You can snack and still lose weight – try these easy recipes

tahini balls
tahini balls

Snacks. For a long time, they have been viewed as the number-one enemy of self-control and, by extension, sensible, sustained weight loss. But have they been unfairly demonised?

“Snacking between meals may help support weight management by managing hunger and improving blood sugar regulation,” says Lucy Miller, a nutritional therapist. There is, of course, a but. Or several, in fact. “It’s important to choose the right snack, something that contains protein, fibre and healthy fats to keep you fuller for longer and avoid the blood sugar spikes that can lead to more cravings,” says Miller.

Be wary of relying too heavily on calorie-count as a test of whether a snack will pile on the pounds, warns Dr Saira Hameed, a weight-loss doctor and author of The Full Diet. “The number tells us nothing about the effects of that food on the body,” she explains. “Not only on blood glucose levels, but also on the release of insulin (the glucose-regulating and fat-storage hormone) in your body, and the satiety signals the food will generate from your gut to your brain.”

Each snack’s differing impact on your gut microbiome, and your brain’s reward centre will also influence its effect on your waistline. If that sounds complicated, do not panic. Our experts are here to make it simple.

Tahini chocolate balls

Time

15 mins

Serves

12

If you want to snack without setting off a “cravings rollercoaster”, suggests Inchauspé, the secret is to eat your sweet treats not as snacks but as puddings, after consuming the fat, protein and fibre needed to flatten your blood sugar spike.

Sometimes, however, you just need something sweet. That’s why it’s a good idea to have this recipe of hers in the fridge, to reach for one instead of that chocolate digestive. Tahini is relatively low in calories but high in fibre, protein and healthy fats, so will keep you feeling fuller for longer and your glucose levels on a steadier course.

Ingredients

  • 185g cashew nuts

  • 3 tablespoons tahini

  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Zest of ½ a lemon

  • 30g sesame seeds

  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

  • A pinch of salt

Method

  1. Place the cashew nuts, tahini, vanilla extract, lemon zest and salt in a food processor and blitz until the mixture starts to clump together (around three to four minutes).

  2. Use a tablespoon to scoop the mixture together, and form it into 12 tight balls.

  3. Put the sesame seeds on a plate and the cocoa powder on another plate. Roll six of the balls in the sesame seeds and the other six in the cocoa powder.

  4. Mini cupcake cases are a useful way to store these, and they will keep in an airtight container for up to five days.


Crunchy kale crisps

Kale crisps
Kale crisps

Time

40-45 mins (10-15 of which are hands-on)

Serves

4

Substitute these for standard ultra-processed potato crisps, suggests Hameed. Her recipe is low-carb and nutrient-rich, “so won’t make you put on weight so readily,” she explains. “The olive oil is good for your heart, and they’re natural and home prepared – no UPF chemicals and unhealthy ingredients.”

Ingredients

  • 250g kale

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

  • Sea salt and black pepper

  • (Optional additional flavours: ½ teaspoon paprika or garlic granules, or cumin)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C/130C fan/gas 2 and line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper.

  2. Remove the tough stems from the kale and tear the leaves into similar sized pieces – you don’t want the pieces too small, as they shrink in the oven.

  3. Put the kale into a mixing bowl and add the oil. Mix the kale and oil together with your hands – you want all the kale coated and slightly broken down (if you are using an additional flavour, add that now too).

  4. Tip the kale onto the two baking trays and spread out in a thin layer, trying to prevent overlapping. Place in the oven for 15 minutes, then remove, turn, and bake for another 15 minutes.

  5. Remove the trays from the oven and take out any kale that is crispy and done, then return the trays to the oven in five-minute intervals, removing crispy kale each time until all the crisps are done.

  6. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper, allow to completely cool, then store in an airtight container in a cool place for two or three days. Once cooled, they travel well in a lunchbox.


Green olive and cheese muffins

Green olive and cheese muffins
Green olive and cheese muffins

Time

25 mins (10 of which are hands-on)

Serves

6

Though her best-selling book Glucose Revolution is not designed around the explicit aim of dieting French biochemist Jessie Inchauspé says: “My recipes steady glucose levels, therefore reducing cravings and helping your body burn more fat.” These muffins, from her book The Recipe Club, are full of protein (which will keep you fuller for longer, while helping you lose fat, not muscle).

Ingredients

  • 45g full-fat cream cheese

  • 30g ground almonds

  • 4 eggs

  • ½ teaspoon baking powder

  • 50g grated cheddar cheese

  • 50g pitted green olives, roughly chopped

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C (200C for fan, gas mark 6). Place six silicone muffin moulds on a baking tray.

  2. Mix the cream cheese, ground almonds, eggs and baking powder together until smooth. Stir in the cheddar cheese and green olives. Season with salt and pepper and divide between the moulds.

  3. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. The muffins will keep for a couple of days in the fridge and can be eaten cold, or warmed for a few seconds in the microwave.


Chopped carrots and hummus dip

Chopped carrots and hummus dip
Chopped carrots and hummus dip

Time

4 mins

Serves

6

A tablespoon of hummus and chopped raw carrot contains around 150 calories, says Miller, and is a great source of vitamins and minerals. “Hummus contains fibre and protein-rich chickpeas and, thanks to its nutrient profile, it also promotes heart health and supports blood sugar management,” she says. “Eating chickpeas and other legumes helps to improve gut bacteria, which in turn supports metabolism, immunity, hormone balance and mood.”

Ingredients

  • Can of chickpeas (drained)

  • 1 tbsp tahini

  • 1 clove garlic

  • 2 tbsp Greek yogurt

  • Good squeeze of lemon juice

Method

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor.


Roasted broccoli with chilli, almonds and Pecorino

Time

25 mins

Serves

2

These can replace savoury shop-bought snacks such as cheese straws, suggests Hameed. “Broccoli contains fibre, which is great for the health of your gut bacteria, the protein in the cheese stimulates ‘fullness hormone’ signals from the gut to the brain, and the nuts are full of healthy fats that are beneficial for your cardiovascular health.”

Ingredients

  • 40g butter

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 head of broccoli, cut in half through the stem

  • 1 red chilli, sliced (leave the seeds in if you like the heat)

  • 50g almonds, crushed or flaked almonds

  • 60g Pecorino cheese (or Parmesan)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.

  2. Place a large oven-safe frying pan or casserole dish on a medium heat and melt the butter with the oil.

  3. Put both broccoli halves into the pan, cut side down, and cook for 10 minutes. Use the melted butter to baste the broccoli regularly. If you run out of butter for basting, add a touch more butter to the pan.

  4. Add the chilli and almonds and coat them in the butter, then put the whole pan into the oven and roast for around 10 minutes, until the broccoli is cooked through. If you stab it with a skewer or a small sharp knife, you should have little resistance.

  5. Remove from the oven and cover with a generous handful of Pecorino or Parmesan, which will slightly melt into the hot broccoli. Serve while hot, or allow to cool and add to your lunchbox or salad.


Buckwheat almond crackers

Buckwheat crackers
Buckwheat crackers

Time

20 mins (10 of which are hands-on)

Serves

12

“These are a staple that I love to have on hand,” says Rhian Stephenson, a nutritional therapist and the founder of the Artah nutrition company. The recipe is from her 28-Day Reset plan, designed to improve weight loss, digestion and energy.

Buckwheat is high in resistant starch which, because it is indigestible, helps you feel fuller for longer, reduces blood sugar spikes and also the calorific density in foods.

Flax and almonds are also rich in fibre and protein, and low in carbohydrate. So compared to traditional crackers these have around half the starch content (which is linked to weight gain). They last for about 10 days in the fridge, says Stephenson.

Ingredients

  • 140g or 1 cup buckwheat flour

  • 100g or 1 cup ground almonds

  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed

  • 1 tsp sea salt

  • ½ tsp cracked black pepper

  • 1 tsp garlic or onion powder

  • 1-2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • 100ml water

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/356F.

  2. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl – buckwheat flour, ground almonds, flax, salt, garlic or onion powder, black pepper and fresh rosemary.

  3. In a jug, combine the water and olive oil. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and mix with a spatula until it starts to come together and all the liquid is absorbed.

  4. Use your hands to bring the dough together, then turn out onto a clean surface and knead the dough until it is smooth. It should not be too crumbly or sticky, so add a drop of water or some extra flour as needed.

  5. Shape your dough into a ball then cut in half. Flatten each half into a rough disk shape and place between two pieces of baking parchment. Roll the dough into a large disc around 1-2mm in thickness. Rotate as you roll, to ensure the middle is not too much thicker than the edges.

  6. Score each disk into six roughly even sized rectangles making 12 crackers in all.

  7. Prick each cracker in the centre with a fork to prevent them from puffing up when baking and arrange on a baking sheet with a little space between each cracker.

  8. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until slightly golden – you may need to move the crackers around at this point and cook for a further two or three minutes to ensure even cooking.

  9. Once removed from the oven, allow the crackers to cool and harden.


Broccoli pesto

Time

6 mins

Serves

6

“You can pair these crackers with pretty much anything, but one of my favourites is our broccoli pesto, which is rich in flavour and phytonutrients,” says Stephenson. “This easy snack delivers protein, fibre and plant diversity.”

Phytonutrients is the technical term for “plant nutrients”. Stephenson explains: “They’re the thousands of compounds found in plants that aren’t classified as a vitamin or mineral, and having a diet that’s rich in them is one of the most important things we can do to cultivate good microbial health, which in turn benefits our metabolism.”

Ingredients

  • 1⁄2 head broccoli, including stalk, roughly chopped

  • 60g or 1 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted

  • 30g or 1⁄4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted

  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1⁄2 cup water

  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 sprigs mint, pickled & roughly chopped

Method

  1. Briefly blanch the broccoli for around three to five minutes in boiling water

  2. Blend all ingredients together in a food processor, pulsing until desired texture achieved.

  3. Store in the fridge.