If you want to shed a few dress sizes but cant imagine giving up snacking, heres some happy news: You dont have to. In fact, the right snacks may help you reach your goal weight by keeping your appetite in check so that you dont overeat at your main meals. The four women in the Live Longer & Stronger Challenge have mastered the art of between-meal munchingand their smart snacking strategies have helped them lose a combined total of 133 pounds. Read on for their favorite mini meals. Nosh on two a day, and watch the weight fall off you, too (just make sure your breakfast, lunch and dinner are healthy and portion-controlled). Bonus: These eats are all good for your heart!
1. Banana with peanut butter
This tasty snack is a favorite of nutritionists for a reason: The combo of fiber (in the fruit) and protein (in the peanut butter) will keep you full for hours. Shanna likes to throw a banana and to-go cups of peanut butter into her purse so that she always has a healthy snack on hand. Don’t like bananas? Grab an apple instead.
2. Un-fried mozzarella stick
When greasy drive-through grub is calling your name, reach for this snack instead: Dip 1 part-skim mozzarella stick in ¼ cup warmed marinara sauce. Enjoy with a flavored sparkling water instead of your usual soda for a feel-good nibble that actually boosts your health.
3. Kale chips
Kim used to turn to junk food when she wanted a snack, but now she replaces unhealthy potato chips with kale chips to save calories and slash sodium. Toss kale chips with olive oil until lightly coated, then season with salt and pepper (add paprika or garlic powder if you like an extra kick). Arrange on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 10 minutes (or until crispy).
4. Guacamole with veggie slices
The good news: Avocado is heart-healthy (a recent study found that people who ate an avocado daily had lower levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) than those on a similar diet who didnt eat avocado). The bad news: Pairing the dip with salty, high-cal tortilla chips doesnt do your ticker any good. Instead, dunk veggie slices like carrot, celery or red pepper into the guac for a fulfilling bite between meals.
RELATED: 15 Fiber-Packed Snack Foods
5. Spaghetti squash
In the mood for pasta? For a healthier take on what can be a high-cal dish, put squash through a spiralizer, then sauté with garlic until soft. The thin ribbons pair perfectly with tomato sauce (choose a low-sodium brand to help your heart) for a spaghetti-esque snack that will tame hunger and satisfy taste buds.
6. Zucchini chips
Just like kale chips, zucchini chips are a great substitute for potato chipsand one of Shannas faves. She thinly slices zucchini, tosses the slices with olive oil and seasoning and then bakes until crunchy.
7. Unsalted nuts
Olgas go-to snack is a handful of nutsand it should be yours too. Not only do people who eat nuts have a lower risk of heart disease, but they are also more likely to get back into their skinny jeans: Research has found that snacking on nuts boosts your chance of eating less later in the day, thanks to satiating fiber and healthy fats.
8. Portion-controlled packs
Even wholesome snacks can hurt your health if you go overboard, which is why its smart to dish out an individual serving instead of eating straight from the bag. Or, choose foods that are already divvied out into a healthy portion. The Live Longer & Stronger participants love Nourish Snacks. The treats, which clock in at no more than 200 calories, cater to every craving, from sweet (go for the chocolate-banana granola bites) to savory (like the crunch corn, BBQ chickpeas and roasted edamame mix).
9. Raw veggies
On the Challenge, the women had the green light to dig into veggies whenever they wanted. Lindsay loves sugar snap peas, and reaches for them whenever she craves the crunch of pretzels.
RELATED: More Heart-Healthy Snacks
10. A glass of sparkling water
Okay, so its not food, but research shows that thirst can masquerade itself as hunger. If youre craving a snack, reach for a glass of H20 first and see if it squashes your drive to munch. The Live Longer & Stronger ladies sip constantly throughout the day, and also guzzle a glass before every meal, which helps fill them up so that they are more likely to eat a sensible portion.
Photos by Getty Images