When it comes to weight loss, there’s a LOT of advice out there about what you should and shouldn’t be doing.
And snacking in particular is an area that can be really confusing.
You might think snacking in-between meals is a big no-no.
Or you might have heard you need to keep your metabolism going, and therefore you need to eat many small meals throughout the day (whether you’re hungry or not).
As a dietitian, I’m here to tell you that NEITHER of these things is true.
In fact, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to how much or when you should snack when you’re trying to lose weight.
It all comes back to your own personal hunger – and what your body needs to get through the day.
But not all snacks are created equal, and there ARE certain snack choices that are better than others if you want to feel satisfied and energised, and still lose weight.
In this article, I’m going to share 5 healthy snacks to curb cravings (including some of my personal favourites), so you can stay fuller for longer and achieve your weight loss goals.
Why you feel like snacking
First though, let’s look at the reasons why you might feel like snacking.
The obvious reason is because you feel hungry (or maybe you just think you do).
Physical signs of hunger include:
- increased thoughts of food and eating
- a rumble or feeling of emptiness in your stomach
- trouble concentrating
- feeling irritable (or hangry)
- feeling tired
- having a headache
- feeling shaky in your hands.
As your hunger grows, these signs and feelings become more uncomfortable and difficult to ignore – and there’s a good reason for this.
Your body is trying to get you to focus your attention on going out and seeking food, because this is what it needs to keep you alive and thriving. It’s meant to feel uncomfortable so you do something about it!
Sometimes though, feelings of discomfort that make you feel like eating don’t actually come from your body’s physical needs.
Instead, they can be due to something you’re emotionally experiencing, like boredom, procrastination, or feeling overwhelmed and stressed by your kids’ behaviour.
This type of eating is known as ‘emotional eating’, and it’s something most people do to some degree.
It’s also the key cause of OVEReating, which is why it’s a problem if you’re trying to lose weight.
To avoid this, it’s important to get in touch with your hunger and understand if your body actually needs a snack, or if you’re feeling hungry for another reason.
What to snack on if you’re trying to lose weight
So you’ve identified you’re physically hungry and need a snack. Now what?
Well, you want to choose snacks that are both satisfying and filling – and there are 4 key ‘power foods’ I recommend to all of my clients.
The first is protein, which will satisfy your hunger and keep you feeling fuller for longer. Sources of protein include dairy products like yoghurt, milk and cheese, as well as seeds, legumes, eggs and animals meats (chicken, beef, pork, fish, etc.).
The second power food is fats, which can be found in things like nuts and seeds, cheese, milks, yoghurt, and even veggies like avocados! This is the last and slowest macronutrient that leaves the stomach, which also helps you feel fuller for longer.
The third power food is carbohydrates, which is the body’s main fuel source. It gets used the quickest, which is why it’s important to eat your fair portion of carbs if you’re a busy mum. You’ll find this in yoghurt and milk, grains (bread, cereals, rice, pasta), plant foods (legumes and lentils), and fruits and veggies (sweet potatoes, corn, apples, potatoes, etc).
The last (and my favourite) power food is fibre. There are so many health benefits from eating fibre, and this is the secret to adding ‘bulk’ to your snack to keep you feeling fuller for longer. Good sources of fibre include grains like rice, quinoa, oats, wholegrain bread, fruits and veggies (especially the skin), nuts, seeds and legumes (basically any food that comes from a plant).
While all of these ‘Power Four’ have a role to play in your body, it’s not ideal to have only one type of power food in your snack.
For example, munching on fibre-rich veggies like carrots or celery will provide bulk to your stomach and trick it into thinking it’s full. But without protein, fats or carbs, this ‘healthy snack’ won’t have any staying power and you’ll quickly find yourself hungry again.
Instead, I recommend combining at least 3 out of the 4 in every snack to keep you satisfied and feeling fuller for longer.
5 healthy snack combinations to try
So now you know what to snack on, here are some power food snack combinations to try, including a few of my own personal favourites.
1. Cheese and crackers
Cheese and crackers is an ideal snack that combines protein and fat (from the cheese) with carbohydrates and fibre (from the crackers). Wholegrain crackers like Vita-Weats or Carmen’s nut and seed crackers are best to increase your fibre, and try not to have more than 40g (2 thin slices) of cheese spread over 4-6 crackers.
2. Nibbles platter
A nibbles platter is a great way to combine the Power Four into a tasty, satisfying snack. Try some vegetables, nuts, cheese sticks and dried fruit thrown together on a small plate. My personal favourite is carrots, cheese (2 slices/sticks), almonds (about 10) and dried apricots (2-4). Hello happy hour!
3. Yoghurt and muesli
Yoghurt and muesli is another way to combine protein and fat (from the yoghurt) with carbohydrate and fibre from the muesli. You can try this one fresh or even let it sit overnight for a bircher muesli. Some yoghurts can be high in saturated fat (or ‘bad’ fat), so make sure to choose one that doesn’t have added cream.
4. Grain toppers
A simple spread of jam on some wholegrain toast or Vegemite on a wholegrain cracker can be a healthy, satisfying snack. To increase the fats component, you could also try something like cottage cheese and tomato on toast. Your only limit here is your imagination!
5. A smoothie
A smoothie is a refreshing treat when it’s hot, and a satisfying and healthy snack too! Blend some frozen strawberries with Greek yoghurt, or kefir for a tangy refreshment. The less liquid you add, the more like strawberry sorbet it tastes! You could even add one tablespoon of chia seeds for an extra hit of fibre and omega-3 fatty acids.
So there you have it – 5 healthy snacks to curb cravings and help you lose weight. By listening to your body and sticking to satisfying and filling snacks like these, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your weight loss goals.
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