Healthy Eating

Is Snacking Good or Bad For Weight Loss?

Turns out there’s no one-size-fits-all snacking strategy.

By: Bianca Peyvan, MS, RDN

Snacks can be both a friend and foe to your weight loss strategy. Snacking impacts people differently based on factors such as your body mass, caloric needs, the kind of snacks you choose, blood sugar balance, the number of hours between meals, and when you eat. These dynamics influence whether snacking can support your weight loss or health goals.

Some people do it mindfully to fuel their day or further their fitness goals. Some people do it mindlessly, packing on extra calories and ruining their appetites. Some people are disciplined intermittent fasters and only snack on the rarest of occasions. But most people do it all — an apple or banana here and there, nothing at all on some days, and maybe also some of those cookies in the (pre-pandemic) break room or a stress-eaten bag of chips.  

Everyone snacks. The question is, what kind of snacker do you want to be? 

Snacking And Weight Loss: What You Need to Know 

Whatever you decide, make sure your snacks work for you. Snacks can be both helpful and hurtful for someone trying to lose weight. By focusing on the right kind of snack and being intentional about when and how often you eat them, you can fold them into a weight loss strategy. 

If you’re trying to lower your body fat percentage, snacks can be an effective way to fight the hunger and fatigue that may come with a change in diet. But it’s important to stick to low-calorie snacks like fruits and vegetables, preferably timed between your longest stretch between meals, like the gap between lunch and dinner.

Done this way, snacking can actually help prevent overeating. Many people go seven-to-eight hours between lunch and dinner, finding themselves ravenous by their final meal of the day. A sensible afternoon snack can help you fight the need to go over the top with a big dinner. But, if a low-calorie snack really isn’t tiding you over till dinner, you can also try pushing up your supper. The point is to try to limit big calorie binges, so you’re not exceeding your caloric needs for weight loss.

Snacking Can Be Beneficial 

Snacking can also be helpful when spikes and drops in blood sugar (hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia) cause fatigue, dizziness, nausea, or lightheadedness. But rather than grab a cup of pudding, or a handful of gummy bears, stick to snack with a low glycemic index — something with protein and carbohydrates that can normalize your blood sugar rather than send it zooming in the other direction. Nuts are the classic example here, but berries, carrot sticks, Greek yogurt, even an egg can all get you back on track. Experimenting with different snacks and noting how you feel can help teach you what your body needs to avoid these uncomfortable symptoms. 

Now, intermittent fasters would tell you that it’s important to give your body time between meals to rest and repair. Digestion actually requires quite a bit of energy; giving your digestive tract a break allows it to perform a cellular detox known as autophagy. Many intermittent fasters shoot for the benefits of long fasts to reach this phase — but the body needs time to adapt to this kind of regimen and regulate blood sugar to handle long fasts. 

RELATED: An Expert Explains Why Mindful Eating is More Effective Than Dieting 

Make Snacking Work For You 

The real danger of snacking is doing it mindlessly: not paying attention to what you eat, how much you eat, and how often. Other factors such as stress levels, social cues, emotional states can also impact your snacking behavior, in addition to inadequate meals.

If you do snack, pay attention to those portions! Try a high-quality snack with about 200-300kcals. Always look at the nutrition label for portion size and calories (or look them up easily online). If you’re going to eat in front of the TV (it happens), do it with intention: portion your snacks.  

Low-nutrition, calorie-dense food like chips, candy, cake, and ice cream are delicious — but they can lead to insulin spikes. Opt for whole food snacks with low sugar, healthy fats, protein, and around five grams of fiber. 

Try macadamia nuts, tuna with flax crackers, avocado with high fiber bread, hummus, and crudites, or a protein-rich smoothie with psyllium husk. 

Snacking thoughtfully doesn’t end once you eat something, though. Tune into your body. Observe how long each snack sustains you. Are you hungry again after an hour? Was that snack satisfying? Did you end up eating a lighter dinner? 

Paying attention to how you feel after snacking is the key to making it work for you and your weight loss goals.

RELATED: The 8 Best Foods to Eat if You Always Feel Hungry 

Need some healthy snacking inspiration? Here are some delicious and wholesome FitOn PRO snack options to help keep you feeling full and nourished between meals. 

3-Ingredient Kale Chips 

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch kale, leaves chopped, and stems discarded
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • Sea salt & black pepper
  • Turmeric

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C or 400°F.
  2. Arrange kale on a lined baking tray and drizzle with coconut oil. Toss to coat.
  3. Sprinkle with sea salt, pepper, and 1 tsp turmeric.
  4. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until crispy and golden.

Sugar-Free Protein Balls 

Serves: 10

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp flaxseeds
  • 2 tbsp mixed seeds
  • 1 tbsp cacao (optional)
  • 2 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 6 drops vanilla stevia
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • ¼ cup shredded coconut (optional)

Directions

  1. In a high-powered blender or food processor, add all the ingredients minus the shredded coconut and blend until the mixture is smooth. If the mixture is too dry, add a splash of warm water.
  2. Spread the desiccated coconut over a plate.
  3. Roll into balls of your desired size and roll in the shredded coconut.
  4. Place balls into an air-proof container and refrigerate to set.
  5. Store in the fridge for 4-5 days. 

5-Ingredient Egg Muffins

Serves: 12

Ingredients

  • 12 eggs
  • Sea salt & black pepper
  • 2 cups mixed greens
  • ½ cup cherry tomato, chopped
  • ¼ cup pesto
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Basil leaves, to decorate

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C or 350°F. Lightly coat or spray a 12-cup muffin tin with oil.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add egg mixture halfway up into each space of the muffin tin.
  4. Divide the mixed greens and cherry tomatoes between each muffin cup. Add 1 tsp of pesto to each.
  5. Add to oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the muffins are golden and cooked through. To check if the muffins are cooked, insert a skewer. If it comes out clean, then they’re ready.

With Snacking, There’s No One-Size-Fits-All 

There’s no perfect snack for everyone — there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy. Like so many aspects of nutrition, there are multiple variables at play. And if you still have difficulty finding healthy snacks, speak to a Registered Dietitian for ideas on how to do it thoughtfully.