Top 10 Snacks for Weight Loss & Optimal Recovery, According to a Dietitian
If you are looking to shed weight, snacking can either benefit or break your diet. Eating several mini meals during the day is a great way to ramp up your metabolism—if you do it right. But, just as it’s important to make sure you’re making time to nosh between meals, you want those snacks to be healthy and packed with helpful nutrients to your training program, like protein, good fats and fiber, instead of sugar, bad fats (like trans) and refined carbohydrates.
Snacks rich in protein, fat and fiber keep you fuller longer and suppress your appetite to avoid binging, which (without fail) tacks on unwanted pounds. We checked in with Ilyse Schapiro MS, RD, CDN for her favorite training go-to mini meals that pack a punch in nutrition and won't slow you down. Period.
Related: 6 Better Ways to Snack: Common Pitfalls & Pro Tips
Performance-Enhancing Snacks For Weight Loss
1. Nut Butter Packets
“These are perfect for grab and go and you can have them as a snack alone or on a banana, apple or even whole grain crackers,” says Shapiro.
Nut butters have a good amount of healthy fat and protein, both of which will sustain you for a few hours. Plus, “nut butters are great for muscle recovery, and they help to slow muscle breakdown,” she adds. Think: a win/win for training and performance. Schapiro recommends Justin’s, if you don't know where to start in the nut butter aisle.
2. Sprouted Grain Bread
Sprouted grain is super nutritious and fiber dense. Schapiro recommends Ezekiel Bread as her go-to option, as it is lower in carbs, high in protein and fiber, and is easy to digest. “The combo of protein and fiber is great for energy, plus, the sprouting helps to increase the nutrient density,” she says.
“You need carbs before a workout, for the glycogen to fuel short- and high-intensity exercises,” she explains. Spread avocado or nut butter on a slice to add a little healthy fat.
3. Icelandic/Greek Yogurt
This thick and creamy yogurt is low in sugar, and packed with probiotics which are prime for digestion and good gut health. “The protein is great for muscle recovery, too,” she says, so eat it after a workout with fruit, nuts and seeds.
“I suggest having a protein-rich food after a workout, and the protein from dairy is rich in amino acids which is great for rebuilding muscle,” she explains. Go for unsweetened varieties in plain if possible. Skyr Provisions or Siggi’s are two healthy options.
Related: Simple Yogurt Recipes: The Protein-Packed Pre- or Post-Workout Snack
4. Canned Salmon
“Salmon is rich in Omega 3’s which help to bring down inflammation in the body, and during intense exercise, there’s added stress on the body, so Omega 3's can help prevent you from being sore,” she says. Try Wild Planet, she recommends. “Plus, it's rich in protein which is great for building muscle if you want to lean out,” Shapiro adds. Make a healthier fish salad or spread, or use it as a topper on greens.
5. Roasted Chickpeas
Ditch potato chips and opt for roasted chickpeas for a nutritious and crispy, crunchy snack. Schapiro likes The Good Bean, and says these roasted chickpea snacks have an excellent mix of protein and fiber.
“These are great when you want a healthy crunch without the saturated fat in chips, and the combo of protein and fiber are filling and can prevent you from overeating unhealthy food later on,” she says. Chickpeas are rich in iron, too, which you need to enhance performance, as a deficiency can lead to fatigue, an inability to keep warm and headaches.
6. Cottage Cheese
This salty, delicious snack and breakfast food is high in protein, which takes longer to digest, so you feel fuller longer.
Additionally, “cottage cheese contains whey and protein, which are necessary for muscle recovery, even while you sleep,” says Shapiro. And there’s bone-building calcium to prevent osteoporosis and further protect your body during training. Good Culture is her go-to with a delicious, thick texture.
“Whether fresh, frozen or freeze dried, edamame has a great combination of fiber and protein and they are also a solid substitute for anyone who is looking to minimize animal protein in their diet,” she says. Edamame is a complete protein, which means it has a full amino-acid profile which helps with muscle repair post workout.
Related: 6 High-Protein Plant Foods You Should Be Eating
8. Sliced Turkey
Turkey is a lean protein, so it’s filling without a calorie overload. “Plus, it contains Omega 3’s which can reduce inflammation—a must if you are training,” she says. Use it over bread as a “wrap” for a sandwich and stuff the insides with cheese and veggies. Or enjoy a few slices on whole grain bread.
You need complex carbs for energy, especially when you are training. “Oatmeal is great because it has soluble fiber to fill you up, and it can sustain you for a few hours,” says Shapiro. “Pairing oatmeal with a protein like eggs or a healthy fat like nuts, can keep your blood sugars stable and prevent overeating.”
10. Beef Jerky
Beef jerky is high in protein, and low in carbs for those watching carb intake. “Protein is important for weight loss as it digests slower than carbohydrates, so it keeps you fuller for longer,” she says. Beef jerky also doesn't produce insulin, a hormone that signals the body to store fat, so consider it a win-win. Try Country Archer and Prevail Jerky as they’re lean and delicious, and they are lower in sugar!