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Study Findings continued...

"Since women on a weight loss program only have a limited number of calories to spend each day, it is important for them to incorporate nutrient-dense foods that are no more than 200 calories per serving," McTiernan says. Some of the best snacks for a weight loss program include low-fat yogurt, string cheese, a small handful of nuts, and/or fresh fruit.

"Snacking can be a part of a healthful eating plan if people focus on the foods they choose to snack on and that the snacks represent fueling between meals and not absent-minded grabbing," Connie Diekman, MEd, RD, says in an email. She is the director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis. "The fact that morning snackers did not lose as much is intriguing, but could be a function of a variety of factors, including eating when not really hungry, poor food choices, or just an overall slower weight loss."

Avoid Random Snacking

Not all snacks and snackers are the same when it comes to weight gain.

Think before you snack. "If you are going to eat a snack, compensate by eating less during meals," says Richard D. Mattes, PhD, a professor of foods and nutrition at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

Sheah Rarback, RD, a nutritionist at the Miller School of Medicine of the University of Miami, says why you snack and what you choose to snack on are important variables. When you reach for a snack, "it is really important to make sure you are eating because you are hungry and not just bored," she says. "If you are not hungry, you don’t have to snack just because it is there." The flip side is also true: "If you are hungry and need a snack, you don’t have to make an impulsive poor choice."

Breakfast choice also matters. In the study, mid-morning snackers may have had a purely carbohydrate breakfast, leading to hunger pangs mid-morning, Rarback says. Choosing a breakfast that includes protein will leave you feeling satisfied longer, she says.

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