How to Be a Smart Snacker

The snack choices you make really can lead to weight-loss success or sabotage.  Potato chips, doughnuts, and candy bars, for example, can add hundreds of empty calories to your daily intake. Fortunately, there are healthier options. Follow these tips to make smart snacking a part of your routine.

1. Beware of energy bars.

At first glance, these conveniently packaged bars may seem like the ideal snacking choice, but the truth is, many are loaded with excess calories, fat, and salt. When choosing a bar, experts suggest looking for one that contains at least three grams of fiber, at least five grams of protein, lower amounts of fat with no saturated fat, and fewer than 20 grams of sugar.

2. Nibble on nuts.

Almonds are an especially great snacking choice because they're nutritionally dense-a quality emphasized in the government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans. A handful contains about 160 calories and is a good source of vitamin E, magnesium, and fiber. These satisfying nuts also provide heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Store almonds in individual snack bags for a sensible, portion-controlled snack.

3. Become friendly with fiber.

Fiber is the perfect snack food because it allows you to feel full for a long time and takes a while to digest but doesn't contain a lot of calories or fat. Vegetables like peas, green beans, broccoli, and spinach are all excellent sources. You can also get fiber from lentils, beans, and whole grains. Try combining these high-fiber foods in a container for a satisfying and delicious snack mix you can enjoy on the go.

4. Don't forgo the freezer.

Try preparing a bunch of healthy snacks and then freezing them in individual serving sizes. Mix mashed bananas and peanut butter, spread between graham crackers, and freeze. For a new twist on old snack-time favorites, freeze grapes or peeled bananas, or fill an ice cube tray with juice or pudding. This way, you'll always have diet-friendly choices on hand and will be less likely to give in to unhealthy cravings.

5. Practice smart portioning.

A slice or two of cheese isn't going to sabotage your diet (in fact, low-fat cheese can be a sensible snack), but if you polish off half a pound of the full-fat variety, your diet efforts are going to eventually suffer. Comparing portion sizes to everyday objects can make it easier to understand the amount you're consuming, according to the American Cancer Society. For example, a cup of cereal is about the size of a baseball, and an ounce of meet is approximately the size of a deck of cards.