SNACKING is often demonised in weight loss diets.
But contrary to belief, it can aid fat loss when planned in the right way.
Feeling peckish? Grab a snack – they don’t need to derail your weight loss planCredit: radub85 – stock.adobe.com
It’s all about snacking smart by choosing foods that sustain your hunger levels until your next meal.
Snacking also gives you an extra opportunity to boost nutrient and vitamin intake, for example if you eat a portion of fruit or veg.
Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer at multivitamin supplement website www.feelaliveuk.com told The Sun: “When trying to lose weight, it’s important to get as much ‘bang for your buck’ from your chosen foods, as possible.
“This means ensuring they are both nutrient-dense and protein-rich to keep calorie intake controlled and cravings in check.
“If you choose a snack high in sugar such as a cookie, you’ll be taking on excess calories and you’ll feel hungry again an hour later, plus they are very low in essential nutrients.”
Suzie also recommended a multivitamin during weight loss to keep blood sugar levels, sugar cravings and energy in check.
The NHS EatWell Guide says to spread your calorie intake out over the day, snacks should make up roughly 20 per cent of your daily calorie intake.
For example if you are a woman eating 2,000 calories a day to lose weight, two snacks worth 200 calories each – perhaps one in the mid-morning and one mid-afternoon – would be suitable for you.
You may choose to eat all your calories in three set meals, at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
But leaving huge gaps of several hours between meals may make it harder to portion control because you are so hungry, experts say.
Dietician Amy Goodson, author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook, told Eat This Not That: “Snacks are not necessarily designed to make you feel full, but rather to keep you from being as hungry at the next meal.
“A nutrient-rich snack that contains fiber and protein will help you get full faster and stay full longer, ultimately helping you stay satiated until mealtime.
“If you aren’t as hungry at mealtime, it is typically easier to control portion sizes and make better choices, which also aid in weight loss.”
Studies have shown both that snacking can drive weight loss and lead to weight gain.
People that gain weight from snacking may be choosing sugary and fatty treats like crisps, cakes, and biscuits, the NHS EatWell Guide says.
But it could also be the time of day – mid-morning snackers were shown to lose weight slower than those who snacked in the afternoon, one study showed.
Dr Lisa R Young, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim, said snacking can “help you lose weight if planned properly”.
She said: “Enjoying a snack can help you lose weight as it cuts cravings later and helps keep blood sugar steady if you snack wisely.
“Pairing a fruit, vegetable, or whole grain—which all contain fiber—with a food that contains protein or healthy fat is a winning combination.”
So with that said, it’s time to stop fighting the hunger pangs and eat a nutritious snack. These snacks, recommended by experts, are unlikely to derail your weight loss goals:
1. Protein hit
Suzie said: “Protein stimulates the opposing hormone to insulin, glucagon, keeping blood sugar levels balanced, and therefore avoiding cravings, particularly for sweet treats.”
She said a great choice would be mixed seeds – high in protein and essential trace minerals.
And if you’re a meat eater, “small pieces of chicken on oat cakes”.
2. Apple with peanut butter or nuts
Fruit is the easiest snack, especially on the go.
Experts suggest pairing it with a small handful of nuts or tablespoon of nut butter because it incorporates a healthy fat.
It also gives “crunchy”, “creamy”, “sweet” and “savoury” – key things to look for in a snack that will satisfy cravings.
As well as finding a range of low-salt and low-sugar types in the supermarket, Rob Hobson, nutritonist working with SlimFast, said: “You can buy these in individual serving packs from the supermarket or high street food outlets such as Pret.
“Like whole nuts they are rich in healthy fats and a source of protein.”
3. Greek yoghurt and berries
Suzie recommended beries for a snack because they are low in glycemic load, which means they are broken down slowly and cause a slow rise in blood sugar levels.
She would pair berries with a few nuts to offer a protein hit (but don’t overdo the nuts as they are very calorific).
Putting together calcium rich Greek yoghurt and antioxidant rich berries is a “nutritional match made in heaven”, according to Susie Burrell, a dietician from Sydney.
She wrote on her blog: “Not only does the yoghurt have minimal sugars compared to many fruit yoghurts but it is also low GI which means it will help to keep blood glucose levels controlled for several hours after eating it.
“When it comes to fruit, any type of berries, fresh or frozen are relatively low in calories and packed full of fibre making them a perfect light snack choice in between meals.”
4. Cheese and crackers
Cheese and crackers are great for those who love a savoury snack and are missing crisps.
Susie said: “Cheese is a nutrient dense food packed with protein, calcium and magnesium and when teamed with a wholegrain or corn based cracker offers a perfect balance of protein and carbohydrate as a filling snack option.”
5. Veg sticks and dip
Veg sticks with dip is another way to boost your veg intake outside of meal times.
Veg is high in fibre which is good for weight loss for two reasons – it is harder to digest, therefore reduces appetite, and it also binds to water in your gut, creating a “gel”.
Carrot, cucumber, celery and peppers are all very low in calories, so a dip such as hummus or low-fat soft cheese makes the perfect pairing.
6. Toast with topper
A healthy slice of wholemeal bread, which has more nutritional value than white bread, and a spread can be a decent 200 calorie snack.
The bread will give a slow release of energy when paired with spreads like peanut butter or low-fat cheese.
Top with slices of banana, chopped nuts, or sliced tomatoes if you’re feeling fancy.
Toast and peanut butter will keep you satisfied till your next mealCredit: Alamy
7. Bircher muesli
This one’s a bit like a second breakfast and perfect for those with a sweet tooth.
Bircher muesli is a combination of ingredients like grated apple, oats, milk, mixed seeds or nuts and some berries, served cold.
It can be made the night before and stored in the fridge to set.
8. Homemade cereal bars
Helen Bond, a leading UK-based registered dietitian, said slimmers need to be conscious of the hidden salts and sugars in foods that appear healthy.
She told The Sun: “Snacking can be part of a balanced diet, and can be a great opportunity to sneak some extra nutrients into our diet.
“But it’s important to choose our snack food wisely – even healthy looking snacks, like reduced fat biscuits, cereal bars, yogurt, cereals etc might seem like virtuous choices, but not all are created equally.”
Cereal bars are a great source of fuel but may be less healthy than first glance.
You could make your own cereal bars by, for example, mixing 2 mashed ripe bananas, 150g oats, 2 tbsp peanut butter and 100g chopped nuts or seeds, pressing into a baking tray and baking in the oven (180°C for around 25 minutes) until golden.
9. Boiled eggs
Boiled eggs are the last thing you’ll want to carry around in your bag.
But Rob, who is head of nutrition at Healthspan, said: “A boiled egg is pretty much carb-free and rich in protein which can help to keep you feeling full between meals.
“Keep them in their shell to avoid the unpleasant smell and try flavouring with celery salt or smoked paprika.”
10. A chocolate bar – if you’re really struggling
It can be easier to stick to a diet if you allow treats here and there, especially if it’s the difference between keeping you motivated and binging days later.
Some chocolate bars are relatively diet friendly because they aren’t as high in calories.
A KitKat (21g) contains 106 calories, a Cadbury Fudge (25.5g) 98 calories and a Mars Milky Way (21.5g) 97 calories.
Rob said if you eat chocolate, try and stick to around 20g of dark chocolate with a high cacao content.
“Chocolate is the ultimate fix for many people but given the portion size is quite small you need to make the most of it so be mindful”, he said.
11. 100 calorie options
If you like to spread your snacks out over the day, dietitian Azmina Govindji suggests these examples of 100 calorie snack options:
- Three water biscuits with 15g of cheddar cheese and 1tsp of pickle
- A slice of wholemeal bread with 60g of baked beans
- A wholegrain crispbread with 15g of grated cheese and a sliced tomato, grilled for a couple of minutes