The 10 Best Snacks for Weight Loss, according to a Dietitian
While you may have been taught that snacking is a no-no when trying to lose weight, there are several benefits to including snacks in your diet. For example, eating a snack between meals helps curb your hunger so that you don't inhale your dinner when you finally sit down to eat a meal. Snacking can also help you get in all the nutrients you need. On the flip side, grazing all day—particularly on foods with little nutritional value—may result in eating too much (but if you're a natural grazer and it works for you, graze on!).
It helps to have healthy snack options on hand so that you're prepared when hunger strikes. Many of these weight-loss snacks are also great on-the-go snack options. Here we tackle some common snacking questions and share 10 healthy snacks for when you want to lose weight.
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Can I Snack and Still Lose Weight?
Yes! If you let yourself get too hungry, you're more likely to overeat at your next meal. Including snacks in your diet will help tame the munchies. When you choose a snack, choose one with protein, fat and/or fiber. All of these nutrients take longer to digest, so they fill you up.
Snacks are also a great way to add extra nutrition to your day. When considering what to snack on, think carrots and hummus, an apple with almond butter or whole-grain crackers with cheese.
One obstacle for many people regarding snacking when it comes to losing weight is the fear of adding extra calories. But consider that you can have 100 calories of jelly beans and not be satisfied at all (nor will it add much nutrition to your body), or you can eat 200 calories of nuts and dried fruit, which will provide just enough satisfaction to tide you over until the next meal.
That's not to say calories don't matter at all, but it's also important to choose a snack that delivers nutrition and fills you up. All of our weight-loss meal plans allow for two snacks a day and on the 1,500-calorie meal plans, each snack is around 200 calories.
What If I'm Hungry in the Evening?
One of the biggest challenges with nighttime snacks is most of us typically reach for ice cream and chips—not fruit and yogurt. That's not to say you can't have a treat after dinner. Some of your favorite evening snacks may even be on this list (pass the popcorn, please!).
One thing to note—if you're always hungry after dinner, make sure your meal is made up of filling and nutritious foods and that you're eating enough of it. If all you're nibbling on is a lackluster salad for dinner, it's likely that won't satisfy you for long and you will need an evening snack.
If you love an evening snack after dinner, serve yourself an appropriate portion onto a plate or bowl, so you're not scooping straight from the container where you're more likely to eat more. Having your own bowl also allows you to check in with your body and hunger levels.
If you're looking for more inspiration for nutritious snacks, read on to find out our top ten smart snack choices to help manage weight.
Nuts are a great healthy snack. And even though they're high in fat, they could still top your list of healthy snack foods.
Why? Well for starters, almonds deliver filling fiber, protein and healthy fats. They help keep hunger at bay, improve your heart health, and may even help you lose belly fat, according to a 2021 review in Nutrients.
A one-ounce serving of almonds includes 23 almonds, which provides 172 calories, 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein, per the USDA.
Eat them as is, pair them with dried fruit and dark chocolate or spread some almond butter on an apple.
Pictured recipe: Brown Sugar Broiled Grapefruit
You don't need to go on a grapefruit diet to reap the health benefits of this ruby fruit. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), grapefruit is not a miracle fruit for weight loss. But it does provide low calories in a portion that will satisfy, along with some pretty potent antioxidants.
It's important to note that grapefruit can affect the effectiveness of certain medications. If you plan on adding grapefruit to your diet on a regular, have a chat with your healthcare provider first if you're on any medications.
According to the USDA, a whole grapefruit has about 271 calories and 5 grams of fiber. And bonus: It delivers 100 percent of women's vitamin C needs for the day, per the FDA. That's a lot of nutrition packed into this tart citrus fruit.
Pictured recipe: Roasted Buffalo Chickpeas
Make chickpeas a pantry staple so you have them on hand when the munchies strike. They have a meaty texture and a nutty flavor along with plenty of satiating fiber and a little protein—perfect if you're watching your weight. Every half cup of chickpeas has about 150 calories, 8 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber, per the USDA. Try roasting them or popping them in an air-fryer for a crunchy snack that packs up easily.
Grapes may be high in natural sugar, but you can savor them individually and slowly to satisfy your sweet tooth. According to the USDA, a cup of grapes offers about 100 calories. Try tossing grapes in the freezer for an easy snack or pair them with cheese for an easy-to-pack snack for work.
Pictured recipe: Mug Brownie
Losing weight doesn't mean giving up the foods you love. Believe it or not, giving yourself little treats may be the secret to successfully managing your weight. Completely avoiding the foods you enjoy, but have tagged as being "bad," sets you up to fail—you may also end up overeating in the long run just to feel satisfied, per 2022 research in the Journal of Cognition.
If you like a glass of wine with dinner, make room for it. Prefer dessert? Skip the drink and go for a small chocolate treat instead. Or, if you decide to have both—that's OK too. Avoid beating yourself up—enjoy your treats and start the next day off with a healthy breakfast. It's all about balance.
Learn more: 4 Legit Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
Pictured recipe: Lemon-Parm Popcorn
Popcorn is high in fiber and even delivers a little protein. A one-ounce serving (about 3 cups) of air-popped popcorn has 4 grams of fiber, almost 3 grams of protein and clocks in at 110 calories, according to the USDA. This combination makes it a snack with staying power. Popcorn is a whole grain and 3 cups is a sizeable serving—especially when you compare it to other crunchy, salty snacks like chips. Many companies are making bagged popcorn—or you can make your own.
Yogurt is a great snack that can fill nutritional gaps since it provides calcium and fiber—the two nutrients people often don't eat enough of. Yogurt with fruit delivers calcium and fiber, plus protein and gut-healthy prebiotics and probiotics.
Choose plain yogurt and add your own fruit for natural sweetness and fiber, as flavored yogurt often delivers lots of added sugar and extra calories. If you've always gone for the fat-free yogurts because you thought they were healthier, even though you really prefer higher-fat dairy, there's good news. In a 2019 review published in Advances in Nutrition, researchers debunked the myth that fat-free is healthiest—so choose full-fat or reduced-fat yogurt if you prefer those to fat-free.
Pictured recipe: Double-Tahini Hummus
Planning snacks that provide both complex carbohydrates and protein will help tide you over until dinner. So, skip the vending machine and satisfy the afternoon munchies with a nutritious snack you packed from home. You'll save money and get a bigger bang for your nutritional buck.
One serving of hummus is 2 tablespoons, which has close to 2 grams of fiber, per the USDA. Satisfy your hunger by pairing hummus with raw vegetables like sliced bell peppers, celery and carrot sticks.
Pictured recipe: Slow Cooker Overnight Oatmeal with Apples and Walnuts
Oatmeal is a complex carb that helps fill you up without spiking your blood sugar. Plus, it's a good source of fiber and eating more fiber helps people manage their weight. While we think of it typically as a breakfast item, a small bowl of oats also makes a hearty, filling and delicious snack. To make this snack more convenient, keep a packet or two of unsweetened instant oatmeal at your desk or make overnight oats in a mason jar.
10. Dried Fruit
Pictured recipe: Homemade Trail Mix
Dried fruit is a portable and nutritious snack. Eating fruit helps with weight management because it's packed with filling fiber (and essential vitamins and minerals). Look for dried fruit with no sugar or sweeteners added and pair it with nuts as a snack that offers a balance of healthy carbs and protein—and more staying power. Dried fruit is also a great option to keep at your desk at work.
The Bottom Line
Snacks can absolutely fit into your diet if you're trying to manage your weight. Having a plan on the types of snacks you pack for work and on the go will help diversify your food selection, vary the nutrients you get and keep you from getting hangry between meals. Remember, think nutrient-dense (fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals) and your snacks will help you get the nutrition your body needs and keep you full.