When it comes to weight loss, snacking can be a double-edged sword. Too much snacking, and you’ll blow your daily calorie allotment—and blow off your goals. But done right, snacking can be your secret diet weapon, helping you to stay full between meals, reduce cravings, and make healthier choices without feeling deprived.
“I find that people often make poor food choices because they get so hungry they just grab whatever is close and handy,” says Lara Felton, R.D. Snacks can save you from this common dieting pitfall, she says, if you do two things: prepare them in advance and pick snacks that have a balance of healthy carbs, protein, and fats. That way, when it comes down to it, you’ll be able to skip the office pastry and instead eat the baggie of nuts and dried fruit in your purse.
This doesn’t mean you can go nuts (ha!) with the healthy snacks, though, says Rachel Zimmerman, an R.D. at Indiana University Hospital at IU Health. “Just because snack foods like dark chocolate, nut butters, and avocado have earned nutritional kudos for being good sources of heart-healthy fats and other nutrients, that doesn’t mean you should eat a ton of them,” she explains. “People think they can eat as many healthy snacks as they want, but they’re still high in calories that can cause unhealthy weight gain. When snacking on such foods, portion control is key.”
It’s not just the experts who swear by snacking, either. We spoke with real women who’ve lost weight and got their best tips for how they made snacking work for them, not against them.