You don’t have to banish carbs to see results—as long as you eat the right ones
If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ve probably shunned carbs at some point, especially when it comes to snacks.
But while refined carbs like Pop-Tarts can spike your blood sugar and derail your weight-loss goals, your body actually needs healthy sources of carbohydrates, like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, to function.
“There is no reason to fear carbs,” says Ilyse Schapiro, R.D., co-author of Should I Scoop out My Bagel? “They are high in fiber and extremely satisfying. Plus, if you exercise, you need carbs for energy to fuel your workouts.”
Banning carbs from your diet can actually set you up for weight-loss failure in the long run.
“It’s possible to cut out carbs entirely for a short period of time,” says Schapiro. “But eventually your body craves them, which causes you to overdo your portion size when you start eating them again.”
Instead of binging on Cheetoes next time a carb-craving hits, reach for one of these carb-heavy snacks that are actually good for weight loss.
“Cereal is filling and a great pre-workout snack if you’re going to the gym,” Schapiro says. “A lot of people think of cereal as forbidden when it comes to weight loss, but you don’t need to deprive yourself.”
Go ahead and have a bowl of whole-grain cereal and milk. To get this right, pass on the marshmallows and sugarcoated flakes.
The ideal cereal has three grams of fiber or more, eight grams of sugar or less, and should register at 100 calories per serving, says Schapiro.
At just 30 calories per cup, you could have three or four cups of popcorn as a snack and still reach your goals, Schapiro says.
“Plus, popcorn is high in fiber, which makes it an appetite-suppressing snack,” she says.
Just steer clear of the butter-drenched, super-salty movie theater popcorn and pop your own kernels, says Schapiro. You can even get fancy by giving your homemade popcorn a spritz of olive oil and a dash of pink Himalayan salt, she says.
For a different spin, try three cups of air-popped popcorn sprinkled with one tablespoon of nutritional yeast, says Alison Massey, R.D., director of diabetes education at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland.
“Sprinkling the popcorn with nutritional yeast flakes gives it a cheesy flavor without all the fat,” says Massey. “Plus, it adds about four to five grams of protein per tablespoon.”
“Green bananas are high in resistant starch, which is digested much slower than refined starches or sugars,” says Shapiro.
Resistant starch also increases satiety, which keeps you fuller longer, says Schapiro. Top an unripe banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter for a filling snack.
Besides being crunchy, savory, and satisfying, chickpeas and other pulses, like beans, lentils, and dried peas, are packed with fiber-rich carbohydrates and protein, says Lyssie Lakatos, R.D., co-author of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure.
“They give you energy and keep you feeling full, so you won’t end up at the vending machine an hour later,” says Lakatos.
Plus, unlike other carb-heavy snacks like chips and crackers, roasted chickpeas are naturally low in calories without added sugar or fat.
BAKED POTATO WITH BROCCOLI AND CHEESE
A baked potato with melted low-fat cheese and broccoli is the perfect mini meal to get you from lunch to dinner, says Lakatos.
“A 3.5-ounce potato is only 100 calories and is super satisfying—thanks to its water and fiber content,” she says.
Combining the fiber from the potato and broccoli with the protein from the cheese extends the energy you get from the carbohydrates in this snack, says Lakatos.
Mixing up a homemade trail mix using a handful of pistachios and whole-grain cereal is an easy way to cure afternoon cravings and keep them from coming back, says Lakatos.
“Pistachios are the skinny nut,” she says. “You can have 30 of them for just 100 calories, and they’re a good source of fiber and protein to help that whole-grain cereal stick with you longer.”
“This snack is light, but it satisfies your sweet tooth without many calories or sugar,” says Diana Cuy Castellanos, Ph.D., R.D., an assistant professor of nutrition and health at the University of Dayton.
Just blend a half-cup of water, a dozen strawberries, and one banana together. Then, pour the mixture into four molds and freeze.
You can also Make Your Own Greek Yogurt Popsicles for a sweet and protein-packed treat.
In a small cocktail glass, layer granola clusters with fresh or thawed frozen berries and a couple dollops of plain Greek yogurt, says Jackie Newgent, R.D., author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook.
The combo of protein and fiber-rich carbs will keep you satisfied, which is beneficial for managing weight, she says.