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.
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As a recovering sugar/simple carbohydrates (CHO) addict; snacking healthy is of huge importance to me. We can't talk enough about the topic, and the article is an excellent primer!
Adding protein is SO helpful for those (myself included!) who have a habit of grabbing carb-only snack items!
Carbs and sugar have been my downfall for a long time. It's only been the past 2 years where I was able to lose weight and maintain it by using low carb and health fat dieting along with intermittent fasting which in my case is a 4, 6 and sometimes an 8 hour eating window depending on what I have going on for the day. There is another discussion members may find helpful for more information:
— Low-carb healthy fat living. Intermittent fasting. What’s your why?
I'm always looking for low carb and zero or low sugar snacks and it has made me more conscious of reading ingredient labels.
Hoping you may have helpful info for weight management during post covid recovery. I was very active prior so know my metabolism not reset for this drastic change and my healthcare system conflict between nutritionist unaware of post covid energy needs and wellness coach unable to give specific calorie /food type info. Been about a year with 25 pound weight gain first few months that is compounded by muscle loss. Very tired of struggling to maintain balance of energy to heal with not gaining more and any helpful info greatly appreciated!
Does the Mayo Clinic diet work? I have been debating in paying for it and using the app, but it is so expensive. I really need a set meal plan to use with simple recipes.
My best advice would be to start tracking your intake using an app that calculates both protein and total calorie intake. This was you can identify 1) you're in a calorie deficit for weight loss, but 2) you are consuming adequate protein.
The good news is that any diet works, as long as you are able to sustain it. The Mayo Clinic Diet is a well-balanced diet that has the added benefit of recipes and meal plans (that is a large part of what you are paying for). I'd consider trialing the "simple meal plan" for however many months is financially most reasonable for you. The longer you commit, the less the cost.
Thank you. Ive been doing that with 1000 calorie max a day and eating higher protein throughout day thus my frustration and seeking advice.
Appears inability to do weight loss exercise main issue as I was muscular 130 lb 5’2” and now about 153. No one has been able to share calorie deficit level to put in starvation mode?
I would recommend finding a registered dietitian to work with 1:1, which I believe you have done, but generally we would not encourage a calorie intake below 1200 for females and 1500 for males. A calorie intake below these levels may risk slowing your metabolism, which would be counterproductive to weight loss.
I loved the recipe for the soup but I am a kidney patient with 30% function and my labs are looking pretty good. I had acute kidney damage and have come from about 10% in 3 years. I have to be super careful of my diet. I cannot have tomatoes, my favorite food. Can you tell me a substitute for them in the soup recipe ?