Snacks to Avoid Weight Gain

I recently read a blog about snacks to help with weight loss. One thing jumped out at me immediately about the list: it was all carbs. Every item on the list was composed of mainly, or in most cases ONLY, carbohydrates. Suggesting someone eat a snack of pure carbs--even "complex" carbs-- is a recipe for blood sugar spikes followed by blood sugar drops, excessive hunger, mood swings, cravings for more sugar, and general unhappiness. This is the curse of the carbohydrate. Protein and fat create lasting satisfaction.

The carbo-loaded snack list included: hummus and veggies, edamame, fruit, kale smoothie, and oatmeal. Did you notice anything about these items? Yes, they are all vegan. If you abstain from all animal products, you are at a great disadvantage when it comes to finding high quality sources of protein. At least hummus contains a small amount of (lower quality) protein (in the beans) and some fat (in the tahini and olive oil). This is probably the best choice out of all the items on this list.

I'm not suggesting one should never consume fruit, oatmeal, or kale smoothies. I'm suggesting that every time you snack, you should BALANCE the carbs with protein and fat. 

Let's take these suggested "snacks" and balance them.

1) Hummus and sliced turkey roll-up. Take a one ounce slice of deli turkey breast, spread with one ounce of hummus and roll up. Voila! Perfect snack containing a great balance of protein, carbs, and fat.

2) Edamame. Throw this in the compost pile. I don't recommend anyone eat soy products, especially those which have not been fermented. Soy is highly indigestible, highly allergenic, and its phyto-estrogens can possibly disrupt your natural hormonal balance. If you are over-weight, you already have too much estrogen floating around in your system (produced by excess fat cells). There is much controversy within the nutritional community over soy. I say, why risk it?

3) Fruit and cheese. Instead of chowing down on a big bowl of fruit salad, choose a small apple and a cheese stick. The cheese contains protein and fat. The apple is pure carbs, but has plenty of fiber. The combo is filling, low-cal, and balanced.

4) Kale smoothie with Greek yogurt and/or protein powder. Instead of blending a juice drink made with only fruit and veggies, add a cup of Greek yogurt (containing both fat and protein) OR add a half an avocado (for healthy fat) plus a scoop of protein powder. Boom: balanced shake!

5) Oatmeal Meatloaf. Instead of scarfing a bowl of plain cereal, substitute a cup of rolled oats for the bread crumbs to your favorite meatloaf recipe. Also add a cup of grated carrots and a cup of grated zucchini. You can substitute ground turkey, chicken, bison, lamb, or pork for all (or part) of the regular ground beef. Grab a slice of cold meatloaf (or warm it up!) for a healthy snack with plenty of protein.

5) Deviled eggs with baby carrots. Since I took away your soybeans, I added a snack of my own to the list. Pastured eggs (from chickens that live on GRASS) are one of the healthiest whole foods you can find; they contain all the essential amino acids, about 7 grams of protein, plenty of fat (as long as you eat the yolk) and combined with a veggie make an awesome snack.

6) Slices of cucumber topped with cream cheese and smoked salmon. I realized I neglected to include any seafood. You could substitute tuna or salmon salad or shrimp dip as the topping. Fish and seafood both contain plenty of high quality protein as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Most of us don't get enough of this important nutrient.

Another tip for creating balanced snacks is: think of a snack as a mini-meal. This is an important difference. When we usually think of "snacking," we imagine a big bag of chips or jelly beans or cookies. A "snack" has thus become the mindless shoveling of endless handfuls of empty calories into our faces. The fix? Transform that snack into a thought-out preparation, more like a meal. Choose 2-3 foods that supply a balance of all three macro-nutrients. Open your mind to "snacking" on healthy small meals.

Another snack tip: when you are eating, just eat. Instead of grazing at the counter or in front of the TV, sit down at the table. Eat your snack with a knife and fork (unless it's a kale smoothie!!!) and take some time to savor it. Really taste your snack. Drink a large glass of water or a mug of herbal tea with your snack to help your belly feel full. Then get up and move on. Do something active that doesn't allow for snacking, like taking a hike or dusting the ceiling fans. Forget about food until it's time for the next meal.

Let me know if you try some of these snacks. I hope you find them satisfying!