Health

Healthy Snacks to Keep on Hand if You're Trying to Lose Weight

One of the most challenging aspects of losing weight is biological: you still have to eat. Eating all the time probably played some role in getting you to a point where you'd like to drop a few pounds, so it's important to examine your snacking habits.

"Mindless snacking has to be controlled by the individual. But a snack can also, and is also, important as a fourth, fifth, or sixth meal during the day and during strategic times. It must be appropriate for weight loss," says Dr. Paul Lessack, who started the Make Sense Weight Loss Program in Connecticut.

Basically, you're still going to snack, but those snacks should be smart. "You want to consider the science behind certain foods that make them the best snack available for weight loss," Dr. Lessack adds.

Danielle Cohen, a nutritionist with New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, also points to the value of a healthy snack for weight loss. "Sometimes you just need fuel. So really, snacking shouldn't have all this guilt associated with it. If you're trying to lose weight, it can be very beneficial. Just watch the portion control and pick snacks that will keep you satiated." With those guidelines in mind, here are the foods Lessack and Cohen recommend.

Apples

"Apples have tons of bulky fiber that fills your stomach and they also control your ghrelin -- the hormone in your body that produces hunger. The fruit's phytonutrients, like ursolic acid, promote fat-burning." -- Lessack
 

Sugar-free Jell-O or natural gelatin

"Jell-O is primarily made of gelatin, which is a cooked form of collagen. When collagen gets into the stomach, it reduces the secretion of ghrelin, your hunger hormone. This fills your belly, and you get that psychological satisfaction. Much better than a bowl of ice cream. If you need to add more to it, cut up some apples and mix them in." -- Lessack  
 

Sweet potatoes

"A sweet potato has only 120 calories and contains qualities that regulate your blood sugar. With so much fiber... you'll feel full." -- Lessack
 

Rooibos tea or mint tea

"A nice cup of tea can be a great replacement for any chocolate cravings. Rooibos tea has plant chemicals called flavonoids (in this case, aspalathin) which reduces cortisol, your stress hormone. Cortisol triggers your sweet cravings and causes your body not to release fat. Rooibos is perfect for that. Mint tea, or even mint or peppermint flavors, can also help with satiety." -- Lessack

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Greek yogurt

"Just beware of added sugars. It should have anywhere from 2 to 7g of sugar per serving. You've got to avoid the stuff with fruit and chocolate and honey. Add your own 'mixins' and enjoy. With plenty of single-serving options or giant tubs, it's readily available and will easily take the place of ice cream or pudding for your dessert fix." -- Cohen
 

Air-popped popcorn

"With just 120 calories per four cups of air-popped popcorn, you get a filling, high-fiber snack that also helps you stay satiated." -- Lessack
 

Kale chips

"Chips really come to mind when we think of mindless snacking. A way to replicate them is to take kale, drizzle just a tablespoon of olive oil, and put them in the oven. You get a healthy vegetable snack with the texture of chips. A splash of lime juice, some Sriracha, adds flavor for next to no calories. Kale, which is low-calorie and full of calcium, helps trigger weight loss." -- Lessack
 

Individual packages of oatmeal and nut butters

"For many of us, portion is the hardest thing. Individual-sized servings of snacks are very helpful. Just be wary: check the nutritional value for the amount of protein in the snack, and how much sugar is in there as well. Also note that individually portioned snacks are usually more expensive than buying the bulk size and portioning yourself." -- Cohen

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Jillian Thaw is a sports writer and editor who usually pretends she’s in a game-winning scenario when she’s running marathons or training clients at the gym. Sweat with her here: @jathaw.