One of the greatest ironies of a successful diet: You should eat more often. Experts recommend snacking every two to three hours as part of a regular, low-calorie eating plan because it fires up metabolism and promotes fat-burning. A good nibble also keeps you from reaching for junk food when your belly is growling or your energy level hits a wall. So you need to know when and why youre hungry, what your body really needs, and the best diet snacks for each situation. Here we had dietitians break down the five most common snack attacks.
Snack Attack #1: You skipped breakfastand youre starving.
Ideally, youd eat about one-third of your daily calories at breakfast. If you skipped it, though, dont go crazy with a midmorning “make-up” meal, says University of Illinois sports dietitian Susan Kundrat, MS, RD. Loading up around 10 a.m. could sap your energy. Choose a 300-calorie nibble that combines protein, carbs, and fat to keep you satisfied until lunch. “This combo gives you long-lasting energy and helps you stay focused without filling up too much,” Kundrat says.
Better: One (5.3-ounce) container Fage Total Classic Greek-Style Yogurt With Honey
Best: 1⁄2 cup Bear Naked Appalachian Trail Mix
Snack attack #2: Youre in a major afternoon slump.
Bad snacks happenespecially when you feel drained and are desperate for a quick boost. As soon as the sugar rush is over from M&Ms or a candy bar, youll feel wilted again. Another crash culprit? “Most people dont drink enough liquids after lunch. Youll feel sluggish if youre dehydrated,” Susan Kundrat, RD, says.
Better: 1 (2.5-ounce) Julies Organic Blackberry Sorbet Bar
Best: 1 (7-ounce) Dannon Light & Fit Smoothie
Snack Attack #3: Dinner is hours away
“This is when the vending machine beckons with foods that are high in fat, sugar, and calories, so its important to keep better snack options on hand,” says Jenna A. Bell-Wilson, PhD, RD, an Arlington, Massachusetts–based nutrition consultant.
Better: 3 (2.4-ounce) packs Wild Garden Hummus To Go and 10 Stacys Multigrain Pita Chips
Best: 1⁄3 cup Seapoint Farms Dry Roasted Edamame, Goji Blend
Snack Attack #4: You need a preworkout nibble.
Carbs are the best source of fuel for working muscles because they give you a quick hit of energy to help you power through a workout, says Pamela M. Nisevich, MS, RD, LD, a Dayton, Ohio–based nutrition consultant. A 100- to 250-calorie snack should do the trick, depending on how hungry you are and how intense your workout will be. The obvious choice is an energy bar.
Better: 1 cup Motts Classic Apple Sauce
Best: 1 PowerBar Energize Fruit Smoothie bar
Snack attack #5: You worked through dinner, but its too late for a full meal.
Better: 1 (14-ounce) microwavable container Healthy Choice Minestrone soup
Best: 1 cup Fiber One Honey Clusters with 1⁄2 cup skim milk