Want to amp up your weight loss efforts? You may be eating healthy at mealtimes but find yourself letting loose in the bag of chips, or pretzels, or ice cream tub, or cookie jar, or…you get the point. To help get back on track with your weight loss goals, tweak your snacks to be weight-loss-friendly power combos.
A great rule of thumb is to eat snacks that have these two key nutrients: protein and fiber.
“Snacks that combine fiber and protein are very supportive of weight loss. Fiber and protein calm hunger hormones and balance blood sugar, so you can stay full and satisfied between meals,” says Kylie Ivanir, MS, RD, a registered dietitian who runs her own private practice called Within Nutrition. “Balancing your blood sugar and keeping insulin (your fat-storing hormone) low between meals is key to staying in a fat-burning state.”
Below, registered dietitian nutritionists weigh in with their top picks for snacks that promote healthy, lasting weight loss. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, don’t miss Eating Habits to Lose Abdominal Fat As You Age, Say Dietitians.
Decadent and healthy? We’ll take it. “Bananas are a source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fiber is particularly important for weight loss, as it helps you stay full and contributes little in the way of calories to the diet. Peanut butter is rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fat, protein, and fiber,” says Jinan Banna, PhD, RD, a registered dietitian and professor of nutrition, citing this research. As a bonus: “the fat in peanut butter is health-promoting when it comes to the heart,” she adds.
To make this snack, Banna likes to cut up a banana, freeze it, and then spread some peanut butter on it and eat it.
“Whole grains contain fiber, which is important for weight loss, given that it helps you to feel full and contributes little in the way of calories to the diet,” says Banna, pointing to this research on the health benefits of dietary whole grains. “Cheese contains fat and protein, both of which also help you to stay full and avoid overeating.”
Banna suggests keeping one serving to about five crackers and one ounce of cheese, “although it is fine to eat more or less depending on your level of hunger and your needs.” Looking for the perfect crackers as the vessel for your slice of Swiss? Check out our list of 11 Healthy Store-Bought Cracker Brands, According to Nutritionists.
“If you really want to supercharge your fat loss, you want a snack that not only satisfies your sweet and crunchy snack-time cravings without providing too many calories, but that also helps to prevent overeating at your next meal,” say Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, The Nutrition Twins, founders of The 21-Day Body Reboot and Eat This, Not That! medical expert board members.
“The sweet and crunchy apple packs a double weight loss punch because it’s low in calories to keep you lean and high in water and fiber to keep you full. Plus, apple polyphenols have been shown to assist the body in shedding fat, even altering gene expression and fat pathways to favor weight loss,” they say.
“Crunchy pistachios extend the staying power and energy boost of the faster-digested carbohydrate (the apple), prolonging satisfaction since pistachios provide a winning combination of plant protein and fiber, as well as unsaturated fat, for a trio of nutrients that may help to keep you fuller longer. The duo elaborates on this, noting that research shows that in-shell pistachios may help you to eat more mindfully because the leftover shells can be a visual cue for portions, potentially helping to curb intake. Shoot for about 30 pistachios.
This idea to serve a piece of toast with almond butter and Greek yogurt blend, topped with mashed raspberries comes from Ivanir: “Mix one tablespoon of almond butter and one tablespoon of plain Greek yogurt together for a creamy spread that’s rich in protein and probiotics,” she says. “Then mash two tbsp of raspberries with a fork, to get a naturally sugar-free jam, and add them on top to get your dose of fiber,” she continues, adding that you should use Greek yogurt over regular yogurt since it’s higher in protein.
“Most people only think of fats when they hear ‘avocado,’ but each avocado actually packs in a whopping 14 grams of fiber,” says Ivanir. “Pair it with a seed cracker to add some protein and even more fiber on top. Research has shown that avocados can promote feelings of fullness long after comparable high-carb snacks.” For more on avocados, check out eight amazing secrets about avocados you never knew.
If you can put yogurts and berries in a bowl, you can make this snack (and if you want to get fancy, put alternating layers of yogurt and berries in glassware and sprinkle some cinnamon on top with a few sprigs of fresh mint.)
“The secret to this weight loss snack is Greek yogurt, which is rich in protein. Protein is one key for weight loss because increasing the percentage of protein in your diet can curb appetite and increase satiety throughout the day, helping to prevent overeating and making losing weight easier,” say The Nutrition Twins. “Greek yogurt is also a good source of probiotics, the good-for-your-gut bacteria that research suggests can help with weight loss by positively impacting the hormones that help to regulate appetite, fat storage, and fat burning,” they add.
“Boost Greek yogurt’s fat-blasting potential by layering it with berries, including blackberries, blueberries, wild blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. Berries are naturally low in sugar and calories, yet they’re sweet enough to help to curb a sweet tooth craving. Berries are rich in fiber to promote satiety, and they contain the phytochemical C3G that appears to help with weight loss and increases the production of both adiponectin (which enhances fat metabolism) and leptin (which suppresses appetite).”
Aim for about ¾-cup of plain unsweetened Greek yogurt and ¾-cup of berries
There’s so much goodness packed into this little blue fruit! And walnuts are a great aid in promoting good health and aiding in weight loss efforts, too. “This is a super easy option,” says Ivanir. “Berries are high in fiber and low in sugar. They also pack in a good dose of antioxidants. A ½ cup of berries has three grams of fiber and just four grams of sugar and a ¼ cup of walnuts has two grams of fiber, five grams of protein, and less than a gram of sugar.”
When hunger strikes, try this nutrient-dense pairing from Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, an inclusive plant-based registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Master the Media. “I suggest reaching for a half cup of POM Wonderful Pomegranate Arils. They’re a good source of fiber—you get 4 grams in every half cup,” says Gorin. “And research in The Journal of Nutrition found that intake of dietary fiber helps promote weight loss in adults with overweight or obesity who are eating a calorie-restricted diet. I like to pair the arils with a quarter cup of sunflower seeds, which offer additional fiber as well as protein and healthy fats.”
Love dark chocolate? Here’s your excuse to eat more of it. “One of my favorite snacks to recommend is chocolate. Yes, I’m telling you that you can eat chocolate and still lose weight! Lately, I’m obsessed with Gatsby Chocolate’s Sea Salt Extra Dark, which is made with allulose, a non-artificial sweetener found naturally in fruits like figs and raisins. Thus, it contains less sugar and calories than a traditional chocolate bar,” says Gorin. “Also, dark chocolate boasts monounsaturated fats, which can help keep you fuller for longer—meaning you may be less likely to eat additional snacks later in the day. I like to recommend pairing a third of the bar—which contains just 60 calories—with a cup of raspberries, which boast satiating fiber.”