Snacks: How they fit into your weight-loss plan

Well-planned, healthy snacks can complement your weight-loss plan. Here are creative and healthy ways to satisfy your hunger. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Your stomach is growling, but lunch is hours away. You could indulge yourself with a snack, but you think it's best to grit your teeth and wait for lunch. Not so, if weight loss is your goal.

Although you may feel guilty about snacking, snacks aren't necessarily bad. In fact, well-planned weight-loss diets, such as the Mayo Clinic Diet, allow for snacks to help manage hunger and reduce bingeing. Eating a healthy snack of a piece of fruit or some raw veggies can tame your hunger without ruining your appetite for your next meal.

The key to incorporating snacks into your weight-loss plan is to keep moderation and balance in mind.

Choose healthy snacks

Select foods that satisfy your hunger, supply your body with energy and provide important nutrients. Opt for snacks of 100 calories or less to stay within your daily calorie goal.

So what are some smart choices? Here are several suggestions for 100-calorie snacks:

  • 1 cup sliced bananas and fresh raspberries (or any fruit)
  • 2 cups of baby carrots
  • 3 1/2 cups air-popped popcorn
  • 5 Melba toast crackers, rye or pumpernickel
  • 2 tablespoons of peanuts
  • 2 domino-sized slices of low-fat colby or cheddar cheese

Know which foods to reach for

You can eat more of foods with high water or fiber content and few calories, such as carrots, grapes and air-popped popcorn, for your 100 calories. Choose snacks from these food groups:

  • Fruits and vegetables. Eating fruits and vegetables provides a feeling of fullness and only a small number of calories. Fruits and vegetables also provide vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients.
  • Whole grains. Whole-grain snacks are rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates, which give you energy with staying power. Look for items such as low-fat whole-grain crackers, whole-grain pretzels and whole-grain crispbreads.
  • Nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds provide protein, so you will feel fuller longer. They are high in fat, but it's mostly monounsaturated, a healthy kind of fat. Nuts and seeds are high in calories, however, so don't eat them in large quantities.
  • Low-fat dairy products. Cheese, yogurt and other dairy products are good sources of calcium and protein, plus many other vitamins and minerals. Choose the low-fat versions. Some yogurts have extra added sugar, so look for plain, low-calorie or "light" varieties.
May. 25, 2012 See more In-depth