How to Snack Smartly
Think you can’t snack while watching your weight? Think again. If you do it right, snacking can actually help you reach your weight loss goals and increase your metabolism. Here’s how.
Everyone loves a good snack, but for weight-watchers, it’s a treat they have to sacrifice. But that’s one of the biggest misconceptions about snacking. Snacking won’t make you fat, as long as you do it right. In fact, doctors recommend snacking lightly throughout the day instead of eating three large meals. Because you never go hungry, healthy snacking can help you keep your diet on track and even boost your metabolism.
The first step to healthy snacking is knowing your choices. Chips and soda aren’t the only snack foods around. Once you know where to find healthy alternatives, getting them comes naturally. Here are ten other tips to help you snack smartly.
1. Make little replacements. Like mayonnaise on your sandwich? Try mustard or cottage cheese—you’ll save around 70 calories. Better yet, skip the condiment and slash 100 calories off your snack. It may not seem like much, but these little savings add up over the week. You can also try a plain bagel instead of filled doughnuts, fruit juice instead of soda, and light tea instead of your usual morning latte.
2. Go natural. Many snack foods are so processed that they’re hardly even food. Most potato chips are loaded with salt and flavorings, and sodas pack up to 12 tablespoons of sugar per can! Besides, they’re hardly even filling. Next time you have a craving, grab some fruit from your table. Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, so they fill you up fast while packing only half the calories.
3. Snack all day. Instead of sitting down for breakfast, lunch and dinner, spread out your food into little snacks throughout the day. Eating three big meals will cause your energy to spike and then quickly go back down, leaving you lethargic until your next meal. By spreading them out, your energy levels stay the same, and you won’t be tempted to snack heavily in between meals. Go for five to six light snacks a day.
4. Know when you’re hungry and when you’re full. Snack only when you’re hungry, but don’t wait until your stomach is growling. It’s better to munch when you’re slightly hungry than to pig out when you’re starving. Likewise, know when to stop: at the end of a snack, you should feel comfortably full, but not bursting. Eat slowly and take smaller bites—this will give your brain time to realize that you’re full.
5. Plan your snacks. Take a few minutes to make a meal plan for the week. Since you know what you’re having, you don’t grab the first thing you see on the shelf. Plan for variety: alternate salty snacks with sweet, or switch between light and heavy meals. This will prevent those unexpected cravings that cause you to snack when you shouldn’t.
6. Read the labels. If you’re attracted to labels like “low fat” or “sugar free,” you might want to read further. True, a low-fat snack has less fat than its regular counterpart. But they usually make up for it by upping the starch, sodium, or some other ingredient that’s just as unhealthy. Tip: anything that has “partially hydrogenated vegetable oils” is probably loaded with fat, no matter what the label says.
7. Make your own snacks. If you’re not the type to read labels, you can stay safe by preparing your own snacks. That way, you have control over what goes into your dish—less sugar, more fiber, whatever works. Besides, just half an hour of kitchen work can burn an easy 75 calories. Try pre-packing your snacks for the whole week, so you can’t just change your mind and grab something else.
8. Don’t drink your calories. You’ve probably heard this one before, and it’s true. Most processed drinks are really just sugar and food coloring. Even if it says “100% natural,” there’ll always be preservatives; otherwise it wouldn’t even be on the shelf. There are healthier drinks you can try, such as flavored tea, coffee, and homemade fruit juice. Take a few sips before eating—it’ll make you feel full faster.
9. Up your fiber. Load up on high-fiber foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and brown rice. These foods are very filling, so you’ll feel satisfied after only a few bites. Fiber also helps control weight-related problems such as high cholesterol, hypertension, and diabetes.
10. Stock up. Always have a light snack within reach, whether it’s an apple, a sandwich or a whole-grain bagel. People who have to go out to buy snacks often end up buying more than they should in case they get hungry again—and end up eating it all anyway.