[op_liveeditor_element data-style=””][text_block style=”style_1.png” align=”left”]Quick Summary
Have a snack of nuts once per day.
It is important to understand the difference between physiological hunger and reward driven hunger.
Your snacking strategy should help you get ahead of food cravings with a snack that satisfies you, not makes you more hungry in 10-30 minutes.
Snack on foods that contain nutrients which enhance feelings of fullness (e.g. fiber, protein, fat).
When in doubt, eat slower.
Read food labels – even on foods that you think are healthy.
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Our first step of the plan is adding a snack. I know it may seem counterintuitive that the first step in a weight loss plan is adding food, but we are going to focus on adding a quality snack, rich in nutrients, that will help curb your appetite leading up to lunch or dinner so that when those meals come, you won’t be as hungry and it will be easier to control the amount of food that you eat at those meals.
Why use nuts as a snack?
For a long time, nuts were shunned as a snack because they contain a lot of fat and thus calories. I remember years ago reading a list of the “10 Worst Diet foods” in a fitness magazine and nuts were #1!
However, nutritionists (most of us) have smartened up to see the true value of nuts as a great snack. For weight loss, nuts are great because they contain what I call the trifecta of satiety – fiber, fat, and protein. These 3 things work together at multiple levels (stomach, digestive tract, and brain) to help you feel full and satisfied. Traditional snacks like crackers, pretzels, and chips may contain some fat, but they are low in both fiber and protein so in the end, they have little to no effect on helping you feel full. This makes them lousy snack foods.
Too Much of a Good Thing?
Nuts are great, but just like anything – moderation is key. As mentioned above, nuts are calorie dense.
With the popularity of nuts as a snack, food companies have jumped all over this trend. You will notice lots more options for nuts in grocery and convenience stores. Here are 3 things that you need to look out for.
1. Inflated Portion Sizes – Read the nutrition labels to find out what the serving size for a single serving packet of nuts really is. For a snack, you should have 1-1.5oz. This is about the size of a small handful of nuts or 1/4 cup if you are measuring. More and more companies are selling packets of nuts that look like they are single servings but in fact they contain 2-3oz of nuts. This is more than you want. Keep an eye out and know that while it looks like it is a single serving, you should only eat 1/2 of it.
2. Flavored Nuts – You will also find that nuts, especially almonds, come in lots of different flavors. Dry roasted or raw almonds are apparently just too boring. Some of these flavors are great, but others are stealth sources of sugar. One of the reasons why nuts are such a great snack is that they are low in sugar. Getting honey roasted nuts defeats that purpose, as sugar is getting slathered all over our great snack. Your job, again, is to read the nutrition label. Look at the ingredients list. If sugar or sugar in another form is listed, opt for a different product.
3. Nuts with Dried Fruit and Chocolate – Try to stick just with nuts as a snack. Many companies are turning a snack with nuts into sugar bombs by adding dried fruit, chocolate, and other candies to the mix. This is often sold under the guise of trail mix with other buzz words like dark chocolate, cacao, and superfoods. Don’t buy into the hype, these are just chic nutrition phrases trying to distract you from the empty calories that are being added to your snack. Dried fruit almost always (99.5% of the time) contains added sugar so be wary of dried fruit in general. While there are some benefits to dark chocolate, this snack and what we are trying to accomplish at this stage in the game, doesn’t make it the appropriate place for dark chocolate.
Pistachios – The Ultimate Snack?
I like pistachios for a snack (especially if you are rather hungry) because you get to eat more nuts per ounce than any other nut (ex: 49 pistachios vs. 22 almonds). Pistachios also take more time to eat. A good nutritional mantra is..
When in doubt, eat slower.
This gives your body more time to process that you are eating, while sensing the nutrients and amounts of foods, so that you can properly feel satisfied.
Pistachios give us the trifecta of satiety and they hit on two other key fullness factors – providing a larger volume of food for the same amount of calories, and requiring you to eat slower.
What are your other options? Maybe you don’t like nuts. Maybe you want a change of pace. Here are 3 other options that you can use during this step in the program.
Larabars – They are very portable, pre-portioned, and contain minimal ingredients. Yes, with Larabars you lose some fiber and get more carbohydrates, but that is one of the trade offs that you make for the convenience of a bar.
Questbars – These are a very popular protein bar option. Questbars are high in protein and fiber. The fiber that they contain is called a prebiotic. This means that your body cannot digest it (so you don’t get calories from it). However, prebiotics serve as food for the good bacteria in your digestive tract. These prebiotic fibers don’t seem to have as strong an ability to make you feel full, so while the bar may contain 18 grams of fiber, it won’t weigh you down.
2% plain Greek yogurt – Pre-portioned Greek yogurt is a great option for a snack. They are very convenient and contain a higher protein content then a small handful of nuts. Greek yogurt contains twice the protein of regular yogurt. This extra protein makes up for the lack of fiber, so even though you only have 2 of the 3 components of the trifecta of satiety, you will still reap all the benefits. Opt for plain yogurt, as yogurt with added fruit contains added sugars and sometimes less protein.
Do you have questions about this step? Need help implementing it? Post your question in the comment section below![/text_block][/op_liveeditor_element]