Can Healthy Snacking Help you Lose Weight?

Losing weight with the help of snacks might seem implausible, but having a healthy snack can help you keep a lid on bad habits and unhealthy cravings.

Just like death and taxes, snacking is an inevitability even for the healthiest people. You can have the best intentions, and you can be super-disciplined, but every so often you’re going to want to reach for the crisps, chocolate, or sweet stuff you might have stashed away at home or in your office. You're only human after all – we've all been there.

In what will no doubt come as good news to just about everyone, 'snack' doesn't have to be a dirty word – here are a few tips to help you eat healthily when hunger calls. 

Which snacks are healthy?

So, what counts as a 'healthy' snack, exactly? Ideally, it would be something with as balanced a nutritional profile (sounds a bit like something else we know) as possible. 

It's why chocolate bars and other classic go-to snacks don't really help in the long run – they're filled with mostly empty calories, and don't contain a huge amount of fibre and protein, which can help you feel fuller for longer.

In terms of which healthy snacks you should go for, you can’t go wrong with nuts (not the salted or flavoured kind) and dried fruit – they’re healthy vegan snacks packed with fibre, vitamins and minerals. There is no nutritionally complete snack out there, but these come close and won’t fill you with ‘empty’ calories the way most snacks will.

However, dried fruit often comes under some scrutiny in regards to its sugar content. Most dried fruits and nuts are small in size, and it’s incredibly easy to eat a lot of them in one hit. It’s best to be mindful when snacking on them (more on that later). If you can get your hands on fresh fruit like bananas, grapes, raspberries, or blueberries, we'd recommend going down that route.

Some superlative healthy savoury snacks include carrot batons, celery sticks, and chickpeas (roasted, for extra deliciousness). We've even come up with some 'snacks' of our own: the Huel Bar and Huel Complete Protein - a nutritionally complete, healthy vegan protein snack.

Know what to avoid

Through a combination of sneaky marketing and plain bad advice, certain foods have managed to acquire a reputation for being healthy, when in reality the opposite is true. Here are a few of the main offenders:

  • Dates and hummus – in a vacuum, these aren't too bad (and hummus is perfectly acceptable if used as a dip with carrots and celery) because they're good sources of fibre, but they're very calorie-dense and therefore best avoided if you're trying to lose weight. You can also file these alongside nut butters as well.
  • Superfood and energy bars – often spun as healthy because they contain 'good stuff' like seeds, fruit, nuts, and grains, these bars are worth steering clear of because all the healthy ingredients inside are often wrapped up in calorie-dense chocolate.
  • Off-the-shelf milks and protein shakes – you know the ones. While they likely boast a decent protein profile, they are also often packed with sugar.

Change your environment

It might feel like we're stating the super-obvious here, but the biggest step you can take into the world of healthy snacking is to have fewer snacks in your house.

If your cupboards are practically creaking open because they’re stuffed with crisps and all the rest of it, then we recommend you start cutting back on the amount you buy. Your wallet and waistline will thank you later...

Changing your environment can extend beyond your cupboards though. A lot of people take to snacking as a way of coping with stress, and that’s completely understandable. However, it can open the door for bad eating habits to form – next time you’re thinking about eating your way through a tough day at work, try going for a walk or reading a book for a bit of escapism.

Portion control

It's no surprise that weight gain and out-of-control portion sizes go hand-in-hand. It doesn't matter if you've prepared a nicely balanced and nutritious meal – if you eat enough for two (or more) people, you're not going to lose weight any time soon.

It's an easy trap to fall into, especially if you're someone who hates the sight of wasted food, and it can totally derail your weight loss efforts. Fortunately, portion control doesn't mean you need to use a set of scales to measure everything that ends up on your plate, nor does it mean you have to starve yourself.

Getting your portion sizes right is something of an art form, but as far as snacks go, a lot of the work has already been done for you.

Craving crisps? No problem – opt for multi-packs containing smaller 30g packs, as opposed to a tube of crisps or a 200g share bag, totalling six-or-seven servings in one go. It’s easier to eat those whole bags, which can become a (deeply unhealthy) meal in and of themselves.

Setting some boundaries can help as well. For example if you’re craving chocolate, have a square or two rather than a whole bar.

Be mindful

Picture this: you’re sitting in a cinema and you’ve got a huge box of popcorn… you reach for more and realise your once-full box is now nearly totally empty… where’s all the popcorn gone? Well, you were so into *insert film of your choice* that you ate the lot before the trailers even finished. Sound familiar?

Snacking-without-thinking has happened to all of us, and it isn’t limited to just the cinema. Try being more mindful when you eat. Really think about what you’re eating and how it makes you feel – does this actually taste good? Is it satisfying? Am I full? Asking these types of questions will help you keep you on the right track.

While snacking alone won't shed those pounds, keeping your habits in check and maximising your nutritional intake when you find yourself hungry between meals will most certainly help.

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