Believe it or not, snacks can actually strengthen your calorie-counting efforts. Simply making a healthy snack choice could keep you happier and more successful with your diet.
“If you go too long without eating, you are hungrier than you would be without a snack,” says Catherine Bethea Dempsey, RD, LD, dietitian and research coordinator at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Starve yourself and you are likely to overcompensate at your next meal, warns Dempsey, adding, “A 150-calorie snack will save you more than that at dinner.”
Calorie Counting and Snacks
There are a few rules to follow if you want this snack strategy to work:
- Count the calories in those snacks. You have to include the calorie count of each snack in your total calorie count. Seems like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to forget about a handful of pretzels or nuts here and there.
- Be picky. You shouldn’t snack on just anything — you still want to find healthy, diet-friendly options.
- Plan ahead. “Know thyself” is a motto to follow. Expecting that you’ll be hungry and figuring out what to eat ahead of time will make you more successful when hunger strikes. If you tend to get ravenously hungry in the mid-afternoon, be ready for a snack attack.
Best Snacks for Your Diet
Dempsey suggests snacks that offer “a bit of fat, carbohydrates, and protein.” This combination is likely to help ward off hunger longer, making it a smart use of calories. Her specific recommendations include:
- Yogurt and fruit
- A very small handful of nuts — it’s easy to get carried away with nuts, which are healthy but pack a calorie wallop
- Low-fat cottage cheese and fruit
- Sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, cottage cheese, and low-fat salad dressing — Dempsey’s personal favorite
- Fruit slices or chunks topped with a tablespoon of peanut butter
Best Vending Machine Snacks
It’s almost inevitable that one day you will find yourself with no option but to faint from hunger or put your dollar in a vending machine. Have no fear — you can still make a choice that will not ruin your calorie counting.
“The best thing is to get a bottle of water and a granola bar,” says Dempsey. Almost every vending machine offers granola bars, but if you are faced with one that doesn’t, choose pretzels over chips, Dempsey advises.
Tempting as chocolate might be, avoid it. High-sugar snacks will simply put you back in the cycle of sugar highs and lows, which means that kind of snack won’t help you hold off hunger for long. The peanuts or almonds in some candies may be good for you, but they don’t make up for the total damage.
Though it doesn’t offer any nutrition, that old standard, sugarless gum, may be a good choice. A recent study of 115 adults showed that those who chewed sugarless gum about once an hour for three hours between lunch and a mid-afternoon snack ate 40 fewer calories in snacks than those who did not chew gum.
The bottom line on snacks: Making the right choices can keep your calorie counting and weight-loss goals on track.