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 Goldfish crackers and 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 veggies, 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.”
To keep your carb cravings from pushing you into a giant bowl of Cheetos, try these eight carby snacks that are actually good for weight loss.
1. Cereal: “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.”
Satiate your Saturday morning snack attack with a bowl of whole-grain cereal and milk. To get this right, pass on the marshmallows and sugar coated flakes. The ideal cereal has three grams of fiber or more, eight grams sugar or less, and should register at 150 calories per serving, says Schapiro. That’s about 100 calories for three-quarters cups of cereal and 50 calories for a half-cup of milk, she says.
2. Popcorn: 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 on the snack dietitians love, 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.”
3. Green bananas: Bananas sometimes get a bad rep for being so sugary and starchy, but they can actually be a huge help when it comes to weight loss. Just get 'em before they're super ripe.
"Green bananas are high in resistant starch, which is digested much slower than refined starches or sugars," says Shapiro. "It's packed with that good starch before it begins to ripen and become sugary.”
Resistant starch also increases satiety, which keeps you fuller longer, says Schapiro. Top an unripe 'naner with a tablespoon of peanut butter for a filling snack.
4. Roasted chickpeas: 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 carby snacks like chips and crackers, roasted chickpeas are naturally low in calories without added sugar or fat.
>> Recipe: Quick and Easy Spiced Chickpeas
To see the rest of the carby snacks that can actually help you lose weight, click here!