April 22, 2009

Don't deprive yourself: your body needs healthy snacks as part of your balanced healthy diet to lose weight.

You can't drop pounds if you don't snack. This may sound contradictory. After all, you have to cut calories to lose weight-so wouldn't eliminating between-meal noshing be a good place to start? Not exactly. Snacking the right way-with low calorie snacks-can actually help your progress. This 21-day balanced healthy diet plan consists of three meals and two healthy snacks each day. The best grazing strategies include these weight loss tips:

Weight loss tips # 1: Eat healthy snacks every three to four hours between meals.

Your body is programmed to run on this schedule. Having a steady source of fuel-through low calorie snacks-means your metabolism stays revved and you burn more calories. Trying to hold off until your next meal will leave you feeling cranky and famished-and that causes you to overdo it when you eventually do sit down to eat. Plus, when you're tired and stressed, your body produces a hormone called cortisol that heightens cravings, so you're more likely to make bad food choices.

Weight Loss Tips # 2: Make your munchies count.

You shouldn't snack just for snacking's sake. "Eating has become a recreational pastime. It has lost its power to mark a special occasion, satisfy true hunger, or serve a nutritional purpose," says Thomas Wadden, Ph.D., director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania. Packaged foods, like cookies and chips, tend to be high in fat, sugar, and calories, and are big contributors to weight gain. "Most of these foods lack nutritional value and fiber, so you don't feel satisfied unless you eat big servings," says Lisa Young, Ph.D., R.D., an adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University.

Choose healthy snacks such as fruit, nuts, and whole grains in 100- to 200-calorie portions as part of your balanced healthy diet and eat a combo of high-quality carbs and protein to enhance satisfaction.

Weight Loss Tips # 3: Nosh on low calorie snacks before exercising.

It makes your workout more productive. Carbs give you energy, and protein helps shuttle the carbs into muscle cells, where they're needed most. Eat low calorie snacks light enough to prevent an upset stomach.

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