It’s a common scenario most of us face daily: It’s 3 p.m. — and your stomach starts to growl. The healthy lunch you enjoyed a few hours ago is but a distant memory. You’re ready for a snack. But what should you eat when you’re trying to lose weight? Which healthy snacks are beneficial for weight loss?
Don’t worry — we’ve got your back. Read on for more information about how smart snacks can — and should — be a part of your weight loss strategy. We’re also sharing nine healthy snack ideas for weight loss!
Health benefits of smart snacking
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While common wisdom used to suggest that eating only three times per day was a cornerstone of weight loss or maintenance, experts are finding that eating more frequently — with healthy snacks playing a part of a healthy daily diet — is often better. Here’s a look at how healthy snacks may aid your weight loss and improve your overall health.
Healthy snacks help control hunger.
According to the American Diabetes Association1 and many other experts, well-balanced snacks can help keep hunger in check, which may keep you from overeating at your next meal.2 And a 2016 review suggests that snacks may help reduce the risk of obesity by promoting satiety and appetite control, and potentially prevent overeating.3
They’re a great way to boost your intake of important nutrients.
At a time when the vast majority of Americans are not meeting the recommended daily intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy, incorporating healthy snacks into your daily diet can help you increase your consumption of these health-promoting foods.4
They may help with weight loss.
Experts at Harvard Health5 report that there seems to be a relationship between eating less frequently and greater weight, noting that the heavier a person is, the less often he or she typically eats. They point out that eating healthy snacks can help prevent you from becoming overly hungry — as being ravenous may increase your risk of overeating unhealthy foods.
They can help keep your blood sugar steady.
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While research is a bit conflicting in this area, many experts, such as those at Sanford Health,6 say that eating two or three snacks throughout the day can help prevent “sugar crashes,” especially if those snacks contain a balance of protein, fiber, carbohydrates and fat.
They may help reduce your risk of developing certain medical conditions.
According to a February 2017 statement from the American Heart Association,7 eating more frequently — which includes snacks — seems to improve risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
They can give you an energy boost.
If you’re plagued by mid-afternoon work slumps, having a healthy snack can give you the energy you need.
They can help you recover more quickly after a workout.
A well-balanced snack can support your recovery efforts post-workout. In fact, eating a healthy snack of protein and carbohydrates (think a banana and yogurt or an apple with a small amount of nut butter) within 15 to 30 minutes of exercising can help replace your energy stores and assist with muscle recovery, research has found.8
Tips for healthy snacking
Now that you know about the importance of including healthy snacks in your daily diet, let’s look at ways you can make sure your snacking is as healthy as possible.
1. Avoid impulsive snacking
The quality of your snacks matter! Instead of grabbing something out of the vending machine when you feel like a snack, take what researchers call an “intentional approach to eating.”7 This means planning what you will eat throughout the day — so you can be prepared when hunger calls. Irregular eating patterns can be detrimental not only for weight control, but for your overall cardiometabolic health, researchers say.7
2. Use your snacks as an opportunity to replace less-healthy foods with healthier ones
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A 2014 Nielsen report found that Americans’ favorite snacks are cheese, chips and chocolate — fresh fruit came in at No. 5!9 When in doubt, vegetables and fruit (in moderation) are always a good choice. If you’re in the mood for chips or something sweet, choose a healthier version — Jenny Craig offers portion controlled options that include BBQ Crisps, Cheese Curls and a S’mores Bar.
3. Practice portion control
If you need some help figuring out how much you should eat, use this handy portion size guide.
4. Choose more nutrient dense foods
Think vegetables, which have more fiber, fewer calories, more water and less fat over something like a pastry that isn’t as nutrient dense. Nutrient rich foods, like vegetables, can help keep yourself feeling fuller, longer.10
5. Avoid late-night snacking
When you’re asleep, your body does not process large meals or snacks as efficiently as during the day. According to the Cleveland Clinic,11 if you eat late at night, any fats and cholesterol you consume will stay in your blood longer than they should (as opposed to eating during the day, which allows your liver to process these substances more efficiently). This can be detrimental to your heart and kidneys, experts say.11
6. Plan, prepare and portion out your snacks ahead of time
Make them easy to grab in the early-morning work rush.
7. If you’re on the Jenny Craig program, plan on eating three snacks a day
Two of those snacks will be from your Jenny Craig menu (try our delicious Caramel Peanut Delight Essential Nutrition Bar for a healthy morning snack, our creamy Vanilla Cream Shake for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up or our decadent Chocolate Lava Cake in the evening). In addition, you should have one other snack of your choosing, such as fruit. And enjoy as many non-starchy vegetables as you’d like!
8. Not following the Jenny Craig program? Pair different foods together
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For instance, enjoy a healthy, fiber-rich carbohydrate such as a fruit and/or vegetable with a bit of lean protein for staying power. You can also include a small amount of healthy fat in your snacks. Pro tip: Pair your snack with water or another sugar-free beverage to help fill you up and stay hydrated.
Healthy snacks for your diet
Now it’s time to put it all together! Try these nine delicious, healthy snacks to keep yourself feeling satisfied and energized throughout your day. If you’re following the Jenny Craig program, make sure to check with your consultant before making any swaps to help maximize your weight loss efforts.
- 6-10 almonds and a ½ cup of berries
- 1 small apple with 1 teaspoon nut butter (watch for added sugar)
- 1 cup of baby carrots with 2 tablespoons of bean dip
- ½ cup edamame and kale chips (made in an air fryer — here’s how to use one)
- 1 hard-boiled egg and celery sticks
- 2 tablespoons of hummus with cucumber, celery, carrots or jicama
- 1/4 cup low-fat cottage cheese with tomatoes
- Low-fat string cheese and red bell pepper
- 6 oz. of nonfat plain Greek yogurt with berries or chia seeds (experts12 say yogurt is a nutritional powerhouse that may help prevent insulin resistance)
We hope we’ve helped you understand the important role smart snacks can play in your daily diet. Remember, they can be delicious, they can be healthy — and they can help you on your path to greater health. Enjoy!
Want more tips on how to make snacks a part of your healthy approach to weight loss? Having your own personal weight loss consultant at Jenny Craig can be just what you need. Click here to get started today!
Carole is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California who specializes in health and wellness topics. Her work has appeared in Parents, Fit Pregnancy, Mom & Baby, Yahoo News, Viv magazine and Lifescript. She's won several national awards for her work including a National Science Award and two National Health Information awards. A frequent contributor to Jenny Craig’s Blog, Healthy Habits, she enjoys gardening, spending time at the beach and adopting far too many rescue animals in her spare time.
Favorite healthy snack: jicama dipped in homemade hummus
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and fact-checked by Briana Rodriquez, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Jenny Craig.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
This article contains trusted sources including scientific, peer-reviewed papers. All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source.