Snack Attack!

10 Ways to Have That Snack and Lose Weight

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

Got cookies? How about chips? Chips, cookies, ice cream, candy bars, and crackers are the most popular snack foods. It comes as no surprise that they are generally our higher calorie, higher fat or sugar snack choices.

Do you feel guilty when you get a snack attack? You are not alone. Snacking has gotten a bad rap in the past but it isn't the act of snacking that gets us into trouble, it's the type of foods we tend to snack on that quickly puts us into fat and calorie overload.

Actually, eating smaller, more frequent meals/snacks can be particularly helpful. Small meals/snacks eaten about every 2 1/2 to 3 hours tend to translate into more stable blood sugars throughout the day. When you graze instead of gorge, you avoid extreme hunger and tend not to overeat at any one meal.

Our 2 Biggest Snack Mistakes

Mistake #1
We choose calorie dense, high-fat/sugar snacks that, while they have a lot of calories for a relatively small amount of food, aren't satisfying in the long run (such as candy bars and chips). Aren't we still hungry after we eat a small bag of chips or a 2 ounce candy bar? Was that 320 calories well spent?

Mistake #2
We choose high-carbohydrate snack foods (such as pretzels, bagels, or apples) that go through the digestive tract fairly quickly, staving off hunger for only a short amount of time. If we balance our quick carbs with some protein and some fat, the snack will be more filling and satisfying and will take longer to get through the digestive tract.

To snack and lose weight, it's important to choose snacks that:

  • are higher in fiber and important nutrients. Whole grains, beans, and fruits and vegetables contain fiber plus nutrients, and low-fat dairy and lean meats contain important nutrients, so your snacks aren't just contributing "empty" calories (calories without nutritional value).
  • include carbohydrates with lower glycemic indexes (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts) so the energy from the snack won't hit your blood stream quickly and all at once, thus triggering another craving when it wears off.
  • are balanced with small amounts of protein and some of the more heart-helpful fats such as monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. These more balanced snacks tend to feel more satisfying and filling, take longer to digest, and supply energy over a longer period of time. Plant foods such as nuts and seeds, soy foods, avocados, and olive and canola oils offer these helpful fats, and the nuts and soy also offer protein to balance carbohydrate-rich foods

The Snack Attack Plan

So, let's make a new Snack Attack Plan, shall we? To do this, we don't necessarily need to trade all of our Chips Ahoys in for carrot sticks or our carton of ice cream for a carton of yogurt. We can start by making smarter snack choices most of the time. Here are my 10 tips on how you can do this each day:

Tip 1: Soluble Fiber to The Rescue!

Foods rich in soluble fiber make for great snacks because soluble fiber leaves the stomach slowly, encouraging better blood sugars and making you feel satisfied longer. Here are some possible snack ingredients that are high in soluble fiber:

  • peas and beans (make a quick bean dip in the microwave with some vegetarian refried beans or have some cooked "edamame" soybean pods ready in the refrigerator)
  • oats and oat bran (make a batch of oatmeal flavored with low-fat milk, a little vanilla extract and cinnamon in the microwave -- or freeze a batch of blueberry oat bran muffins so you can grab one when you need a quick afternoon pickup!)

"We don't necessarily need to trade all of our Chips Ahoys in for carrot sticks or our carton of ice cream for a carton of yogurt. We can start by making smarter snack choices most of the time."

  • some fruits (apples, peaches, citrus, mango, plums, kiwi, pears, berries)
  • some vegetables (artichokes, celery root, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, acorn squash, brussels sprouts, cabbage, green peas, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, asparagus, beets)

Tip 2: Eat Slow-Release Snack Foods

The following foods, even in large amounts and if eaten alone, are not likely to result in a big rise in blood sugar. (Remember, we don't want food to hit your blood stream quickly, otherwise you're just going to feel hungry again shortly after.)

These are based on the American Journal of Nutrition's international table of glycemic index and glycemic load values. (Glycemic load considers the glycemic index of a food and the grams of carbohydrate that a reasonable serving size of that particular food contains)

  • meat
  • poultry
  • fish
  • avocados
  • salad vegetables
  • cheese
  • eggs
Tip 3: Go Nuts!

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