Who doesn’t love to snack? I know growing up I enjoyed snacks more than I enjoyed my actual meals.
However, snacking can be a progress killer, especially when your goal is fat loss.
It’s important we define snacking. Snacking is defined as eating smaller meals in between your main meals, we can also consider snacking anytime you grab a handful of chips or any other type of food throughout the day.
The issue with typical snack foods (chips, cookies, sweets, candy, etc.) is that they are usually energy-dense (having a high-calorie content in relation to its weight) and not filling whatsoever.
This can easily add up to an extra 100-500 calories per day. Enough to cause you to maintain or even gain weight over time. Remember energy balance determines if you gain or lose weight, read more about it here.
The biggest mistake I see online clients make here is not counting these snacks or simply forgetting about them. For some grazing throughout the day is a habit and they just plain forget they even ate those 2-3 handfuls of chips or candy. This isn’t bad, but we must be aware that no matter what we put in our body, our body will use it as energy or it will store that energy for later.
This is why with new online clients I stress the importance of logging everything you eat, even if it’s “just a handful of chips.” It may seem excessive but its very common for people new to logging to only log “clean” foods and say they are only eating 1,200 calories but they forgot that throughout the day they had 2 small cookies (250 calories), a handful of nuts (200 calories), a few grabs at the chip bag (150 calories), if done regularly that’s the difference between weight loss and just maintaining your weight.
So maybe you love to snack, but you also want to lean out a bit or just improve your appearance. Here are some strategies we work with online clients that can help you fit snacking into your diet.
Wow, great advice Jeff. I know.
But the truth is it’s just better to not snack and avoid it altogether. Eating full meals is the way to go and there is no way around this.
With online clients, we really focus on adding in more meals. This helps keep them feeling fuller throughout the day. As we have talked about in the past, hunger and cravings are a big enemy for your fat loss goals, read here.
The problem with snacking is that again it is usually calorie-dense foods (having a high-calorie content in relation to its weight). And these foods don’t do a great job of keeping you feeling full so you want more and you get the feeling that you didn’t really eat that much.
➡Protein with each snack.
So ok let’s say you do have to snack, then make sure you are getting a lean source of protein with the snack.
Protein can help with hunger so you are less tempted to eat more of the snack food.
Protein is also a macronutrient that is fairly low in most online clients’ diets, especially if fat loss is the goal.
So you are killing two birds with one stone here, keeping you feeling fuller, and increasing a macronutrient that helps with building and maintaining lean body mass.
High protein snack options:
- Protein powder
- Greek yogurt
- Beef jerky
- Protein bars
- Tuna packets
- Deli meat like chicken and turkey
The next time you want a bowl of chips, add in one of these sources of protein with it, eat (or drink) it first, and then eat your snack. There is a good chance you will eat less of the snack food.
While this may not make a huge difference in one meal, it can make a big difference if done consistently.
➡Weigh out your snacks.
A food scale can be very handy here. Here is a video going over how to use a food scale:
This will help with portion control and ensure you don’t overeat for your goals.
It will also increase your awareness of how many calories you get with so little food. This is important because it can get you to ask yourself if it is worth it or not.
This is another tip that may not make a huge difference once, but over time it can add up.
➡Put the snacks in a bowl or on a plate.
The big thing here is to avoid eating from the bag. Usually, when we snack we are watching TV or doing something else in the process so you eat quickly.
All of this leads to making it just way too easy to overeat without thinking about it.
How many times have you grabbed an entire carton of ice cream or the entire bag of chips and you find yourself saying “just one more” over and over again? I know I have.
By putting the snacks in a bowl, you may still go and grab more, but this reduces the chances of that happening because you have to stop what you are doing (this is important) and get up and grab more.
Whereas if you eat from the bag, there is really nothing stopping you from continuing, especially if you are watching TV and mindlessly eating.
Im sure you have been at home or at work and have seen those tasty-looking M&Ms staring at you all day long.
The first few times you go by you don’t grab anything, but then as you get hungrier those M&Ms start to look REALLY good.
Eventually, you give in and grab a handful, and then a few hours go by and you grab another handful.
The next thing you know you have eaten an extra 250 calories and it didn’t keep you full whatsoever. Actually, it made you hungrier and because of this, you decided to get take out instead of eating the food you meal prepped.
Avoid grabbing from the bag or from the bowl from work or home throughout the day.
One thing to combat this is by pairing the M&Ms (or whatever the snack is) with your meal. This can be helpful because you aren’t as hungry and are less likely to overeat the M&Ms.
➡Drink a glass of water first.
This is a simple, but overlooked tip.
If you are feeling like you want a snack or like grazing, drink a glass of water first, and then decide if you still want it or not.
If you do, then eat it.
But maybe after the glass of water, you feel fuller and decide to not eat it.
I hope this helps you manage your snacking better.
Not all snacking is bad, but when you mindlessly snack throughout the day it can add up over time and derail your progress.
I am currently taking on clients for nutrition coaching. If you are ready to improve your diet/learn the ins and out of nutrition for your goals fill out the link here and let’s get to work.