Medically Reviewed by Dr. William Dixon
Can snacking and weight loss happen together? It depends on the snack and how it’s incorporated into your day.
Dr. William Dixon recommends eating more nutrient-dense, satiating meals first. If you eat what your body needs only when truly hungry, you may find that you don’t need to snack. That said, if you get legit hungry between meals, opt for a high-protein snack with a little bit of fat.
Certain types of snacks can lure, seduce, and eviscerate all shreds of willpower for most dieters. Highly palatable snacks—like breaded mozzarella sticks deep-fried in canola or corn oil, fried corn puffs coated with highlighter orange cheese-flavored powder, or glorified candy bars disguised as protein bars—worm their way into our brains, convincing us to succumb to cravings.
Collegiate females of normal weight participated in a one-year study that tracked how their consumption habits impacted their body max indexes. The women who couldn’t say no to palatable snack foods gained the most weight1. As anyone who takes comfort in a pint of ice cream when upset can tell you: High degrees of emotional eating and overconsumption can lead to excess weight2.
The takeaway: Avoid those highly palatable, ultra-processed snacks. Replace them with real foods that are high in protein with some fat and/or high in protein with some fiber.
Some studies suggest that the satiating effect of high-protein, high-fiber snacks can prevent overeating3 at the next meal when compared to high-sugar, high-fat snacks. Careful consideration of snack foods may contribute to weight reduction or maintenance if they lead the snacker to reduce intake (calories) at the next eating occasion4.
The north star that can guide you across a sea of snack confusion: what you eat as a snack and its impact on the rest of your consumption that day can ultimately be what impacts the number on the scale or your Signos glucose response.
4 Strategies for Snacking and Weight Loss
“For weight loss, it’s probably best to not snack and just eat better, more filling meals,” says Dr. William Dixon, an emergency physician and part of Signos’ medical team. “If you do snack, make the snacks high protein with a little bit of fat.”
Follow Dr. Dixon’s strategies for snacking (or not snacking) when trying to lose weight:
- Assess: Do you really need that snack? If your daily diet includes appropriate amounts of whole foods that keep your blood glucose (sugar) stable, you generally shouldn’t require snacks to make up for nutritional deficiencies. Before you eat a snack, pause and rate your hunger on a scale of 1–4, where 1 is full and 4 is hungry. If you’re a Signos member, check your glucose level to see if you are close to your fasting level. If you’re a 4, have a high-protein snack with some fat or fiber. If you’re a 3, try drinking a glass of water, and wait 10 minutes before re-assessing your hunger. If you still feel hungry after water and waiting, try a serving of a high-protein snack. If you’re a 1–2, go for a walk or do another activity to avoid snacking because you may be in need of a distraction. For some, exercise might even suppress appetite5.
- Don’t eat snacks late at night. One study showed a strong positive association between nighttime eating6 (in this case eating the bulk of the day’s calories at night) and obesity. Another study of 476 obese people demonstrated that 89% reported snacking and 50% revealed they ate at night7. More than half of those surveyed (57%) picked sweets as preferred snacks. “Sugary snacks are the worst kinds of snacks, as they can be the easiest to overeat, especially when paired with a mindless activity like watching TV,” says Dr. Dixon.
- Exercise after eating carbs. If you nosh on a higher-carb snack—even a real-food snack like popcorn popped in olive oil or an apple—plan to slip on those sneakers and head outside for a spry walk. If you can’t get outside, walk up and down the stairs, spin on a stationary bike or trainer, do some jumping jacks or jump rope, bang out some rapid weighted or bodyweight squats, or do some planks. Exercise for 10 to 15 minutes at a rate that makes you breathe a little heavy, but not so hard that you pant. Brisk physical activity within 30 to 60 minutes after eating a higher-carb snack can help your blood glucose return to a normal range more quickly.
- Don’t be hard on yourself! The best diet is always the one that you can maintain. Part of the fun of Signos is finding foods that you enjoy and work well for you. Make positive, long-term changes; don’t restrict yourself in the short term only to end up binging later. Consistency over time is the key.
High-Protein Options for Snacking and Weight Loss
When you’re trying to lose weight, snack only when truly hungry and in a strategic way that takes into account the quality of the snack and how it impacts your consumption for the entire day. This may seem like a lot to think about, but if you are genuinely hungry (not thirsty, stressed, or bored), prioritize snacks that are high in protein with a little bit of fat, and keep portion sizes small to moderate.
Keep reading for examples of high-protein snacks with some fat that shouldn’t spike your glucose.
Plain Low-Fat or Full-Fat Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt contains more protein than regular yogurt. Opt for plain Greek yogurt and not flavored—fruit, vanilla, key lime, chocolate… you get the idea. Flavored yogurts can contain as much added sugar as ice cream.
You can find flavored yogurt made with stevia and other natural sweeteners, which may not raise your glucose as high as sugar-sweetened yogurt, but we still recommend adjusting to plain yogurt or flavoring plain Greek yogurt at home with a bit of unsweetened nut butter, a small handful of fresh berries, or a fun flavor combo like chocolate peanut with a teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder and a tablespoon of peanuts.
Nutrition info for ½ cup of whole milk plain Greek yogurt: Calories: 155, Protein: 8 grams, Fat: 11 grams, Carbs: 6 grams.
Nutrition info for ½ cup of 2% fat plain Greek yogurt: Calories: 80, Protein: 12 grams, Fat: 3 grams, Carbs: 4 grams.
Hard boil eggs and store them unpeeled in the refrigerator for easy snacks. Peel one or two when you need a snack; add interest by sprinkling spice blends with no additives or sugar.
Nutrition info for 1 hardboiled egg: Calories: 77, Protein: 6 grams, Fat: 5 grams, Carbs: 0.5 grams.
Egg Crepe with Sliced Turkey
Make your own egg crepes—pour a thin layer of an egg whisked with a bit of water or milk, salt, and pepper into a hot nonstick skillet and cook until set, about 1-2 minutes, on each side. Alternatively, buy ready-made crepes made with eggs and powdered cauliflower and fill them with all-natural sliced turkey, beef, or chicken. A light smear of no sugar added mayo, pesto, or cream cheese adds more flavor and a little fat.
Nutrition info for 1 Crepini Egg Wrap with 4 slices turkey and 1 tsp. Primal Kitchen Mayo with Avocado Oil: Calories: 183, Protein: 26 grams, Fat: 7 grams, Carbs: 4 grams.
All-Natural Beef Stick or Jerky
A grab-and-go snack with plenty of protein, beef sticks and jerky (beef, turkey, salmon) get a gold star for convenience. Read ingredient labels closely—many brands include additives, sugar, and too much sodium for some.
Nutrition info for 1 Country Archer Beef Stick: Calories: 100, Protein: 9 grams, Fat: 7 grams, Carbs: 1 gram.
Easy to heat and eat or enjoy cold, steamed shelled edamame or edamame in their pods make a simple plant-based snack. Sprinkle on a bit of coarse sea salt or toasted sesame seeds. Edamame makes Dr. Dixon’s glucose spike quite a lot, so test this for yourself!
Nutrition info for ½ cup of shelled edamame: Calories: 100, Protein: 9 grams, Fat: 4 grams, Carbs: 8 grams.
Collagen Peptides Mixed with Milk or Nut Milk
Unflavored collagen peptides are an odorless, tasteless powder made from animal amino acids—specifically glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine. Usually made from bovine connective tissue, collagen peptide powder contains between 9–10 grams of protein, 0 grams of fat and carbs, and 35–40 calories per scoop. Add a scoop or two of collagen peptides to frothed milk to make a collagen latte, add it to plain yogurt for an extra protein boost, or whisk it into milk or unsweetened nut milk like cashew, almond, or coconut.
Nutrition info for 1 scoop plain collagen peptides with 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk: Calories: 85, Protein: 10 grams, Fat: 5 grams, Carbs: 1 gram.
For Advanced Signos Users
The next time you’re truly hungry and need a snack, try one of the high-protein snacks recommended above—or invent your own—that contains a little bit of fat. Did you notice any difference in how much you ate (or how much less you ate) at the next meal?