A common issue in the quest to lose weight is snacking. Before most people begins a diet, they typically snack throughout the day. This becomes a habitual behavior that is very difficult to cut out. Not only are dieters hungry, they are also disrupting their typical schedule which throws them off further. This deviation in schedule often causes energy crashes and irritability and can often lead to binging on junk food later, putting you right back where you started (if not worse). So, perhaps cutting out snacking all together isn’t the solution. Indulging in some healthy snacking can actually make it easier to stay on track! So what makes a snack healthy? Well, it depends on the rest of your diet. Some people may require more protein in their snacks while others may require more fats or carbs depending on the contents of their actual meals. In general, the key to weightloss is simple. You must burn more calories than you eat in order to lose weight. Following this logic, the easiest way to limit calories from snacking is to eat snacks that will leave you feeling fuller longer! This way, there isn’t a constant struggle to keep yourself from eating more. You’re already full! So, how do we reduce hunger while still keeping calories relatively low? Let’s take a look at that below.
When we eat foods that take up more space in our stomach, we feel more full.1 Makes sense right? So when looking for a healthy snack, look for the biggest sized snack that contains the fewest calories. It should be noted that this is only an immediate response, meaning you will become hungry again as the food is digested. However, this immediate feeling of fullness will cause you to stop eating, automatically reducing calories! While eating salads may not be all that fun, you can eat 2 full cups of salad for only 20 calories!2 That huge 20 calorie salad isn’t sounding so bad compared to a tiny 250 calorie candy bar huh?
Bottom line: Look for snacks that take up the most space with the fewest calories in order to make yourself feel full immediately after eating.
Alright so we’ve covered how to make yourself feel full right after eating, but how do you make yourself feel full all day long? Well, as mentioned above we only feel full until the food we ate is digested. So, if we eat food that will be digested more slowly, this will cause us to feel fuller longer! Fats and proteins are digested much more slowly than carbohydrates, so look for lots of healthy fats and protein in order to keep yourself full! This is not to say that carbs are bad, however fats and proteins help to slow down the digestive process as a whole. Limit saturated and trans fats where possible and look to get a majority of your fats as MUFA (monounsaturated fatty acids) and PUFA (poly unsaturated fatty acids). Snacks like avocados, nuts, and even peanut butter are full of healthy fats that will keep you feeling fuller longer. Protein will also help to keep you full as it too will slow the digestive process. Many of us looking to gain muscle (or simply retain it while losing bodyfat) need more protein in our diets and adding some protein to our snacks is a great way to do it. Lean meat, beef jerky (look for low-fat, low-sodium options), nuts, and nut butters are all great options. If you’re looking for something more convenient, low-carb protein bars and protein shakes are great options as well.
Bottom line: Snacks high in “healthy fats” (MUFA and PUFA) and protein will digest more slowly, keeping you feeling full for hours after eating!
One final factor to consider when looking for a healthy snack is variety. A variety of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) will cause you to feel less hungry.3 With a few exceptions, most micronutrients are very brightly colored. An easy way to make sure you’re getting a variety of them is to make sure to eat a lot of colors. This will also help you to stay full! Salads, trail mix (without candy), and mixed fruits are all great options.
Bottom line: Eating a variety of colors will ensure you’re eating a variety of micronutrients, helping you to stay full.
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