Snacking is sometimes a bad word in the weight-loss community, but that’s only if you’re munching on sugary, carb-heavy foods throughout the day (we’re looking at you, mini muffins). Smart snacking, on the other hand, can help you control your cravings, fill up on important nutrients and maintain your energy levels. Try these five strategies to help you crush your cravings.
1. FIGURE OUT IF YOU’RE ACTUALLY HUNGRY
Before you head to the pantry on autopilot, it’s important to figure out whether you’re really hungry or just, say, craving sugar because you saw a recipe on Facebook for Oreo brownies. Before you snack, ask yourself whether you’d be willing to eat a piece of fruit or some sliced veggies to curb your hunger, says to dietitian Amy Gorin, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in Jersey City, New Jersey. “If the answer is ‘no,’ then you’re probably not actually hungry,” she says. If that’s the case, make a cup of tea or sip a glass of water with sliced lemon or cucumber instead — you’ll satisfy your oral fixation without consuming unnecessary calories.
2. FILL UP ON PROTEIN AND FIBER
If you’re going to snack, make it count. Dietitian Jennifer Glockner of Smartee Plate says it’s important to nosh on foods that combine protein and fiber, since they help promote satiety while also supplying your body with vital nutrients. Try hard-boiled eggs, unsalted nuts, edamame or apple slices drizzled with almond butter. Glockner also suggests sunflower-seed butter on whole-grain crackers, hummus with pepper slices or plain Greek yogurt topped with berries or cucumbers.
“These snacks will [help] prevent [you from] overeating at the next meal or snacking too much on energy-dense foods like cookies and chips,” she says. For more healthy snack ideas, check out this list of 12 delicious high-protein snacks under 210 calories.
3. PLAN YOUR SNACKS AHEAD OF TIME
If you have a stash of healthy, tasty snacks on hand, you’ll be less likely to reach for a pastry or bag of chips when you hit that afternoon slump. “Hungry people tend to grab the first foods in sight, usually foods high in fat and calories, and often in excessive quantities,” says Glockner. That’s why she recommends preparing your snacks in advance. Chop veggies and fruit, pour nuts in a Ziploc bag or whip up a green smoothie to stick in the freezer. This is also a smart way to pre-portion food so you’re not overeating.
4. KEEP FRUIT IN PLAIN SIGHT
A study published in the Journal of Health Education and Behavior suggests you’re most likely to eat whatever is most visible in your home. That’s why Gorin recommends storing fruit in a bowl on your kitchen countertop or desk so you always have something healthy to reach for.
5. DON’T EAT IN FRONT OF YOUR SCREEN
Research shows that eating while distracted makes you more likely to ignore your body’s satiety signals and, thus, overeat. Instead of scrolling through Instagram or watching YouTube as you snack, step away from your gadgets. Limiting these external distractions is key to eating mindfully, rather than mindlessly, Glockner explains: “It’s important to sit down to a meal without distractions, slow down, savor every bite and listen to [your] body cues and satiety signals to prevent overeating and subsequent weight gain.”