A snack in the middle of the day can be super satisfying. Although snacks can make a great midday treat, it seems like people try to avoid them, thinking they’re extra unnecessary calories in the day. However there are so many healthy options worth adding into your daily routine, whether you make them at home or purchase them premade at the grocery store, so don’t overlook a snack to curb your hunger.
With that being said, if you’re a snacker, keep on snacking. However, it’s best to rid of your bad habits and instead swap them for healthier snacking habits. If you don’t know where to start, but are eager to jumpstart weight loss, here are some ideas suggested by members of our medical expert board that you can incorporate into your everyday life. And for more tips to jumpstart weight loss, be sure to check out 50 Healthiest Snacks to Eat for Weight Loss.
One of the best ways to burn fat is to eat a combination of protein and carbohydrates. Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD suggests a similar combination is a great snacking method as well to help jumpstart weight loss.
“Low-fat animal proteins like light string cheese or a small can of tuna (packed in water) or smart plant proteins like peanut butter, cashews, or hummus help to fulfill our protein requirements at snack time to help with satiety and muscle building,” says Hembree. “Pair that up with nutrient-dense carbohydrates like an apple, raisins, canned pineapple, carrots, or whole-grain crackers, and you’ll be very unlikely to overeat by the next meal!”
Having a more normalized eating pattern tends to be best for most people for long-term, sustainable weight loss, suggests Julie Upton, MS, RD. If you’re currently in a daily routine, especially during the workweek, it can be helpful to snack during the same times you normally do and continue to keep those same times.
“That means for most people, having three meals and two snacks, one mid-morning and one in the afternoon, breaks daily calories into a manageable amount so that your metabolism, insulin, etcetera can process the energy most efficiently,” says Upton.
If you eat too many calories at once, or too many late in the day, that can lead to increased body fat. A study done by The Endocrine Society has shown research suggesting that eating a late dinner may contribute to weight gain and high blood sugar. As for snacks, it’s important to time them and aim for 200 calories to lose weight and keep it off.
“My clients often tell me they avoid snacks, skip breakfast, have just a nibble of food at lunch, and then gorge at dinner. This isn’t a practice that helps with weight loss,” says Hembree. “Our bodies are instead designed to need energy and sustenance throughout the day, by eating every 3 to 4 hours.”
Hembree suggests that skipping meals and snacks causes people to run on empty, only to feel desperate in the evenings and most likely compromise their food decisions, making unhealthier choices. Plus, trying to resist snacking to lower your caloric intake throughout the day actually makes it difficult for your body to burn more.
In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, those who eat at least six times a day have lower body-mass indexes and consume fewer calories overall, compared to those who only consume three square meals, so incorporating healthy snacks into your day is a good habit to obtain.
Snacks can mean something doable and small, but filling enough to hold you over for a couple of hours. Hembree suggests something like a 250-calorie combo of a cup of yogurt with 1/2 cup of blueberries and 2 tablespoons of granola.
A lot of the time, when people think of snacks, they think of chips, candy, baked goods, or any other processed foods. These snack choices are low-quality, high-calorie options that won’t help to lose weight, but instead, gain weight. To avoid these bad snacking habits, Upton suggests making it a habit to snack on fruits and vegetables, because it will almost ensure that your snack calories will remain in balance with your overall daily calorie budget.
“Snacks currently comprise about 25% of Americans’ total calories, making them truly a fourth meal, when, in fact, you want snacks to be more like 200 calories mid-morning and in the afternoon,” says Upton. “Remember, no one needs a snack before bed. We don’t need to fuel up to sleep!”