Spry editor Lisa Delaney is one of the rare souls who know what it’s like to be an “after.” This journalist and author of Secrets of a Former Fat Girl shed 70 pounds—and six dress sizes–and has kept it off for 20 years. She answers your questions here each week.
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DEAR FORMER FAT GIRL: Do you have any ideas for healthy snacks for weight watchers? I’ve come to the conclusion that I am a snacker, and always will be. So instead of trying to kick the habit completely, I am trying to swap my usual chips, crackers and cookies for lower-calorie, healthier stuff. Help!—Annie
DEAR ANNIE: You and I are two of a kind, then. I love to snack, and I think that rather than fight the urge, it’s better to work with it, as you are. Snacking can actually help you reach your nutrition and weight goals, if you put some thought and planning into it.
We’ve got a ton of creative, healthy weight watchers’ snack ideas on our site (I especially love this list that breaks down snacks by nutrients women often fall short on), but I’ll tell you what my whole snacking philosophy is, and share some of my favorites.
First off, I don’t consider sweets like cookies or candy (even “healthy” ones) as snacks. The sweetest thing I’ll have as a snack is a mini Lara Bar or Balance bar. I think of sweets as desserts, and I only allow myself dessert once a day, typically in the evening after dinner. Oh, I’ll stop in at my favorite frozen yogurt shop on an occasional Saturday afternoon, but I consider that a real splurge. Now, you might be able to, say, have a low-fat ice cream sandwich for your 3 p.m. nibble if it fits into your plan. But my problem is that I know I’ll still want dessert after dinner. So I would rather wait to have my treat then, and use my daytime snacks to add to my quota of fruits and vegetables, and keep my energy up (which sweets don’t typically do for me).
I also rarely snack on carbs. Although you can find whole-grain crackers and healthy carbs, I am such a carb fiend that it’s easy for me to overdo it on them. So I stay away from them for the most part.
Instead, all of my go-to weight watchers’ snacks fall into one or more of the following categories: puffy, protein- or produce-packed, soupy or slow. The puffy and soupy snacks (like popcorn and low-fat lattes, respectively) are all about filling you up on fewer calories. Foods bulked up with zero-calorie air or water are what nutrition researcher and author Barbara Rolls calls high-volume foods. Many fruits and veggies also contain lots of water to help satisfy your appetite in a leaner way. Protein is a lasting source of energy—it takes your body longer to metabolize than quicker-burning carbs—so higher-protein snacks (especially those with a bit of fat, like nuts, nut butters and eggs) keep you full longer. Since, when it comes to produce, the more you eat the healthier you are, I seize any opportunity to nosh on it. And foods like pistachios and edamame help keep me from gobbling down my food because I’m forced to eat them slow (all that shelling, you know).
You may have other ideas for healthy snacks that fit into these categories, but here are my (admittedly simple) favorites.
- Peanut butter and celery
- Apple (with or without a thin slice of Parmesan or cheddar cheese or schmear of peanut butter)
- Cucumber or carrot “chips” dipped in hummus (slice cucumbers and carrots on the diagonal)
- Hard boiled egg with a little kosher salt and pepper
- Pistachios (always in the shell)
- Popcorn (popped in olive oil with a bit of salt)
- Broth-based soup
- Iced decaf latte with unsweetened almond milk
- Roasted unsalted almonds
- Turkey and Swiss (super-thin slice) lettuce wrap
- Mini Lara Bars/Balance bars
These nibbles work for me—but I urge you to experiment and add to/subtract from the list. Thanks for your question, and happy, healthy snacking!
Lisa Delaney is editor of Spry magazine and Spryliving.com. Ask her your question here.