Snacks: How they fit into your weight-loss plan

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Snacks: How they fit into your weight-loss plan

Your stomach is growling, but lunch is hours away. You could indulge yourself with a snack, but you think it's best to grit your teeth and wait for lunch. Not so, if weight loss is your goal.

Although you may feel guilty about snacking, snacks aren't necessarily bad. In fact, well-planned weight-loss diets, such as The Mayo Clinic Diet, allow for snacks to help manage hunger and reduce bingeing. Eating a healthy snack of a piece of fruit or some raw veggies can tame your hunger without ruining your appetite for your next meal.

The key to incorporating snacks into your weight-loss plan is to keep moderation and balance in mind.

Choose healthy snacks

Select foods that satisfy your hunger, supply your body with energy and provide important nutrients. Opt for snacks of 100 calories or less to stay within your daily calorie goal. You can eat more of foods with low energy density, such as carrots, grapes and air-popped popcorn, for your 100 calories. Choose snacks from these food groups:

  • Fruits and vegetables. Eating fruits and vegetables provides a feeling of fullness with little to no fat and only a small number of calories. Fruits and vegetables also provide vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients.
  • Whole grains. Whole-grain snacks are rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates, which give you energy with staying power. Look for items such as low-fat whole-grain crackers, whole-grain pretzels and whole-grain crispbreads.
  • Nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds provide protein, so you will feel fuller longer. They can be high in fat, but it's mostly monounsaturated, a healthy kind of fat. Nuts and seeds are high in calories, however, so don't eat them in large quantities.
  • Low-fat dairy products. Cheese, yogurt and other dairy products are good sources of calcium and protein, plus many other vitamins and minerals. Choose the low-fat versions. Some yogurts have extra added sugar, so look for low-calorie or "light" varieties.

What does a 100-calorie snack look like?

Although snacks can contribute to a healthy diet, they can also be a source of excess calories if you aren't careful. For example, a small handful of almonds (about 14 nuts) contains 100 calories. But eat a cup of almonds, and the calorie count jumps to over 800 calories.

So what are some smart choices? Here are several suggestions for 100-calorie snacks:

  • 1 cup sliced bananas and fresh raspberries
  • 2 cups of carrots
  • 3 1/2 cups air-popped popcorn
  • 5 melba toast crackers, rye or pumpernickel
  • 2 tablespoons of peanuts
  • 2 domino-sized slices of low-fat Colby or cheddar cheese
  • 1 fat-free chocolate pudding cup

When a snack fills in for a meal

With today's busy world, healthy meals often lose out to busy schedules. A grab-and-go snack could be the difference between some nourishment and none at all. You'll find it easier to choose good-for-you snacks if you stock your refrigerator and shelves with foods that are fast — not fussy. These ideas for healthy snacks minimize fat and calories and maximize whole grains, fruits and vegetables. They're all around 200 calories.

  • Toast one-half of a whole-wheat English muffin. Top with one slice Canadian bacon, a tomato slice and one slice low-fat American cheese. Microwave until the cheese melts.
  • Spread 1 tablespoon part-skim ricotta cheese over one-half of a small cinnamon-raisin bagel. Sprinkle with cinnamon if desired and top with a thinly sliced apple.
  • Top a small baked potato with 2 tablespoons fat-free plain yogurt and sprinkle with Cajun seasoning.
  • Layer a 6-inch soft corn or flour tortilla with 2 tablespoons shredded low-fat cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese. Microwave until the cheese melts. Slice into bite-sized pie shapes. Dip into some salsa if desired.
  • Mix 1/4 cup cold leftover chicken or convenience-type chunk chicken with sliced seedless grapes, 1/2 tablespoon sunflower seeds, 1 tablespoon plain low-fat yogurt or fat-free mayonnaise, and a dash of curry powder. Stuff into half of a whole-wheat pita pocket.

Heed your hunger pangs, but forget the guilt. With planning and a little preparation, you can have healthy foods on hand so that you're ready when temptation strikes.

Last Updated: 2010-05-29
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