Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Snack attack

We've all heard that a healthy diet consists of small, frequent meals. Eating every 3-4 hours will help keep blood sugar levels steady which can help avoid energy slumps. Plus, psychologically you won't feel deprived so snacking can help prevent binge eating. But excessive snacking can sabotage your weight loss efforts. Here are some tips to help keep you on the right snack track:

1: Calories can add up. Even if you're snacking on "healthy" foods, it is a good idea to track your calories. I use My Fitness Pal app and it can be an eye opener. Pay close attention to portion sizes. For instance, almonds are healthy in moderation, but a serving size is 1 ounce or about 24 nuts.

2: Include protein and fat to help fill you up and keep you feeling full longer.

3:  Avoid foods high in sugar. Sugar is just "empty calories" and has very little nutritional value. Eating snacks that are high in sugar will satisfy your hungry temporarily but you will quickly become hungry again. And refined sugars are a catalyst for fat storage.

4: Avoid refined carbohydrates. Remember, anything that is processed, enriched, or refined has likely had all the nutritional benefits stripped from it.

5: Avoid processed foods. Read your labels carefully. If you can't pronounce all the ingredients, then you should avoid it. A good rule of thumb is: "if your snack can go bad, then it is good for you". It is better to snack on fresh, whole foods which are full of fiber, vitamins and minerals.

6: Don't be fooled by snack packs or snack bars just because they are labeled low calorie or low fat. This is just a clever marketing technique used to trick you into eating junk food by convincing you that it's good for you. Junk food is still junk food no matter what. 100 calories of fresh, whole foods will fill you up and keep you full longer than 100 calories worth of chips, cookies or crackers.

So, what should you snack on, you ask??  Some good examples are: sliced vegetables, hard boiled eggs, sliced apples, nut butters, fresh seasonal berries, nuts, low sodium beef jerky, etc. Plan snacks ahead of time for convenience and to prevent snacking "mishaps": keep prepared veggies, berries and hard boiled eggs on hand in the fridge for easy go-to snacks. Buy nuts in bulk and portion them out in snack sized baggies. If you have to grab a snack bar for convenience, brands that I would recommend are Kind bars, Larabars, or Clif organic bars. They are all made with all natural ingredients. Watch your labels closely! Just because a bar claims to contain no sugar, they are often high in sugar alcohols like malitol, sorbitol, or xylitol. These are carbohydrates which occur naturally in foods, but can cause stomach upset and cramping.

So, now you have my 2 cents worth on incorporating healthy snacks into your diet to help you reach your weight loss goals!!  Happy snacking!!

What is your all time, favorite healthy snack??

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