Contrary to popular belief, snacking, done right, can actually give your metabolism a boost! Here’s why: When you slash too many calories from your diet, your body gets the signal that it should protect its reserves of carbs and fat, and your metabolism slows as a result. To prevent this, eat several small, low-fat, high-fiber snacks between meals to keep your body from going into “preservation” mode. Healthy snacking adds to your total intake of essential nutrients for the day—which is always a good thing! You’ll find snacking also takes the edge off of hunger pains between meals, so when you sit down to eat, you’re likely to consume fewer calories.
Try some of these smart snacks to keep your metabolism revved up and burning all day:
Apples. Eating an apple a day goes along way towards filling your fruit intake for the day, and you’re not adding a lot of calories. Packed with fiber, apples are what’s known as a ‘good carb’. Apples also have vitamin C and satisfies your sweet tooth. They make your stomach feel fuller, so you’ll eat less during the day without having to worry about working off a lot of extra calories.
Blueberries. A super food that you can enjoy anytime, blueberries are one of the highest antioxidant-containing fruits in the world, and you can eat them raw, in smoothies or in yogurt. Studies have shown that eating blueberries after a workout can help your muscles recover much quicker because antioxidants help promote healing. Blueberries are also packed with vitamin K, vitamin C and fiber.
Chia Seeds. Packed with omega-3 fats, fiber and protein, these tiny seeds help suppress the appetite, fire up the metabolism, and turn on glucagon, one of the body’s fat-burning hormones. The trick is to soak them for 15 minutes so they swell up to 10 times their size. Just as with oatmeal, the larger the seeds are, the quicker your stomach releases hormones that let you know you’re full—and hopefully satisfied!
Brazil Nuts. They help boost the metabolism by converting the thyroid hormone to its active form and they also bind up toxins that would otherwise store themselves in your fat cells and contribute to cellulite.
Plain yogurt. Low-fat plain yogurt has many benefits; it’s a pro-biotic, which means that it’s filled with ‘good’ bacteria, also known as ‘live cultures’ that can help relieve digestive problems. Yogurt is also a high-protein, low-fat food, perfect for maintaining a healthy diet. In addition, yogurt is low in calories, but beware of the sugar content of some flavored yogurts. You’re better off buying non-sweet yogurt and using honey or brown sugar to sweeten it.
Cinnamon. This aromatic spice helps move glucose into the cells faster so our fat storage hormone, insulin, hangs around a lot less. But note: you need to consume at least a quarter of a teaspoon of cinnamon to reap its fat-burning benefits. Add a dash to plain yogurt with a teaspoon of honey for a delicious snack.
Hummus. All of the ingredients used to produce hummus—chickpeas, olive or canola oil, pureed sesame seeds (also known as tahini), lemon juice, spices, and garlic—are extremely good for you and most are known to boost the metabolism. Chickpeas are also an excellent source for energy; they’re made of complex carbohydrates and protein, and tahini is rich in minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids. So enjoy, but keep your intake in check as hummus is also high in calories. Try eating a ¼ cup of hummus with broccoli or carrots.
Beef Jerky. Who knew? Beef jerky is filled with protein and good for you. But be sure to buy a brand that is low in sugar and sodium. It’s best to avoid ‘smoked’ or ‘barbecue’ flavored jerky as these tend to be filled with a lot of additives. Turkey jerky is perfect if you’re looking to reduce your fat intake. Jerky is actually dried meat and is great for getting protein on the go.
Water. While water isn’t necessarily a “snack,” it is an essential part of your everyday healthy eating regime. Studies have shown that drinking water increases your metabolic rate by 30% in healthy men and women. It also fills you up naturally, thus reducing your cravings for other not-so-healthy foods.
Coffee. Good news coffee lovers!—the amount of caffeine in just 1 cup of coffee can temporarily increase the metabolism by 15%. Coffee stimulates adrenaline, which sends a message to your fat stores to burn fat. When you drink coffee 20 minutes before a workout, it also acts as an ergongenic aid, enabling you to train more intensely. The key is to choose caffeinated coffee and to drink it black, as milk reduces its fat-burning potential. Also, if you drink more than one cup a day, coffee can start to interfere with your body’s ability to regulate insulin, its fat storage hormone.
Get Plenty of Sleep! Studies from Harvard Medical School show that if you get less than 7 hours of sleep, you are more than 3 times likely to gain weight each year than if you get at least 7 hours. Energy and activity level is lower when you are tired, which means your metabolic rate decreases as well.