Ever wonder which snacks to eat on a diet?
Or which ones are the healthiest?
What about the ones that help with fat loss?
I’m asked about snacking more than almost any other nutritional topic.
My thoughts on snacking surprise most people:
→ They’re generally a terrible idea if you’re dieting.
I know this from personal experience.
The first time I hired a nutrition coach, I thought I was nailing my nutrition. I ate what you’d consider “healthy,” with little deviation.
I counted my calories, but became lenient about logging my snacks. A handful of cashews here, a banana there. What difference would it make?
Unfortunately, enough of a difference to prevent me from making progress.
It wasn’t until I stopped snacking that I started consistently dropping fat.
Routinely having extra calories between meals is the exact opposite of fat loss friendly.
Snacks can be the roadblock standing in your way of transformation success.
So you’re saying I can’t have any snacks if I want to lose fat?
No, but you’re making it a lot harder on yourself if you have a lot of them—or don’t track the ones you do have. Here’s why:
A healthy rate of fat loss is one pound per week. A pound is roughly 3,500 calories. To lose that pound, you’d have to burn 500 calories more than you take in (a calorie deficit) every day of the week.
Here are some common snack foods:
- Trail mix (690 calories per cup)
- Skinny Pop (160 calories per bag)
- Bananas (120 calories)
- Cashews (190 calories per handful)
- Baked Lays chips (130 calories per bag)
- Cheese sticks (115 calories per stick)
Having just two of those could eliminate your calorie deficit for the entire day and prevent you from seeing progress.
→ Especially if you’re not measuring your portion sizes.
It’s easy to see how snacking can prevent fat loss.
Aren’t I supposed to eat small meals every few hours?
That’s a myth. The only way to lose fat is by burning more calories than you take in.
How often you eat makes no difference.
You can eat one enormous meal, or one snack every hour. With calories constant, results will be the same.
What if I get hungry between meals?
Snacking won’t be your solution.
At best, it’s a Band-Aid to bigger problems, like a lack of…
- Stress management
If you “can’t make it” until your next meal without a snack, I’d bet my life savings that you need to improve in one of these areas—probably more.
Slacking in just one of them can lead to excessive hunger. Fortunately, this can be prevented by fixing your habits.
Here’s how to proactively reduce hunger between meals:
1) Get better sleep
Nothing sends your cravings to the moon like poor sleeping habits.
Getting 7-9 hours of sleep is important. But so is sleep quality. Here’s how to get a better night’s sleep:
- Go to bed and wake up at consistent hours
- Practice a bedtime ritual
- Only use the bedroom for sleep and sex
- Make sure your room is completely blacked out
- Keep all electronics out of the room
- Avoid letting the room temperature get too hot
While those should be your top priorities, here are some other ways to maximize your sleep.
Did I mention you’ll lose significantly more body fat than if your sleep habits are poor?
2) Manage your stress
Similar to sleep, your stress levels impact cravings and fat loss. Chronic, high stress leads to more cravings and less fat loss—among countless other health issues.
Here’s how to get a better handle on it:
- Write down your biggest stressors
- Brainstorm 1-3 ways you can minimize or avoid each trigger
- Identify 3-5 activities that reduce your stress
- Popular examples include meditation, exercise, journaling, cooking, yoga, and playing with pets
- Schedule those tasks into your day to day
- Must include a specific, non-negotiable time block
While some level of stress is inevitable—and not inherently bad—chronic, high stress is brutal for fat loss and overall health.
3) Drink more water
Cravings are often dehydration in disguise.
Next time you feel like you “need” some trail mix, drink a tall glass of ice water. You’ll probably have no desire to snack anymore.
You should also drink water before your main meals, which will fill you up even more. As a result, you’ll be full for hours after each meal.
A good starting hydration goal is half your bodyweight in ounces. At 200 pounds, I’d aim for about 100 ounces per day (about six water bottles or three refillables).
You can then adjust based on urination frequency and hunger levels.
4) Eat enough protein
From a nutritional standpoint, nothing will blunt hunger more than protein. If you’ve never tracked it, you’re likely falling well short of what you need.
Aim to get .8-1 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
This will prevent muscle loss while dieting and keep your hunger at bay.
You won’t come close to this if you don’t have a lean protein in every meal. Some examples are:
- Whey protein powder
- Chicken breast
- Egg whites
- Lean ground beef
- Non-fat Greek yogurt
To learn the ten best ways to increase your protein intake, check this out:
5) Increase fiber intake
Not only does fiber improve digestive health, but it dramatically reduces hunger.
Fruits and vegetables are tough to beat when it comes to getting more of it.
Eating more fruit is easy for most of us. Apples, oranges, pears, and other fruits are delicious and very accessible.
Vegetables, on the other hand, can seem tough—at first. We’ve trained ourselves to see most vegetables as unappetizing. In reality, you’ll learn to like them when you experience the benefits—similar to coffee.
Here are some ways to get more vegetables in your diet:
- In an omelette
- With any ground meat (turkey, beef, etc.)
- In a stir fry
- With a little olive oil, sauce, or salt and pepper
- In a smoothie
→ Complaining about hunger but refusing to eat vegetables is like saying your eyes hurt but refusing to look away from the sun.
Both are easy fixes.
The final verdict
While snacks can help reduce hunger between meals, there are steps you should take to avoid getting hungry in the first place.
But let’s be real…
You’ll inevitably have snacks at some point. This isn’t a problem—only excessive snacking is.
When you do snack, here are some filling options:
- Fruit (bananas, apples, berries, etc.)
- Vegetables (cucumbers, carrots, celery, etc.)
- Low-fat cheese sticks
- Cottage cheese
- Non-fat Greek yogurt
- Beef jerky
Stay away from highly processed, well-marketed “healthy” snack foods. They won’t fill you up.
Think labels that say things like “reduced fat” or “gluten-free.”
Aim for snacks that are ingredients, not with ingredients.
And if your snacking is mindless…
You’re in dire need of a food log. Here’s how to get started.
If you’ve never tracked your calories before, I’d strongly recommend doing it for at least 30 days.
You’ll be shocked how many calories are hidden in your favorite snack foods.
While snacking isn’t inherently “bad,” routinely taking in extra calories between meals will probably eliminate your calorie deficit—and any potential progress.
Eliminating snacking may seem tough at first, but things like…
- Getting better sleep
- Managing your stress
- Drinking more water
- Eating enough protein
- Increasing your fiber intake
…will effectively minimize your hunger.
If you do snack, aim for more filling options.
Getting a handle on excessive snacking can make or break your transformation results.
P.S. Want a FREE three-day workout program (that you'll actually stick with)?