Snacking – Good, Bad, or Ugly for Weight Management?
Written by Meredith Bonde, a Mayo School of Health Sciences dietetic intern.
Snacking can get a bad reputation, but can it be a helpful tool for weight loss? Perhaps.
Potential benefits of snacking
- May provide healthy fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals if selected intentionally
- May prevent you from getting overly hungry and reaching for less healthful choices or overeating later in the day.
Consider this: Pair a fiber with protein
High-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains fill you up for less calories. Protein-rich foods such as lean meats, poultry, fish, dairy, beans, and legumes keep you feeling fuller, longer.
- No-sugar-added low-fat or Greek yogurt topped with berries
- Vegetables (carrots, bell pepper, celery, radish slices, snap peas, cauliflower or broccoli florets) or whole grain crackers dipped in hummus
- Apple slices or celery sticks with peanut butter
- Fruit with a hard-boiled egg, cottage cheese, string cheese, or a small handful of nuts
- Steamed edamame (soybean) pods
- Air-popped popcorn with a glass of milk
- Make it visible – set a bowl of fruit out on your kitchen counter or desk.
- Take portable fruits like bananas, oranges, apples with you on-the-go.
- Cut fruits and vegetables ahead of time and keep them in the fridge for easy access.
- Buy pre-portioned servings of string cheese, apple sauce or fruit cups, or small containers of hummus, nuts, and crackers.
How and why we snack is just as important as what we snack on. Mindful eating can help with portion control and help us savor our food.
- Ask yourself – am I feeling physically hungry, or am I reaching for a snack because I am feeling stressed, bored, or another emotion?
- Limit distractions while eating, such as watching TV, looking at your smartphone, or working at your desk.
- Try limiting snacking to one location in your house, such as the kitchen table.
- Savor your food – notice the unique aroma, tastes, and textures of each bite.
- Slow down - it can take 20 minutes for your brain to receive the signal from your stomach that you are full. Try taking smaller bites, chewing well, using smaller utensils, or putting your fork down between each bite, to help you eat just enough to satisfy your hunger.
- Balanced, planned, mindful snacking can be a helpful tool for weight loss, but it is not a requirement, nor a “one-size-fits-all” approach.
- Experiment and see what works best for you. Notice how different snack choices affect your hunger, cravings, mood, and eating pattern for the rest of the day.
- Take small steps – if you tend to snack on higher calorie, less healthful choices, try splitting that portion in half and adding a fruit or vegetable on the side. A balanced diet that still includes the foods we enjoy is important for sustainable weight loss.