We know being prepared and having healthy food on hand is the key to diet success. That’s why meal planning is so important. And in between those meals, it’s easier to quiet a craving and stay satisfied if there’s a well-stocked pantry or purse nearby. But busy women always say, “Just tell us what to eat to lose weight!” So we’re taking the guesswork out of the equation and revealing the best snacks for weight loss. Keep reading to learn the five best sweet snacks and five best protein-rich snacks to use to help you power off unwanted pounds, whether at home or on the go.
Why snacks are key to weight loss
Incorporating snacks into your day can help you lose weight — if you choose the right ones! Indeed, a study in the European Journal of Nutrition found that people who opted for poor-quality snacks (think ultra-processed cookies, cakes and chips) had a higher body mass index and more dangerous visceral fat, but those who ate healthy, nutrient-dense snacks were more likely to be at a healthier weight. “The American snack diet we’ve eaten all our life is not conducive to refueling our body,” says functional medicine practitioner Maggie Berghoff, FNP, author of Eat to Treat.
Berghoff’s advice: “Make a commitment to snack on real food,” she says. “This may take revamping your mindset as to what constitutes a ‘snack.’” Here, the snack foods that experts and research confirm are worth our time.
The best sweet snacks for weight loss
If you have a sweet tooth, we have a healthy solution. Check out these five snack options that are delicious as well as slimming.
1. Dark chocolate
Experts all over the world rave that dark chocolate is a healthy way to soothe sweet cravings without packing on pounds. That’s thanks to the treat’s low sugar and high concentration of plant compounds called flavonoids that act like special antioxidants in the body. Reach for squares that contain 70% or higher of cacao. “The darker the better,” advises William Li, MD, author of Eat to Beat Your Diet.
Dark chocolate supports levels of the feel-good hormone dopamine in the brain, helping to reduce stress-driven emotional eating. The proof: People who nibbled on the equivalent of 2 mini snack bars daily lowered their levels of the stress hormone stress cortisol by 31% over 4 weeks, according to British researchers.
Another surprising way dark chocolate helps with weight loss is thanks to new understanding around how bitter foods, including chocolate, support gut health and fight inflammation, according to Italian research. Click to learn more on how to use bitter foods for weight loss.
2. Medjool dates
“I trust the sugar that is from nature, meaning whole pieces of fruit,” says cravings expert Nicole Avena, PhD, author of Why Diets Fail. And dates have become a favorite fruit for dieters to enjoy alone or in baking. Social media has become flooded with slimming recipes that use dates, including this healthy Snickers substitute. Since a date’s sweetness is packaged with fiber, the body is able to process it more easily without a damaging blood sugar spike.
Mineral-rich dates are also a trusted part of a Mediterranean diet, widely considered to be the healthiest way to eat. Click through to more about how a date-infused, Mediterranean style of eating can help you lose weight.
3. Chia pudding
This superfood seed is popular in healthy cereals and granolas. But in recent years, dieters have fallen in love with mixing the seeds into water, coconut milk or almond milk. The seeds soak up the moisture, creating a thick pudding. And each creamy spoonful satisfies the “mouthfeel” sensation we get from eating less weight-friendly treats like ice cream. Chia’s soluble fiber also provides nutrients for our gut microbiome to improve overall health and metabolism.
Some diet experts, including Jorge Cruise, praise chia pudding for its ability to help people lose weight while practicing intermittent fasting. How? This fiber-and-fat snack won’t break a fast, so you can extend your fat-burning window longer than before. Fasting expert Jason Fung, MD, says, “These sort of cheat strategies, eating fasting-mimicking snacks, give women another tool in their belt to succeed at fasting.”
Check out these delicious chia pudding recipes.
4. “Skinny” coffee drinks
Few snack breaks in the day are appreciated more than a coffee break. Plus, coffee beans contain antioxidants that help undo cellular damage caused by free radicals. That damage has been linked to premature aging, painful inflammation and metabolism slow-downs.
“Coffee is the greatest source of polyphenols of anything in the American diet,” says Bob Arnot, MD, former chief correspondent for NBC News and author of The Coffee Lovers Bible. “It’s probably the No. 1 superfood in the world.”
The trick is to ensure coffee is a healthy snack and not overshadowed by fattening creams, added sugars or chemicals. Black coffee is best, but if you want to doll it up, look for low-sugar flavorings (often called “skinny” syrups). Or use health-supporting natural spices like cinnamon or turmeric. Learn more about the health benefits of coffee here. And check these insider tips for ordering healthy coffees at Dunkin and Starbucks.
5. Frozen grapes
If you’re craving a sweet treat, these gems will hit the spot. Freezing this fruit also slows down the pace of eating so you ultimately eat fewer grapes in one sitting.
The real weight-loss power of grapes is resveratrol. This plant compound helps the body shift to storing calories in muscles rather than in fat. “I get my resveratrol from red wine,” says nutrition specialist Melina Jampolis, MD, who likes pinot noir. The co-founder of the personalized nutrition company Ahara adds, “Anytime you use anti-inflammatory ingredients, you’re optimizing your metabolism to burn fat, especially for older women with weight shifting from the butt to the gut.”
Resveratrol is also known to promote collagen production in the skin. This helps to keep us firm during any weight loss. Click here to learn how to harness resveratrol for weight loss.
Best protein snacks for weight loss
There is no macronutrient that can satisfy hunger better than protein. Indeed, protein in any form is good for the metabolism. In one study, women who ate the most protein had a waistline 7.6 inches smaller than those who skimped on protein. Why? “Muscle is metabolically active tissue,” explains Florence Comite, MD, who founded Women’s Health Research at Yale University. It burns fat even while we sleep, shifting the percentage of fat and muscle in the body. “It’s better than weight loss,” she says. “It’s body recomposition.” Here, five delicious snacks to get more protein into your diet — and get stubborn pounds off your frame.
1. Cottage cheese
This classic weight-loss food from the 1950s is making a comeback, thanks to all the delicious ways people are using the ingredient. Try it stirred into scrambled eggs or pureed and turned into cupcake frosting. Just one cup equals 25 grams of protein.
Cottage cheese contains a special form of protein called casein. It clots in the stomach to show digestion and make you feel fuller longer. This type of delay is proven to make people eat 300 fewer calories per day. Click to learn everything you need to know about using cottage cheese for weight loss and how to make cottage cheese ice cream.
2. Protein smoothies
Nothing in the diet world these days is helping women get more protein into every snack than protein powder. It can deliver around 25 grams of protein per scoop. Dawn Harris Sherling, MD, author of Eat Everything, says, “Smoothies are a great breakfast addition or afternoon snack and can even be full meals if made with protein additions such as nut butter, chia seeds or yogurt.”
This versatile ingredient can be added to shakes, pancake recipes, oatmeal or Greek yogurt. And all those added doses of protein naturally shrink appetite by about 494 calories a day, according to research conducted by a University of Washington team.
Even adding some protein powder to coffee — called “proffee” — helps to speed metabolism and boost weight loss potential. Click to read more about how a morning protein smoothie can help with weight loss.
The list of health benefits of eating nuts is a long one. They’re loaded with healthy fats and protein, and eating nuts regularly has been linked to lower rates of cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes. Research shows that eating nuts is associated with a lower BMI (body mass index) and a reduced risk for obesity.
But pistachios, with 25 grams of protein per cup, are rare in the plant world for being classified as “complete proteins,” a distinction often given only to meat. It means pistachios contain all nine amino acids that the body needs to build and maintain lean muscle. The traditional serving size of pistachios is 1 oz, or 49 nuts.
Pistachios also activate genes in the body called sirtuins that regulate the metabolism to work optimally. Plus, they block neuropeptide Y, a hormone known to signal the formation of belly fat. And these green nuts are also packed with fiber, a major help when trying to lose weight. Click to learn how fiber speeds weight loss.
4. “Skinny” noodles
Buckwheat, a main ingredient is soba noodles, contains 6 grams of protein, plus complex carbs that improve blood-sugar regulation. Soba noodles also contain prebiotic fibers that cultivate good gut bacteria. Dr. Li says, “It’s like going on a treasure hunt in the grocery store and finding real gold that science has shown can help you fight body fat.”
A special type of buckwheat called Himalayan tartary buckwheat has been taking the diet world by storm. “Himalayan tartary buckwheat may be the world’s most powerful superfood, with more than 132 phytonutrients, some found nowhere else in nature,” raves Mark Hyman, MD, author of Young Forever. He contends all those healing properties triggering cellular and metabolic benefits.
Click to learn more about using buckwheat for weight loss.
5. Bacon this way
Of course we have to include a meat option for our carnivore dieters. And a favorite in recent years: twisted bacon. To make it, you hold one end of a piece of raw bacon and twirling the other end to form a ringlet, then bake on a rimmed tray at 350°F for 40 minutes, flipping halfway through.
How can bacon help you lose weight? Four twists of bacon contain a dozen grams of slimming protein. And experts estimate that dieters are cutting 500 calories a day, thanks to a phenomenon that slows down eating and tells the brain its full sooner.
“Entire industries are dedicated to studying the texture profiles that make you want to eat more,” says Eric Westman, MD, co-author of the upcoming End Your Carb Confusion: The Cookbook. But we can flip that knowledge and apply it to foods to “make hunger go away.” The mental tricks here fall into a philosphy of dieting known as volumetrics. Click to learn more about using twisted bacon and volumetrics for weight loss.
Check out Instagrammer House.of.Keto‘s easy how-to:
Want more healthy snacks? Keep reading!
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.