- Healthy snacks for weight loss are nutrient-dense, portion-controlled, and balanced.
- Some examples are an apple with peanut butter, a banana and almonds, or a protein bar.
- You can also try hummus and carrots, fruit and plain greek yogurt, and homemade trail mix.
If you and your doctor have decided that losing weight is the best course of action for your health, then lifestyle and dietary changes are likely necessary.
That may mean replacing high-calorie snacks that lack nutrition, like potato chips, with healthy ones, like fresh fruits and veggies.
“Unfortunately, a lot of American snacks are highly processed, high-calorie and low-nutrient value. These types of snacks can leave you feeling sluggish and lead to weight gain,” says Amber Ingram, a registered dietician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
On the other hand, she says a healthy balanced snack can boost your energy and provide your body with the necessary nutrients. Ingram says some rules of thumb for healthy snacks are that they are:
- Nutrient-dense, meaning they contain a nice mix of vitamins and minerals.
- Portion controlled, like a single apple or orange.
- Balanced, meaning ideally it contains protein and a complex carbohydrate — which helps keep you full. A healthy fat can be a great addition, too, but it isn’t necessary for a balanced snack.
- Around 150-250 calories
Here are 12 healthy snack ideas recommended by dieticians.
1. An apple and natural peanut butter
- One medium-sized apple: 95 calories
- One tablespoon of natural peanut butter: 95 calories
- Total calories: 190
Snacks that incorporate protein can help you feel fuller longer, which may reduce overeating and subsequent weight gain.
Natural peanut butter is a great plant-based protein source, and apples are high in soluble fiber, which studies suggest may aid weight loss as well as reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
2. Cottage cheese and pineapple
- One-half cup of 2% milk cottage cheese: 90 calories
- One-half cup of pineapple: 41 calories
- Total calories: 131
In addition to the protein which helps keep you full, cottage cheese is also packed with calcium which can help support bone health.
Plus, a sweet, healthy fruit like pineapple, cantaloupe, or mango is perfect to add a burst of flavor to a snack.
3. Fruit and plain Greek yogurt
- One cup of strawberries: 53 calories
- One container of plain Greek yogurt: 100 calories
- Total calories: 153
While yogurt may seem like a healthy choice, many flavored varieties are loaded with added sugar. Added sugars can easily lead to excess sugar consumption which is linked to obesity.
Incorporate flavor and sweetness by adding your fruit of choice. Berries, including strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries, are a great option because they’re loaded with antioxidants, which help reduce the risk of conditions like kidney and cardiovascular disease caused by free radical damage.
Plus, Greek yogurt contains probiotics, which may have benefits like maintaining a healthy microbiome and cardiovascular health.
4. Hummus and carrots
The benefits of this snack are twofold: One, the hummus is a good source of protein and fiber, both of which help you feel full and satisfied, says Beltran. And two, carrots contain beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A by your body. Vitamin A can benefit your eyesight, immune system, and cholesterol.
Plus, eating more vegetables can aid general weight loss because veggies are more satisfying which can help with hunger control, according to a 2014 study of overweight adults.
5. String cheese with a side of cashews
- One light mozzarella string cheese: 50 calories
- One-fourth cup of cashews: 197 calories
- Total calories: 247
The combination of string cheese and cashews contains healthy fats and protein, which won’t cause a blood sugar spike that could later leave you tired and sluggish, says Allison Childress, PhD, dietitian and assistant professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Texas Tech University.
Opting for light or low-fat versions of snacks like cheese can help you easily cut back on fat and calories as you’re on your weight loss journey.
Plus, nuts like cashews, almonds, walnuts, and macadamia nuts are heart-healthy and may help lower “bad” cholesterol levels.
6. A banana and almonds
“This snack combines the carbohydrates from the banana with the fat, fiber, and protein from the almonds to create a well-balanced snack that will fill you up,” says Childress.
7. Whole grain toast with peanut butter
- One slice of whole-grain bread: 110 calories
- One tablespoon of natural peanut butter: 95 calories
- Total calories: 205
In fact, one small 2012 study found that overweight female participants who ate bread as part of a low-calorie diet were more likely to stick to the diet than those told to cut out bread entirely.
Just be sure to avoid white bread and other options made from refined grains, like bleached flour. These will typically have little to no fiber. Instead, opt for, whole grain bread, which provides more fiber and nutrients such as B vitamins, iron, and folate.
You may also want to consider toasting your bread, as research suggests this can lower its glycemic index — a measure of how likely a food will spike blood sugar. However, more studies are needed to determine how much toasting will lower GI for whole wheat bread and how that might affect weight loss.
8. A protein bar
- One Quest protein bar: 190 calories
If you’re looking for easy on-the-go snack options, try some protein bars. However, be sure to read the label and make sure they aren’t loaded with added sugars.
A 2020 review found that over the course of six to 12 months, high protein diets can be beneficial for losing weight and preventing weight regain, whether you’re on a low-calorie diet or not. Additionally, the review found that high protein diets can promote satiety or the sensation of being full.
Childress recommends Quest bars, which have around 15 grams of fiber, 21 grams of protein, and just 2 grams of sugar. Other brands with a healthy balance of fiber and protein and low sugar include ONE and Alani Nu, says Childress. Experiment with different protein bars and see which ones are your personal favorite.
9. Homemade trail mix
- One-fourth cup of trail mix: around 160 calories
Of course, buying ready-packaged trail mix is an option, but Beltran suggests taking the DIY route since you can more easily control the overall calorie count by choosing what goes in it.. Beltran says some healthy options to include are:
- Dark chocolate chips
- Dried cranberries
Since trail mix usually contains high-calorie foods like dried fruit and nuts, moderation is key. Be sure to measure out a quarter cup before snacking instead of eating straight from a bag to ensure portion control.
10. Crunchy chickpeas and a hard boiled egg
- One-fourth cup of crunchy chickpeas: 161 calories
- One large hard-boiled egg: 78 calories
- Total calories: 149
Roasting chickpeas makes them nice and crunchy — a bonus when you’re trying to lose weight as researchers have found foods that make a lot of noise while eaten tend to lead people to eat less overall.
Plus, eggs are good for weight loss because they are protein-packed and nutrient dense while being low-calorie.
11. Fruit smoothie with protein powder
The total calorie count will vary based on what ingredients you choose for your smoothie. In general, opt for a mix of fruits and vegetables like:
- 1 medium-sized banana (105 calories) and a bunch of baby spinach (27 calories): About 132 calories
- 1 medium-sized apple (65 calories) and a handful of celery (20 calories): About 85 calories
One thing to note about smoothies is that they contain less fiber than if you ate those foods whole. As a result, your blood sugar may be more likely to spike. To slow down digestion and prevent a blood sugar spike, add a scoop of protein powder to your smoothie.
12. English muffin with avocado
- One half of a whole grain English muffin: 65 calories
- One-fourth of an avocado: 81 calories
- Total calories: 146
Avocados are high in healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, and rich in nutrients that make them good for your heart, eye, and skin health. Plus, the fiber from the whole grain can help you feel fuller and promote good gut health.
A 2019 study found that among non-overweight people, those who consumed avocados were less likely to gain weight than those who did not consume avocados.
There are so many options out there for delicious and nutritious healthy snacks that you can eat while trying to lose weight. Be mindful of portion sizes, and always remember moderation is key.
Additionally, Beltran says you should make sure you really are hungry before you spring for a snack, rather than just eating out of boredom, stress, or needing a distraction.
The right healthy snacks will keep you full until your next meal and can help you on your weight loss journey.