If you're trying to lose weight, it makes sense to think you should cut down on snacks and shave off those added calories. But with a few ground rules, noshing on smart foods in between meals can actually help you trim down faster!
Think about it: when you go to the grocery store while hungry, you impulse buy a lot more junk food (though not scientifically proven, it's definitely happened to you).
This sentiment is true with dieting on an empty stomach. When you're hungry, you're much more likely to make unhealthy, frequent snacking decisions, or you'll overeat during each of your meals. In this sense, you're sabotaging your progress by restricting your body from the fuel it needs.
The key to smart snacking lies in a couple things: what you eat and how you eat it.
To learn solid guidelines for both, keep scrolling and you'll be on your way to those five pounds lost this month.
Schedule two snacks and cut the rest.
Many top healthy diets call for five appropriately-portioned meals per day. That means you should be eating two snacks between your traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Incorporating these two standard snack times in your day will help your body stay fueled and energized between meals. It'll also help prevent overeating as your body gets used to this upgraded eating schedule. For best results, set exact times to eat your snacks each day to prepare your body for them.
Additionally, cut out other snacking throughout the day that doesn't fall into this schedule—even if it seems harmless. Those little bites, licks and tastes of treats throughout the day can pack on up to 500 additional calories a day, Samantha Finkelstein, R.D., tells SELF.
Skip packaged foods, especially 'light' ones.
Though the convenience allows for simpler snacking, you'll likely consume unhealthy foods with harmful artificial ingredients by popping open a packaged snack. A single-serving bag of Chex Mix provides no health benefits and it won't fill you up either.
To fill that hunger that soon follows, you'll be more tempted to reach for an additional snack. This is tough news for your waistline.
But what if they're 'light' or 'low-fat' foods? That may be even worse! To fill the fat content removed from these snacks, they're often replaced with added sugar or artificial ingredients to find a comparable taste. This is bad news for both your diet and general health.
Prep those 'real food' snacks.
Since packaged snacks are a no-go, you'll need to set yourself up for success by prepping your homemade snacks.
If you work during the day, this will help you stay on track as you take the guesswork out of what you need to eat. Even if you're home for snack time, having prepped foods that are portioned and ready will help you resist the urge to give into hunger and eat naughty foods.
For smart options, pack up a portioned bag of carrots and hummus or a cup of plain Greek yogurt with fruit. You'll satisfy either those fruity or savory cravings without giving into those unhealthy temptations. There are endless options, so you don't have to stick to the same one every day and ruin your diet due to boredom.
Stock up on protein / balance macros
If you aren't sure exactly what breakdown of macros your body needs, dietitians offer some helpful guidelines to keep in mind when choosing smart snacking ideas.
"Check the nutrition labels of what you eat, or look up the item online," Brigitte Zeitlin, R.D., M.P.H., C.D.N., tells SELF. "Aim for 3 or more grams of fiber and at least 5 grams of protein." This combination of macros can lead to a filling food that won't leave you begging for more between meals.
A high-protein snack like a handful of nuts or a hard-boiled egg also help stabilize your blood sugar, keeping those hunger pangs at bay.
Also, watch the labels for potential problems like sugar and sodium. "Keep sodium below 170 milligrams per snack, and limit sugar to 5 or fewer grams," she suggests.
Aside from what you eat, you must also be aware of how you're snacking for weight loss. If you're hard at work, it can be easy to set your container next to your computer and grab a handful of your food between emails. But this practice is a major diet pitfall.
When you're enjoying your snack foods, pay attention to every bite to make it more filling to your body and satisfying to your taste buds. "While snacking, take the time to sit and eat without distractions," says Finkelstein. "Step away from your desk, the television, computer, or anything that might divert your attention from the sensation of what you're eating."
Follow these snacking rules and nosh on these suggested healthy options to make that wishful weight loss a reality.