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Healthy Snacks for Weight Loss

When trying to lose weight, too many people view snacking as the enemy. While loading up on calorie-rich snacks can certainly set you back in your weight loss goals, selecting the right snacks can prove instrumental in your endeavor to lose weight. Keeping your body fueled with healthy finger foods can help prevent a ravenous appetite from inflating your calorie count.

Biological Mechanisms of Weight Loss

At the most fundamental level, weight loss is about consuming fewer calories than you burn each day. To get a sense of your body’s caloric needs, it is helpful to get an estimate of the number of calories you burn at baseline. This can be determined with an online calorie calculator to estimate your caloric needs. These calculators use your height, weight, age, sex, and typical activity level to determine how many calories your body needs to maintain its everyday functioning (Mayo Clinic, n.d.).

In order to lose weight, you will need to create a deficit between the number of calories you take in and the number of calories you expend. Your body constantly expends calories to maintain cellular health, to control your body temperature, and to promote blood circulation. When you exercise, you burn even more calories to accommodate the increase in metabolic and respiratory activity as well as the additional energy spent explicitly contracting muscles (National Institutes of Health [NIH], 2014).

One pound of body weight is equivalent to 3,500 calories. In order to lose one pound per week, you need to create a deficit of 500 calories per day. To lose two pounds per week (the highest amount most nutrition experts recommend for sustained weight loss), you will need to create a 1,000 calorie deficit in your diet each day (Nutrition.gov, 2016).

Your caloric deficit can come from two sources: restricting calorie intake or expending calories through exercise. It is usually best to make use of both of those pathways for optimal weight loss success. Using the estimate from your calorie calculator, consider the number of calories you should eat at each meal. The Mayo Clinic suggests that you allot 200 to 300 calories per day to one or two healthy snacks.

Nutritional Needs to Facilitate Healthy Weight Loss

The optimal weight loss diet plan includes three solid meals per day, plus one or two snacks. Skipping meals or severely restricting your caloric intake can actually backfire, as your body will reduce its metabolic rate to compensate. This may result in a net increase in the overall calories onto which your body holds, and may even cause additional adverse effects as your body struggles to function with a smaller budget of energy (Mayo Clinic, 2015).

Weight loss nutrition requires a balance between carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Each of these macromolecules contains energy that your body uses to fuel its activities. Carbohydrates and proteins each contain 4 calories per gram. Fats contain 9 calories per gram. Thus, eating a given amount of fat will cause you to gain weight more quickly than eating the same quantity of protein or carbs. However, this does not mean that all fats are bad. Certain forms of fat can improve your cardiovascular function and your overall health (University of Illinois, 2014).

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthy fats that can actually increase your metabolism. Eating olive oil, fatty fish, seeds, and nuts are excellent ways to get more of these healthy fats. In addition to a small amount of healthy fats, lean proteins provide your body with energy and stave off hunger pangs. Most importantly, though, any healthy diet will consist of mostly complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, which take longer for your body to use. These compounds provide sustained energy over time and are often a good source of dietary fiber, which keeps you feeling fuller longer (Mayo Clinic, 2015).

The Role of Snacks in Helping You Lose Weight

When their stomachs are growling, successful dieters actually reach for a snack rather than starving themselves. Snacks keep your blood sugar from dropping, make you feel fuller, and prevent you from overeating at your next meal. When choosing a weight loss snack, opt for something that is 100 to 150 calories. This is enough to make you feel full without sending you over your daily caloric needs. A good snack for weight loss contains plenty of fiber and water, like fruits and vegetables. It is also ideal to incorporate protein into your snack, which can increase feelings of satiety. For instance, a handful of trail mix with nuts and dried fruits provides both protein and fiber (Mayo Clinic, 2015).

Diet and Exercise are Critical to Maintaining Weight Loss Success

While you may see some initial success solely by eating healthier, sustained weight loss is better achieved through a balance of diet and exercise. For best weight loss success, you should aim to get 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise per day. This might include walking briskly, swimming, cycling at a moderate pace, or dancing. Daily exercise in combination with good diet plans will ensure you are on a path to healthy weight loss success (NIH, 2014).

Healthy Recipes to Help with Weight Loss

Eating fewer calories is largely dependent on portion control. With ever-increasing portions in our day and age, creating your own meal can curb temptation and allow for a healthy consumption of low calorie foods. Take a look at these recipes to create your own snacks and meals aimed at achieving a healthy weight.

Pumpkin Chia Seed Pudding

Pumpkin Chia Seed Pudding Recipe

For a filling mid-morning snack, our pumpkin chia seed pudding provides plenty of protein and fiber in a low-calorie package. Each serving is only 189 calories and offers a whopping 191% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin A. The recipe can even act as a quick breakfast in case of emergencies!
Ingredients: Milk, pumpkin puree, chia seeds, maple syrup, pumpkin spice, sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, fresh blueberries.
Total Time: 10 minutes | Yield: 4 188-gram servings

Spirulina Smoothie

Spirulina Smoothie Recipe

Blend this beverage in the morning and pack it in your trusty thermos for a filling refreshment you can enjoy any time of day. The scrumptious smoothie supplies more than 100% the DV for vitamin C and 4 grams of protein in each 97-calorie serving.
Ingredients: Spirulina, banana, fresh spinach, apple juice, crushed ice, lemon juice.
Total Time: 2 minutes | Yield: 2 smoothies

Homemade Granola Bars {gluten-free}

Homemade Granola Bars Recipe {gluten-free}

For a more traditional and hearty snack, these simple bars supply a tasty treat that is packed with 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and an assortment of unsaturated fats, vitamins and minerals in each 209-calorie serving.
Ingredients: Dried mulberries, dried strawberries, raw cashews, organic peanut butter, ripe bananas, raw sunflower seeds, hemp protein powder, gluten-free rolled oats, chia seeds, flaxseed meal.
Total Time: 40 minutes | Yield: 12 76-gram bars

Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad {gluten-free}

Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad Recipe {gluten-free}

This scrumptious salad supplies 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber with more than 88% of the DV for iron, and a well rounded profile of unsaturated fats, vitamins, and other minerals. You can also up your intake just a tad for a fully filling meal.
Ingredients: Quinoa, cherry tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh parsley, fresh mint, black pepper, salt.
Total Time: 40 minutes | Yield: 4 servings

Almond Truffles {gluten-free, vegan}

Almond Truffles Recipe {gluten-free, vegan}

The ideal treat for when you’re in the need of something sweet, these vegan truffles supply 2 grams of fiber with each 80-calorie serving. The saccharine taste they offer is also totally natural to ensure that your dessert doesn’t spoil your diet- just remember to keep portion sizes small!
Ingredients: Pitted dates, almond flour, almond butter, water, flaxseed meal, freeze-dried raspberries, unsweetened shredded coconut.
Total Time: 15 minutes | Yield: 14 - 16 truffles

No-Bake Pistachio Cookies

No-Bake Pistachio Cookies Recipe {gluten-free, vegan}

Another sugary snack with a low calorie count and a superbly satisfying taste, these natural nibbles offer a potent 3 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber to quell your cravings completely with a creamy center that is particularly pleasing to any palate.
Ingredients: Pistachios, unsweetened shredded coconut, gluten-free rolled oats, maple syrup, moringa powder, water, vanilla extract, cashews, almond butter, vanilla, coconut oil.
Total Time: 20 minutes | Yield: 16 cookies

Healthy Snacks for Weight Loss

When it comes to losing weight, it’s all about keeping your calorie intake in check; and, when you are cutting calories, it becomes even more important to make every calorie count. Check out this list of snacks that all have 150 calories or less, while still supplying a healthy helping of fiber and offering vitamins, minerals, protein and/or other key nutrients to keep your body at its peak while you meet your weight loss goals.

As you work snacks into your weight loss routine, a quick tip from our health nut and registered dietitian is to portion the snacks out in single serving containers to help keep your portion control in check!

References

Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Tool: Calorie calculator. Retrieved February 22, 2016, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/calorie-calculator/itt-20084939

Mayo Clinic. (2015, March 28). Snacks: How they fit into your weight-loss plan. Retrieved February 22, 2016, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/healthy-diet/art-20046267

National Institutes of Health. (2014, October). Weight-loss and Nutrition Myths. Retrieved February 22, 2016, from http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/weight-control/myths/Pages/weight-loss-and-nutrition-myths.aspx

Nutrition.gov. (2016, February 19). Interested in Losing Weight? Retrieved February 22, 2016, from https://www.nutrition.gov/weight-management/strategies-success/interested-losing-weight

University of Illinois. (2016, February 4). McKinley Health Center - Macronutrients: The Importance of Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat. Retrieved February 22, 2016, from http://mckinley.illinois.edu/sites/default/files/docs/macronutrients.pdf