The answer to this may surprise you. Dieting is all about watching caloric intake, so naturally you would think going for the low fat pretzels would be the better option right? Not necessarily. When snacking on a diet, there are 2 rules you should stick by. First, try and keep your snacks around 200-250 calories or less. Second, make sure your snack contains a combination of carbohydrates and protein. While carbohydrates are extremely important (they are our main energy source), the body breaks them down rapidly. In fact, out of all macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fats), they are digested the fastest. The body breaks simple carbohydrates down within 15 minutes-1 hour and complex carbohydrates take 1-2 hr. When snacking on carbohydrates alone, this results in you being hungry much sooner or not being satisfied at all. If you pair your carb with a protein, the body will take much longer to break it down, thus resulting in a higher satiety level (Protein take 2-4 hrs). In a 2010 study by the Journal of American College of Nutrition, obese dieters were put on a low calorie diet for 12 weeks. They were split up into 2 groups, one had 220 calories worth of pretzels daily for snacks while the other had 240 calories worth of pistachios. Both groups lost weight, however the pistachio group lost more weight and had better improvements in their BMIs. Also, they had drops in their triglycerides and cholesterol levels (nuts are high in poly and monounsaturated fats which are great for lowering cholesterol). So, next time you grab a snack think smart! Grab some pistachios or find a snack you like that fits the 2 rules above!
Estelle L. Benoit, RD, LDN