12 Healthy Snacks for Weight Loss, According to Dietitians
I'm not going to sugarcoat it: Reaching your goals, be it to lose weight or just eat healthier, can be tough. Setting these intentions can feel like the easy part. Sticking to them without feeling hungry and, dare I say it, defeated? Well, that can feel damn well near impossible, especially if you're following a rather restrictive diet. And while, yes, eating in a calorie deficit is a pillar of weight loss, staying satiated and satisfied is also essential. Otherwise, you can feel increasingly more deprived and, ultimately, abandon your goals. Hey, it can happen — but it doesn't have to.
Past diet advice might've convinced you that noshing between meals is the mortal enemy of weight loss. Spoiler alert: It's not. Rather, reaching for a (keyword!) healthy snack might help keep you energized and help steer clear of those hangry phases that lead to eating a pint of Ben and Jerry's for dinner. (Again, no judgment — we've all been there and, TBH, sometimes Half Baked is exactly what you need.)
Now, not every snack is created equal — and this is especially true when it comes to reaching goals. So...
What to Look for In a Healthy Snack for Weight Loss
Quick refresher: Protein, fiber, and healthy fats all increase the satiety factor of meals and snacks, which means you'll feel full longer and be less likely to overeat, says Sheri Vettel, R.D., a registered dietitian from the Institute from Integrative Nutrition. This trio is also digested slower than simple carbohydrates, which helps to regulate blood sugar levels, she adds. Add whole-grain carbs into the mix and you're sure to steer clear of plummeting blood sugar (and the irritability and cravings that come with it). (Related: 14 Crazy Things People Do to Add More Protein to Their Diet)
While protein, fiber, and healthy fats are all key components of an overall healthy eating style, they're also important parts of a diet geared toward reaching weight loss goals. That's because they keep you full for a long amount of time and for a lower number of calories. (Remember: Cutting back on calories, even slightly, can play a big role in helping you lose weight.) Protein, for example, takes twice as long as carbohydrates to digest, keeping you twice as full for the same amount of calories (both have four calories per gram), says Audra Wilson, R.D., a registered bariatric dietitian at the Northwestern Medicine Metabolic Health and Surgical Weight Loss Center at Delnor Hospital. Healthy fats also help with satiety and add flavor for about nine calories per gram, she adds.
Another important component to consider, according to Vettel? Bio-individuality, aka the idea that everyone has different needs or nutritional requirements. For example, how much protein you (vs., say, your mom) might need varies depending on age, overall health, and physical activity level, she explains. This means that for many individuals, focusing on specific grams of fiber or protein isn't entirely necessary.
"I also suggest focusing on the nutrient-density of your food choices, rather than a strict calorie goal," says Vettel. "Listen to your body to identify how much fuel you need, if any, between meals."
When you do need a something, Vettel recommends a smart weight loss snack that includes at least two of the following: a vegetable, a fruit, a whole grain, a healthy fat, or a lean source of protein. "Honor that some days snacks may contain more calories than others, and that's okay," she says.
Ahead, a list of the best store-bought and homemade healthy weight loss snacks that follow this formula, so the only thing you need to do it stock up and have them at the ready. (Related: 14 Post-Workout Snacks Trainers and Dietitians Swear By)
The Best Store-Bought Snacks for Weight Loss
Eating directly out of a can of chickpeas might not sound very appetizing, but turn them into crunchy little bites and they become a healthy alternative to chips. While you could DIY, Biena makes it easy with their grab-and-go baggies of roasted chickpeas (Buy It, $13 for pack of 4, amazon.com). "They offer 8 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber for about 140 calories to get you through your afternoon slump, says Bethany Doerfler, R.D., a registered dietitian at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Available in a variety of sweet and savory flavors, these healthy weight loss snacks are also "a great alternative for those with nut allergies," adds Doefler.
Pepitas and Applesauce
Rich in mood-boosting magnesium, pepitas — essentially pumpkin seeds without a hull (shell) — make for a healthy snack no matter your goals. Just take these Superseedz (Buy It, $23 for 6, amazon.com) for example: With 2 grams of fiber, 7 grams of protein, and 12 grams of healthy fats in just 1/4 cup, they're a clear top-notch nosh. For an even more fibrous option, mix this heathy weight loss snack with unsweetened, no-sugar-added applesauce, says Doerfler.
Flaxseed Crackers and Spread
With all of the crackers cramming the market, it can be hard to figure out which are truly worth the buy — that is, however, until now. Next time you're looking for one of the best weight loss snacks, scan your local supermarket for crackers that are high in fiber, such as that from flax seeds, to keep you fuller longer. Doerfler recommends Mary's Gone Crackers Super Seed (Buy It, $27 for pack of 6, amazon.com) or Flackers Flaxseed Sea Salt Crackers (Buy It, $5,thrivemarket.com), both of which "pair nicely with seed butter, smashed avocado, or cheese," she says.
Fruit and Nut Granola Bars
When it comes to granola bars, remember these three words: keep it simple. Steer clear of those with long ingredients lists and lots of sugar, and instead go for bars with dried fruit (such as dates) and nuts, as they're full of filling fiber and protein, says Vettel. Try: KIND Blueberry Vanilla Cashew Bars (Buy It, $8, target.com), which has 12 grams of fat, 5 grams of fiber, and 5 grams of protein. (See also: Homemade and Healthy Granola Bars for Better On-the-Go Snacking.)
Unsweetened Instant Oatmeal Packets
No need to stop the oatmeal train at breakfast; keep that bad boy running all day long. Oatmeal contains beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that lowers cholesterol and, in turn, can help reduce your risk of heart disease, says Doerfler. And when soluble fiber comes into contact with water and other fluids, it forms a gel-like substance that makes this type of fiber so filling — it takes up physical space in your stomach and helps form stool as it moves through the GI tract. Stash these single-serve packs at your desk for an easy, breezy,
beautiful beneficial weight-loss snack. Opt for unsweetened versions, such as Trader Joe's Unsweetened Instant Oatmeal Packets (Buy It, $24 for 16 packets, amazon.com), prepare with unsweetened milk (dairy would add some protein too), then stir in fruit. (See also: What Dietitians Would Buy at Trader Joe's with Just $30)
The Best Homemade Snacks for Weight Loss
Raspberries and Walnuts
This is a powerful pairing makes for one of the best snacks for weight loss, according to Vettel. Raspberries are full of fiber (8 grams per cup) and raw, unsalted walnuts (go for 1 oz) are packed with fat and protein for satiety. What's more, walnuts are also rich in inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids, which can be particularly helpful for reaching your goals, since inflammation is often associated with weight gain and can make losing weight more difficult, she explains.
Hard-Boiled Eggs and Cheese
"A fast and easy snack I love is two hard-boiled eggs with 1 oz aged cheese, such as sharp cheddar, parmesan, bleu, swiss, or brie," says Autumn Bates, C.C.N, a certified clinical nutritionist in California. It's high in protein and fat — nearly 20 grams of each — for around 270 calories, she explains. "Aged cheeses also have the lowest lactose levels which can minimize GI distress."
Greek Yogurt and Berries
One cup Greek yogurt provides 12-14 grams of filling protein for around 80-120 calories, says Wilson. Look for Greek yogurt that's unsweetened or low in sugar, such as Chobani's Non-Fat Plain Greek Yogurt (Buy It, $6, freshdirect.com). Adding 1 cup of berries takes this healthy weight loss snack to the next level with extra fiber, vitamins, and minerals, says Wilson. And lower sugar fruits (such as berries) or vegetables can help you feel full for not a lot of calories, she adds.
Raw Vegetables and Ranch Dip
Sometimes food is just a vessel to eat some dip. Instead of chicken wings, pair one cup raw veggies — i.e. carrots, celery, or bell peppers — with a delish DIY dip. All you have to do is mix 2 percent fat Greek yogurt with a ranch seasoning packet (Buy It, $2, thrivemarket.com), explains Wilson. "It's a great snack with a bit of healthy fat and lots of protein — about 12 grams per 4 oz," she adds. And ICYDK, veggies are considered one of the best weight loss snacks (and, TBH, snacks overall) because you can eat a lot of them for not a lot of calories — plus, they physically take up space in your stomach, creating that full (satisfied) feeling, and offer up plenty of important nutrients.
Medjool Dates Topped with Nut Butter
Rich in disease-fighting antioxidants, dates are the perfect post-meal (or even in-between-meal) treat to satisfy your sweet tooth. Can't seem to kick sugary snacks? Try swapping your usual Sour Patch Kids for naturally sweet fruits or giving this weight loss snack a try. Simply top 2-3 dates with nut butter, whose protein and healthy fats make for an extra satiating snack. You can even try freezing this duo if you love ice-cold treats. (You could also try one of these healthy sweet snacks to cure your craving.)
Protein Snack Box
While there are versions available at Starbucks — which Bates recommends if you're on the run — and from the grocery store, you can save money (and additives) by making your own protein box. Start with a few low-fat cheese cubes (~1-2 oz) or lean deli meat (~2-3 oz), add in about 1/4 cup almonds or pistachios, and finish it off with 1 cup grapes or berries, says Wilson. This healthy weight loss snack has the trifecta: fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Best of all you can mix up the flavors and options every day.