Nutrition Articles

Snacking Healthy

Add Snacks to Subtract Pounds

While some dieters happily accept when someone suggests a snack, others feel pangs of guilt when a nibble is merely suggested. However, there is nothing inherently wrong with a bite between meals. In fact, snacking might be the missing ingredient that will help you reach your weight loss goals.

But how can this make sense, since snacking theoretically adds calories?

Snacking doesn’t serve to replace a meal. In fact, you should spread meals and snacks out by an hour or two, and snacks should total a couple hundred calories or less.

Munching between meals can actually reduce your overall caloric intake by curbing overeating at your next meal. By controlling later binging, snacking can help you stay on track. You can actually use this to your advantage. If you know you are going out to a big dinner with friends later, for example, make sure you have a healthy snack before you head out so you’re less likely to order (and finish) a large entrée.
How You Snack Can Make or Break Your Diet
There is definitely a wrong way and a right way to snack. You should avoid sugary items like candy and soda, and shouldn’t be consuming enough calories to constitute a meal. Instead, steer towards foods that will satisfy you and keep you feeling fuller longer. Fruits and vegetables are always a safe bet because they are low in fat and calories. (Just be sure to avoid high-calorie dips.) Yogurt, fruit smoothies, even a slice of whole-wheat toast all make great snacks during the day. Combining lean protein, some healthy fat, and complex carbohydrates will help you feel fuller longer.
Mini Meals
Many experts are recommending several smaller meals throughout the day instead of the usual three. By eating at regular intervals, your blood sugar levels (and therefore your energy levels) remain stable. So, instead of that mid-afternoon crash, you’ll be full of vigor through dinnertime!   Eating every few hours (especially if you chew on fruits and veggies) can also help add extra nutrition that might be missing from other meals.
Snacking Isn’t Grazing
Mindless eating is often the downfall of many snackers. You may start with only a handful of your favorite crackers, only to finish the entire box, without even thinking about it. Obviously, this example isn’t the healthy snacking that can help you reach your weight loss goals. 
To avoid grazing:
  • Fill a small plate with your snack, and leave the kitchen. Just walk away. When your plate is empty, snack time is over. 
  • Never bring the entire container with you in front of the television or computer. Enjoy your snack without distraction and you won’t be tempted to reach for more.
  • If you stand around the snack table chatting at a party, you may find yourself reaching for food when the conversation lulls. This can often lead to an unintentional binge because you simply aren’t paying attention to what you are eating. 
  • Limit yourself to a single serving. 
  • Plan out your snacks just like you would a meal. Is one cookie worth the calorie cost, when you could eat a plate of fresh fruit instead? 
Practice Moderation
As with the rest of your diet, moderation is crucial when snacking. Make sure that you are adding every snack to your Nutrition Tracker, along with the larger meals you eat during the day. If you don’t keep track, you might add excess calories and fat to your diet without realizing it. 

Don’t sabotage your diet with unhealthy nibbles throughout the day; stick to nourishing foods whenever possible. If you know you have a weakness for junk food, do yourself a favor and don’t purchase these items next time you are at the grocery store. Then you won’t have to fight the temptation of ice cream or potato chips when hunger pangs hit.

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Member Comments

  • I divide breakfast and lunch into "snacks" I get up very early (4 a.m.) and eat breakfast per se with hubby between 7-9 (work day/weekend). So breakfast is fruit or yogurt. "snack" more traditional breakfast - one egg one piece of toast. Lunch soup or salad with nuts. snack: cheese OR a Slimfast high protein shake...Dinner pretty "normal" - herb tea after that until bed.
  • Snacking can be great for some people but i think if you really want to lose weight and get in tip top health then its very much about HOW you eat as well. Once i started taking the # 1 magnesium and taking the advice from dr. dean then i no longer needed to snack.
    check it out!
    om/# this is VERY interesting
  • I have to eat a snack before my daily walk. Usually 1/3 cup of cottage cheese with some sliced peaches.If I don't then I will snack on junk.
  • I have always been a snacker... ok a grazer. I could graze all day and still eat a huge lunch & dinner. That is why I got fat. When I started actually losing weight I planned my meals: I get 4 meals a day. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Snack. It is all planned and fits in my calorie goal for the day (1,500-1,800). My usual sweet snack is a small apple (55 calories), my salty snack is a 1 oz bag of mixed nuts (150 calories). Usually I get 2 apples a day, and 4 or 5 bags of nuts a week. If I do not snack I will overeat at meals, or binge. Find what works for you, and you will have better success. The 8 glasses of water help curb hunger as well.
  • My afternoon snack had become, for years, a grazing habit. No matter if I planned a healthy snack, it became a graze. It felt helpless. Finally I attacked it as the one thing I would focus on - no snack, or a healthy one if truly hungry. I made a chart of 42 days and checked off the days of no snack, and wrote in what I ate when I had a snack. After 14 days I felt I could eat something without it leading to a graze, and I did. After that, whenever I felt really hungry, I ate something, had a glass of water and quit. I am on day 40 and have not had a single graze! Now I don't even feel the pull to the kitchen and if I do get hungry, I get something to eat, have my water and that's that. It takes me at least 5 or 6 weeks to really break a habit. Now I truly feel as if I can have my snack without getting drawn into a graze and I'm not obsessing about food all the time.
  • Take only one serving and leave the container behind, preferably 'way behind. It is VERY easy to keep eating, especially when it's a salty snack with crunch.

    Also, depression eating is a thing; it's a subset of emotional eating. Snacking fits right there.

    I think the advice to turn snacks into "mini-meals" and eat less at the "Big Three" is metabolically and nutritionally sound. Before we settled into farming communities (and for a long time after) there was no set schedule for meals; that's comparatively new. The body has not yet evolved for three-squares-a-d
    ay; that's a cultural thing, not a natural way to eat. Granted our society doesn't leave much leeway there, but it can be done.
  • I only snack if I feel super hungry which isn't very often. Then I try a handful of sunflower seeds or nuts, a banana or a yogurt to take the edge off until mealtime. My low metabolism keeps me going.
  • Had some string cheese before my workout today, only because I felt hungry. I am trying to only eat when I'm actually hungry.
  • I have found that snacking does not support my body. Three meals a day with no snacking between meals or following dinner leaves me feeling at my best.
  • various meal replacement shakes have helped with feeling full and satisfied. I add soluble fiber to one each morning, and I'm not hungry. When I was trying to go without from breakfast to dinner, I found myself really overeating in the evening, so I'm a true believer in spacing meals or snacks throughout the day.
    Good information. I stopped buying natural peanut butter because I spend too much time "Grazing" on it.
    Snacks are always an issue for me. I have a hard time finding snacks that incorporate protein and veggies. Does anyone have suggestions besides hummus and carrots (allergies)? Thanks!!
  • thanks for the tips. :-)
  • Thank you for this useful info. I know my snacks tend to match or exceed a meal allotment. Being mindful and committed help to curb this pitfall.
  • Good article. Thanks.

About The Author

Liz Noelcke Liz Noelcke
Liz is a journalist who often writes about health and fitness topics.

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