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'I'm an Obesity Medicine Specialist Who Has Been Studying Weight Loss for 30+ Years—This Is the Afternoon Snack I Swear By'

Woman eating a healthy afternoon snack in the kitchen

Think afternoon snacks are a thing of the past; something reserved for your after-school era? Think again. Eating an afternoon snack can be a useful daily habit when trying to lose weight—seriously.

"Eating snacks between meals can help people to curb their hunger and thereby consume less at meal times," explains Dr. Mir Ali, MD, a bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center.

However, choosing the best offering is essential. "It is important to choose healthy snacks, as choosing the wrong snacks can have the opposite effect and a person can, then, gain weight," Dr. Ali says.

Still, the best afternoon snacks for weight loss are different than the cookies and milk that may have been waiting for you when you got home from school as a child (sorry). What does a grown-up snack for weight loss look like? Dr. Ali shares some general tips and recommendations.

Related: The One Thing You Should Never, Ever Do if You Want to Avoid Visceral Fat Buildup

How to Build a Better Afternoon Snack for Weight Loss

Take a look at the nutrition facts. "In general, you want to choose a snack that is high in protein and low in carbohydrates and sugars—so, primarily proteins and vegetables," Dr. Ali says.

Are you craving something sweet? Good news: Fruit isn't off the table. "Fruits with low glycemic index, such as berries, are also acceptable," Dr. Ali says.

Amazing. Now, the nutrients are important, but you'll also want to look at the calorie count. Keep in mind that your afternoon snack is just that—a snack. You've still got dinner on the menu. "You don't want the snack to be an additional entire meal, again causing a consumption of excess calories," Dr. Ali explains.

The optimal calorie count will vary depending on what else you consume throughout the day and your activity level. However, a good rule of thumb is to choose a snack between between 150 and 250 calories.

Related: This Is the One Ingredient You Should Absolutely Add to Your Coffee, According to a Cardiologist

The Best Afternoon Snack for Weight Loss, According to an Obesity Medicine Specialist

Dr. Ali loves cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with berries.

"I like these foods because they…are relatively filling and have a good nutritive value," Dr. Ali says. Also—and importantly—"They taste good," he adds.

Cottage cheese has recently achieved some serious TikTok fame, with videos tagged with #cottagecheese amassing more than a billion views. TikTok aside, its filling nature comes courtesy of protein. A cup of cottage cheese has about 15 grams of protein. Opting for Greek yogurt instead? You'll get about 10.3 grams of protein. Research published in 2020 indicated that high-protein diet participants were likelier to lose weight and keep it off.

Protein intake needs will vary. However, the USDA generally recommends:

  • 46 grams daily for adult females

  • 56 grams daily for adult males

  • 70 grams daily for pregnant people

Choosing plain and low or nonfat versions of cottage cheese and Greek yogurt can lower the calorie and fat counts. Ditto for the added sugar, which fruit-on-the-bottom varieties often have. Instead, opt for whole fruits, like strawberries and blueberries. Bonus: Berries have fiber, which is filling. A cup of strawberries or blueberries has about three grams of fiber. Studies, including one from 2023, link fiber intake with weight loss. The USDA suggests getting 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed daily (so a person consuming 2,000 calories would want to get 28 grams of fiber).

Related: What Foods Actually Make You Gain Weight? RDs Say to Watch Out For This One In Particular

Other Weight Loss-Friendly Snack Suggestions

Not feeling the same love for cottage cheese as TikTok? Ditto for Greek yogurt? All good. Dr. Ali has some other afternoon snack suggestions that also have filling nutrients:

  • Hard-boiled eggs

  • Mixed nuts

  • Kale chips

  • Turkey roll-ups

Again, Dr. Ali loves that these snacks have protein and aren't made using refined carbs. They're also not high in calories (when portioned by the serving size). "The goal is to choose foods that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates," he explains.

To that end, he suggests skipping over certain types of snacks for the most part. "Avoid cookies, potato chips and highly processed foods," Dr. Ali says.

Next up: Want To Lose Weight in a Healthy Way? Stock up on These 19 Fat-Burning Foods

Sources

  • Dr. Mir Ali, MD, a bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center.

  • The Science of Snacking. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

  • Cheese, cottage, nonfat, uncreamed, dry, large or small curd. USDA

  • Yogurt, Greek, plain, nonfat. USDA.

  • Clinical Evidence and Mechanisms of High-Protein Diet-Induced Weight Loss. Journal of Obesity & Metabolic Syndrome.

  • Strawberries. USDA.

  • Blueberries. USDA.

  • Increased dietary fiber is associated with weight loss among Full Plate Living program participants. Frontiers.

  • Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. USDA.