to keep you full and fight cravings, says Lydon.
The other essential part of snacking for weight loss is variety, she says. From peanut butter and jelly bowls to antipasti spreads, this is what nutritionists snack on when they're trying to lose weight.
1. Sliced Apple with hummus: “The combination of carbohydrates from the apple and protein and fat from the hummus supply your cells with a constant flow of energy so you don't crave a larger meal," says Laura Cipullo, R.D., author of The Women’s Health Body Clock Diet.
On the go? Grab a sliced apple and an individual hummus packet.
2. PB&J spoons: Skip the bread and scoop a tablespoon of peanut butter and a tablespoon of jelly right into your mouth, says Cipullo.
"The peanut butter delays the sugar high from the jelly, and skipping the bread will keep bloating in check," she says. Cipullo says she likes to eat this in the afternoon (around 3 p.m.) for an energy boost when the stress hormone cortisol takes a nosedive and you get sleepy.
3. Greek yogurt with almonds and walnuts: "Two percent Greek or Icelandic yogurt is high in protein and contains fat to help keep you full," says Lisa Mikus, R.D.N.
Topping a cup of plain Greek yogurt with six almonds helps stabilize your blood sugar and curb cravings, says Mikus. And by throwing in six more walnuts, you'll get omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to facilitate the production of the hormone leptin, which helps you feel full.
4. Cottage cheese with pineapple: This snack is especially great for anyone suffering from PMS, when cravings are on a whole new level, says Cipullo. “Cottage cheese and pineapple will give you that salty-sweet mix with enough protein and carbs to keep you satisfied for a while," she says.
Cipullo loves Friendship’s five-ounce single-serve cottage cheese with pineapple. "It delivers 12 grams of protein and only 20 grams of carbs, making it ideal for snack time,” she explains. You can also make your own by eating five ounces of cottage cheese with a cup of chopped pineapple on the side.
5. Greek parfait: "Greek yogurt is packed with 20 grams of protein per eight-ounce serving, which takes longer to digest and keeps you full," says Lydon. Plus, it contains probiotics, which support digestion (bye, bloating).
Mix six ounces of Greek yogurt with a half-cup of fresh fruit for an extra fiber and a satiety boost, says Lydon.
6. Pistachios: "A handful of pistachios keeps me satisfied for hours," says Erin Palinksi-Wade, R.D. That's because 100 calories worth of pistachios, about 30 nuts, provides plant-based fat, fiber, and protein, she says.
"The leftover shells serve as a reminder of how much I've eaten, which makes staying on track with portion control much easier,” she says.
7. Air-popped popcorn: "With only 100 calories in three cups, air-popped popcorn provides a filling snack packed with fiber," says Palinkski-Wade.
Try experimenting with a variety of toppings, like cinnamon, Parmesan cheese, or even taco seasoning, she says.
For the other healthy snacks nutritionists eat, click here!