What to snack on when dieting: 21 great foods to keep you full
Wondering what to snack on when dieting? We tried the best snacks for weight loss ourselves
Knowing what to snack on when dieting is one of the hardest parts of changing your eating habits. Lower-calorie, higher-protein snacks that'll keep you full while hitting the craving are much harder to come by than those high in carbohydrates, saturated fats, and sugar.
There's nothing wrong with eating foods high in carbs, saturated fats, and sugar, provided that it's part of a healthy and balanced diet. However, if you're trying to lose weight and it's not happening, or you're just looking for healthier alternatives to keep you moving through the day, then they won't be the best picks.
No one should feel pressured to lose weight, but if you are trying to change up your eating habits, having a selection of healthy snacks that are higher in protein, fiber, and healthy fats, and lower in calories may be the way forward to get into a calorie deficit to lose weight. To find the best high-protein low-calorie foods, those perfect for staying full when dieting, we consulted two nutritionists.
What to snack on when dieting
Popcorn is one of the best healthy snacks, great to munch on through the day if you're on a diet as it's high in fiber, one of the most filling micronutrients, according to Purdue University. But when choosing your popcorn, make sure you're opting for the air-popped kind which is lower in calories, sugar, and saturated fats than the traditional movie-theater kind.
This is one of the simplest snacks for weight loss out there. LesserEvil's popcorn is made from three simple ingredients: organic popcorn, extra virgin coconut oil, and Himalayan pink salt. Only 50 calories per bag.
Oatcakes are one of the best easy, on-the-go snacks to enjoy if you're dieting or looking to lose weight. Famously, oats are nutritious whole, ancient grains that offer a good amount of fiber and they have slightly higher protein content when compared to other grains.
Porridge or overnight oat recipes are among the top choices for those looking to know how many calories to have for breakfast but oatcakes are the perfect on-the-go snack, individually wrapped and around 300 calories per serving.
Nairn's Coconut and Chia Oat Biscuits are the ideal snack for the beginning of summer. They're full of natural flavor and texture from the toasted coconut and chia seeds, with zero artificial colors or flavors. At only 45 calories per biscuit, these also have 55% less sugar compared to regular cookies. These are also available to buy on Amazon UK in bulk or from your local grocery store.
You can also buy Nairn's in the US from Amazon, although it is a little more expensive.
3. Cottage cheese
Cottage cheese is a weight loss snack favorite for good reason. "A low-fat product like cottage cheese is a great option for a mid-afternoon snack. Try it on a rice cake or similar, with some salt and pepper on top to keep things simple, otherwise, try it with a slice of tomato," says nutritionist Jenna Hope. "Cottage cheese is high in protein and lower in calories, meaning you'll stay fuller for longer while staying in your deficit."
4. Rice cakes
The perfect accompaniment to your cottage cheese, rice cakes are wafer-thin cakes made of popped rice. They're not very nutritionally solid, just because there's not much there, with less than a gram of protein and 5.6g of carbohydrate per cake. However, at just 27 calories each, they make for a great snack or alternative to crisps if you're looking for something to munch on when you're bored.
5. Edamame beans
Edamame beans are considered to be a superfood thanks to all their numerous health benefits. "Edamame beans are high in protein with around 18g per 160g," explains Hope, meaning they'll help keep you full, with just over 250 calories for the serving.
"They can also help control your blood sugar if you have them as a replacement for high-sugar foods that would otherwise spike it. This will limit feelings of tiredness throughout the day as you won't have a sugar rush to come down from after a snack in the afternoon," she explains.
If you're experiencing the symptoms of menopause, these could be a particularly good addition to your diet. As research by the George Washington School of Medicine explains, edamame beans have been suggested to lessen more of the difficult menopause symptoms, including hot flashes, mood swings, and sweating.
6. Protein bars
Protein bars are a natural choice for looking to make the most of the benefits of protein powder, as they tend to contain between 10 and 21g of protein per bar. Along with fiber, protein is another filling nutrient so opting for protein-rich foods over carbohydrates and fats will keep you fuller for longer.
"Protein is the most effective macronutrient that provides a satiating effect," explains registered nutritionist and dietician, Dr Sarah Schenker. "So, formulating foods with increased protein content can help to modulate food intake, promoting body weight loss and body weight maintenance," she explains.
Quest Nutrition's protein bars are lower-calorie snack bars, great for those looking to lower their calorie intake while maintaining and growing muscle, with 21g of protein and 190 calories per bar. Available from Amazon US, there are multiple different flavors to choose from - including cookie dough, caramel chocolate chunk, and lemon cake.
A classic protein bar, Grenade bars are available in loads of different flavors - including the new lemon cheesecake flavor. At 220 calories per bar, they're on the lower end of the protein bar calorie spectrum, and contain an impressive 23g of protein per bar. While they're slightly powdery in flavor, they do provide top protein quantity we found.
If bars aren't for you, why not try balls? The Protein Ball Co. have a range of whey protein bites designed to offer 10g of protein per serving, in several flavors. We loved the peanut butter or Raspberry Brownie flavors for after-lunch cravings, or Pistachio for something more savory.
7. Roasted chickpeas
Much like beans, chickpeas are winning foods for those looking to know what to eat when dieting. They're a great way to bulk out meals in a low-calorie way, but as nutritionist Hope says, "chickpeas are a good source of protein and fiber."
She says, "As an alternative to crisps, roast chickpeas in the oven with a sprinkle of salt and paprika."
Leafy and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, are among the best vegetables to snack on if you're trying to lose weight. Broccoli in particular, research by Sultan Qaboos University says, works to reduce inflammation, improve blood sugar control, help the immune system, and promote heart health.
It's also a super-filling vegetable, notes Svanfeldt. "Broccoli takes up more space in the stomach than many other vegetables, making you feel more full sooner." It's also low in calories, with just 34 calories per 100g.
9. Boiled eggs
The egg is one food that is great for weight loss thanks to its healthy 77 calories count, 6g of protein, and 5g of healthy fats. But for those particularly interested in maintaining their heart health, eggs can be an essential part of your diet.
According to research by Loegernes Test Centre in Copenhagen, among other studies, eggs raise our levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Often referred to as the 'good' cholesterol, those with higher levels of this tend to have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and other adverse health issues.
When it comes to the egg as a snack, Lifesum's nutritionist Signe Svanfeldt says that whole grain bread or a rice cake topped with a boiled egg is the way forward. "The whole grain bread has plenty of complex carbs, rich in fiber, and the egg will provide a lot of protein. Top it off with some fresh herbs, pepper, and chilli flakes if you want to add more flavor," she says.
Hummus is a snack you can vary in many ways depending on what vegetables you are in the mood for, Svanfeldt says, making it an ideal snack for dieting. "The hummus is rich in protein as well as fiber from the chickpeas. If you add tahini, which is a sesame paste, you also get some healthy fats," she says. "Plus, all the vegetables are full of fiber."
Mushrooms like shiitake, button, and portobello mushrooms are among the best snacks. They're free of fat and cholestrol, and low in sodium and calories, while being packed full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Some mushrooms, such as cordyceps, are also known as adaptogens: products that help the body deal with stress. While the evidence on this is minimal for the moment, there is research from the University of Kansas Medical Center to suggest they can help to regulate a variety of bodily processes.
The idea of mushroom snacks might sound strange to you but we're a big fan of the Other Foods Crunchy Shiitake Mushroom snacks here at woman&home. They're vegan friendly, gluten-free, make up one of your five a day, and each packet is only 99 calories. They also taste amazing with a unique, salty, moreish flavor that will leave you wanting more. Also available with shipping to the US.
Mushrooms like cordyceps are adaptogen foods. While not technically an edible snack, Dirtea's cordyceps mushroom powder makes for a great addition to bulk out coffee and tea.
Crisps might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of what to snack on when dieting, but if you're a lover of chips then it's going to be very difficult to give them up - so why should you? Gone are the days of deep-fried crisps with sky-high sodium content, many brands are incorporating popular wellness trends into their snacks for the better.
MyProtein crisps are a must-buy if you're looking to lose weight but can't stand the idea of giving up your favorite savoury snack. There's less than 100 calories per pack and 11g of protein. Shopping in the US? Try MyProtein's chips for $22.99.
Olives are a foundation of the Mediterranean diet, typical in countries like Spain, Greece, and Italy. While you might not think of them as a go-to snack when dieting, olives are very high in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, according to a study by the University of Urbino.
Pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, and almost all other types of seeds are exactly what to snack on when dieting if you're looking to stay full between meals and aid digestion. As well as offering that much-needed crunch when you're hungry, pumpkin seeds in particular have been proven to come with a range of health benefits. According to research from University College Cork, they're particularly high in fats and protein with around 7g of protein, 1.7g of fiber, and 13g of fats (including healthy omega 6) per 28g serving.
For simple pumpkin seeds at a reasonable price, go for these from Aksoy at Amazon. Shelled and ready to eat, these seeds have 9g of protein per serving and are suitable for most diets, including the paleo and ketogenic diet.
Made up of pumpkin and sunflower seeds, Munchy Seeds are a great way to get those much-needed fats and protein. We loved these seeds as they come in an exciting range of unique flavors, including chilli for savory-lovers and honey roasted for those with a sweet tooth. Buy on Amazon or via the Munchy Seeds website.
For years we've been told that a handful of nuts makes a great snack - and it's true. Nuts are packed full of macronutrients, with (on average) 5g of protein, 16g of fats, 3g of fiber, and 173 calories per 28g. Some of the best ones to eat to reap the benefits, according to Loma Linda University, are:
- Brazil nuts
- Macadamia nuts
- Pine nuts
There's even evidence to suggest that nuts can actively help you lose weight. A study from the University of Sao Paulo, for instance, found that participants who were given nuts to eat lost 2 inches from their waistlines. While waistline, much like BMI, is not an entirely accurate or useful way of predicting health as it relates to weight, this was more of a loss than those given olive oil.
"Always keep some in your bag to make sure that you have an emergency snack if you're on the run," suggests Svenfeldt.
16. Apple with peanut butter
Looking for something a little sweet? Try some slices of apple with peanut butter on them. "The best snacks for satiety are those which are rich in protein, fiber, and healthy fats as these have a higher satiety value than simple carbohydrates," says nutritionist Jenna Hope.
When choosing peanut butter though, be sure to pick one that's relatively low or absent of added sugar, and watch out for palm oil.
Pip& Nut is one of the best peanut butters out there and I've been a fan of the brand for years. Suitable for both smooth and crunchy lovers, what's best about Pip& Nut aside from the delicious flavor is that their butters come in both smaller and larger sizes - ideal for those who eat it by the spoonful.
Along with edamame, hemp is a superfood. It's incredibly high in omega-6, omega-3, with over 25% of its calories coming from protein. Gaia's Farming has multiple varieties of nut butter (almond is our favorite), infused with hemp to offer these additional health benefits.
17. Greek yogurt with berries
The benefits of strawberries are famous, so top some Greek yogurt with strawberries and other berries the next time you're struggling to stay full between breakfast and lunch. Compared to regular yogurt, a report by the Agricultural Research Service found, Greek yogurt is higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates.
But it's also rich in other nutrients like B vitamins, selenium, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin A, and potassium. In smaller quantities, there are nutrients like magnesium, choline, and copper.
"This is the perfect snack, filled with protein from the Greek yogurt, carbohydrates, and fiber for the berries. Combine with some nuts for healthy unsaturated fats and more protein," Svanfeldt suggests.
18. Chia pudding
Chia seeds are loaded with fiber, making chia pudding one of the best snacks for those dieting or looking to lose weight. In fact, 35% of their total weight is made up with exclusively fiber, according to Sultan Zainal Abidin University.
To make chia pudding, all you need to do is combine two tablespoons of chia seeds with half a cup of water or milk and leave the mixture in the fridge overnight.
There's also evidence to suggest that chia seeds are one of the top diet snacks, as according to Hacettepe University, they can make us feel fuller for longer. The study looked at 24 participants and found that eating 7g of chia seeds mixed with yogurt for breakfast increased feelings of fullness and reduced the amount that participants ate in the short term.
Granola is a classic breakfast staple, made of toasted rolled oats, nuts, grains, and dried fruit, combined and baked with a sweetener like honey. But it also makes for a great snack, if you pick the right one.
Various studies, including one by the University of Toronto, have looked at the components of granola individually and have found that eating it in moderate quantities can improve blood pressure levels, thanks to high fiber ingredients like oats and flax seeds. While Lancaster University found that oats are an excellent source of beta glucan, a particular type of fiber that can reduce bad cholesterol levels known as LDL cholesterol and in turn, help to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Many of the larger brands mass-produced granola and often add artificial sugars though, so it's always best to make your own or check the label of more independent brands.
20. Low-calorie ice cream
You might think that ice cream is off the menu if you're snacking on a diet but that doesn't have to be the case, with many brands releasing lower-calorie alternatives to classic flavors. Sure, it doesn't quite taste the same as Ben and Jerry's but with around 300 calories per tub, rather than 500 or 600, it's not to be taken for granted. If you're living in the UK, Halo Top is a great option.
If you want to make your own dessert at home, you can also make your own high-protein ice cream from scratch, using one of the best protein shakes for weight loss.
There's really no such thing as healthy chocolate but dark chocolate with a high cacao ratio is proven to have a range of health benefits that can aid weight loss - including lowering blood pressure.
Research by the University of East Anglia found that cocoa and dark chocolate improved blood flow in participants and lowered blood pressure overall, although the results were mild.
When it comes to weight loss and particularly those trying to get out of emotional eating habits, dark chocolate can offer that slice of sweetness in limited quantities.
Snacking and dieting
At the end of the day though, if you're dieting and maintaining a strong calorie deficit, a couple of squares of chocolate or any other snack isn't going to make much different. You might find that by continuing to eat your favorite foods in moderate quantities, rather than cutting them out completely, you're less likely to binge on them later on.
"Having well-composed snacks in between larger meals will ensure that you keep your energy levels up and stop you from getting hungry and eating more later on," says Svanfeldt. "But for your wellbeing, you can also plan daily meals so you get enough energy for the whole day based on your individual needs. Including another meal [on top of the standard three and instead of snacking] can help with this, and ensure you stay within the energy requirements."
A digital health journalist with over five years experience writing and editing for UK publications, Grace has covered the world of health and wellbeing extensively for Cosmopolitan, The i Paper and more.
She started her career writing about the complexities of sex and relationships, before combining personal hobbies with professional and writing about fitness. Everything from the best protein powder to sleep technology, the latest health trend to nutrition essentials, Grace has a huge spectrum of interests in the wellness sphere. Having reported on the coronavirus pandemic since the very first swab, she now also counts public health among them.
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