Americans sure do like their snacks. Snacks weigh down the average American’s daily diet with an additional 580 calories per day, and more than half the country said they prefer snacking over meals, according to one recent study.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Eating several small mini-meals throughout the day in place of the standard 3-square-meals model is a strategy that many use to lose weight, experience more energy and get healthy. On the other hand, for many others, serial snacking manages to pack on the pounds faster than you can rip open a bag of potato chips.
It all comes down to what you’re actually snacking on when the munchies hit. And while most of us can breeze through a basic snack-time pop quiz with flying colors – A) apple or B) candy bar, A) celery sticks or B) Twinkies – things get a bit stickier when wandering down the aisles of America’s junk food jungle while in the throes of a hangry attack. Many of the “weight loss” snacks winking at you from the shelves with the promise of coming to your rescue wind up treating your waist line no better than any other naughty nosh you already know you need to stay away from when trying to lose weight.
5 “Weight Loss” Snacks That Aren’t Helping You Lose Weight
1. Rice Cakes
Plain rice cakes have become the classic icon of low-cal dieting. At about 35 calories a pop, these crunchy crisps seem like the perfect weight loss swap for naughtier cookies and crackers in your pantry.
The problem is that they’re extremely high on the glycemic index. This means that plain rice cakes jack your blood sugar levels sky high and leave you hungrier post-snack than before you even ate them. The New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center found that snacks high on the glycemic index cause increased cravings and excessive hunger, a guaranteed formula for overeating and weight gain.
To take advantage of their low-calorie crunch while avoiding their hunger trigger-finger, you can pair a rice cake with a healthy fat or protein, which offsets the blood sugar imbalances and adds nutritional value. For a better snack, spread some almond butter on your rice cake along with a sprinkling of cinnamon, to help you satisfy your appetite and feel fuller longer.
2. Roasted Almonds
Studies have shown that almonds are an excellent weight loss snack. These well-balanced medleys of fiber, protein, minerals and healthy fats digest slowly in your body, helping you curb appetite and satiate you longer.
That’s the story when it comes to raw almonds, that is. Roasted almonds burn most of these benefits away. Moreover, more often than not, store-bought packages of roasted nuts and roasted seeds also mix in a variety of high-heated oils, salt, preservatives, and other controversial flavor enhancers that have been linked to weight gain, like MSG.
When snacking for weight loss, stick to raw almonds. Better yet, purchase raw almonds still in their shells, says food researchers, as all that extra effort involved in cranking them open before noshing helps your brain register their calories more accurately and shut off your appetite more quickly.
3. 100-Calorie Snack Packs
It’s so nice when someone’s already kindly portion-controlled your cookies for you, and wrapped it all up in a conveniently pretty little snack pack.
But your stomach won’t actually appreciate it, says the Journal of Consumer Research. Dieters perceive these mini snack-packs more guiltlessly, and therefor tend to chomp down many more packs (and many more calories) than they do when they’ve conscientiously portioned out their own snacks from larger packages.
You’re better off saving your waist line and your wallet by buying a regular-sized pack, portioning out your own snack by placing one small palm full into a bowl or baggie, putting the rest of the package (far) away and enjoying your treat responsibly.
4. Veggie Chips
Nothing wrong with snacking on a big ol’ bag of vegetables, right? Right!
The fresh kind. The chip kind? Nope, sorry folks. Most veggie chips on store shelves have had all their veggie power oiled, deep-fried, and salted away. At the end of the day, they’re absolutely no better for you than any other regular potato chip which, incidentally, is ranked as one of the worst snack foods on the planet for gaining weight and compromising your health, according to many health experts and nutritionists. Per serving, most store-bought veggie chips host pretty much the same amount of calories, fat and saturated fat as other leading potato chip brands.
Next time you’re in a crunch for munch, try making these super easy, delicious and far healthier home-made veggie chips.
5. Cereal Bars
These breakfast bars pose as innocent high-fiber cereal conveniently rolled up into a handy, healthy little bar for the perfect grab-and-go start to your day. But your day will be far better without these health food imposters. Store-bought cereal bars tend to be loaded with sugar, syrups, and other unhealthy sweeteners (yes, even the “sugar-free” ones that host artificial sweetener do you no good for weight loss), not to mention a full gamut of preservatives, binders, and other unhealthy additives linked to weight gain.
For a quick cereal solution that actually can help you lose weight, toss half a cup of quick rolled oats into a thermos along with some raw walnuts or seeds and 1 cup of boiled water, cap it and run out the door (stashing a spoon and an apple into your purse on your way out). Try this Power Oats Breakfast recipe to help energize your mornings while trimming your middle.