“Snacking” and “unhealthy eating” may seem to be synonymous, but they don’t have to be. If you snack on healthy foods, you can actually speed up your weight-loss efforts and get long-lasting results.
Many diets fail because people get hungry between meals, particularly between lunch and dinner, and turn to unhealthy foods as snacks. However, eating healthy snacks can help keep your metabolism running at maximum efficiency.
Here are 7 great choices for healthy snacks that won’t expand your waistline:
The monounsaturated fats in nuts can reduce your levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol and your overall cholesterol, while preventing plaque from building up in your arteries. They also keep you feeling full for longer because of their high protein content.
2. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds and nuts share many of the same nutrients. Be aware, however, that sunflower seeds often have salt added to them, which can make them a less-than-healthy snacking choice. If sunflower seeds are your healthy snack of choice, make sure they’re labeled “salt-free,” “low salt,” or “no salt added.”
Popcorn has lots of good fiber and is low in calories – as long as it isn’t covered with salt and butter, that is. Popping popcorn in an air popper is the healthiest way to do it. If you pop it on a stove, use a type of oil with monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil or canola oil.
4. Soy Crisps
Soy crisps might be described as the lovechild of a bag of nacho-cheese chips and a bowl of edamame. They’re low in fat, high in fiber, and a good source of healthy soy protein.
The International Journal of Obesity recently conducted a study that concluded that soy protein doesn’t just contribute to the weight-loss process – it also helps to ensure that you’re losing fat, not muscle.
5. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter and other nut butters are a delicious and fun way to get your protein, which helps you feel full between meals. It tastes great all by itself, on crackers, in a smoothie, or with fruit. (There’s actually a plate of apple slices and almond butter in front of me as I’m writing this – a personal favorite of mine.)
6. Fruit Smoothies
With enough healthy, filling ingredients, fruit smoothies can become more than a snack – they can act as a healthy lunch all by themselves. Depending on what you put in them, they can have as many as 600 calories, the same amount found in a healthy meal, and you’ll feel full for a long time after having one. (Of course, fruit smoothies can make great snacks, too.)
You can make a homemade fruit smoothie out of your favorite fruit, some yogurt, and some peanut butter, or you can order one from a cafe or juice bar. When ordering, add protein to your smoothie by asking for a shot of soy protein or whey powder.
Keep in mind, though, that most fruit smoothies are high in fructose (the natural sugar in all fruits), and if you don’t burn off that sugar, your body will store it as more fat.
If the answer you get when you ask yourself the question “Am I really hungry right now?” is “No” or “I’m not sure,” try chewing gum instead of having a snack, even one of the snacks on this list.
According to studies, when you chew gum, the up-and-down motion of your jaws burns about 11 calories an hour. That may seem insignificant, but if you were to spend an hour every day chewing gum, you’d lose about an extra pound in a year – and that’s not counting the calories you’d save by not eating snacks!
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