Sunday, February 19, 2012

Food Blog Series, Part 2: Snacks!

Hey friends!

I hope you were able to enjoy the first of my Food Blog Series, focusing on choices for breakfast.  If you missed it, catch up here.

This week's food blog is focusing on another VITAL piece of the healthy eating puzzle - snacks!

I really think snacks are underrated.  In fact, in previous attempts to lose weight, many times I would cut out snacks as I didn't want to use up my calories for the day.

The benefits of snacking are:

1) Snacking keeps your metabolism going throughout the day - if you eat a snack in between meals (just don't get crazy of course) you will keep your body burning all the time. 
**By the way, the same article said that eating breakfast is the first step in boosting up your metabolism; in fact, studies indicate that people who eat breakfast may increase resting metabolism by 10 percent.  That's alot! See the entire article, about 7 ways to boost your metabolism here.

2) Healthy snacks keep you from overeating at mealtime.  I know I eat less when I'm not ravenous.  I eat when I'm hungry and try to stop when I am full.  I am also a fast eater, so its even more important that I snack and don't get over hungry...or I eat way too much too quickly.  Damage done.

Some challenges to snacking are:

1) What do I choose?  There are TONS of options for snacks out there.  How do you know what is best?

2) It takes time to plan and portion snacks out.

3) You have to constantly keep variety going, or boredom will set in and you'll find yourself looking for something else to snack on vs. what you brought for yourself.

Obviously, I'm a believer in snacking, so let me share some of my absolute favorite snacks with you and why they are my faves.

I'm a HUGE fan of greek yogurt.  Yogurt period is a good choice most times, but greek yogurt has almost twice the protein of regular yogurt.  It definitely takes a bit of time to get used to the texture of greek yogurt, it is thicker and feels more substantial going down - because it is!  Twice the protein means you will stay fuller, longer.

This yogurt is 5.3 oz, and has 120 calories, 0 fat grams, 45 mg sodium, 17g of carbs (16 g of that is sugar)  and 13 grams of protein.  It also has 15% of your daily calcium requirement.

This brand and flavor is my new SUPER favorite greek yogurt (the blueberry and the peach are also VERY yummy).  The little pocket to the bottom right of the photo is full of strawberry jam to  mix in with the plain yogurt in the larger section.  It is just the right amount of sweetness.

This was my original favorite brand and flavor - now don't mistake the caramel flavor for the honey flavor.  MAJOR difference in taste.  I love the caramel flavor.  This one is 4 ounces and has 110 calories, 0 grams of fat, 60mg sodium, 140mg potassium, 17g carbs (16 g sugar) and 10 grams of protein.  It also has 15% of your daily calcium allowance.

The plain greek yogurt can be fairly bitter, so you need something to mix in it. If you prefer to buy plain, you can mix in some honey and/or granola to flavor it up. Greek yogurt is a GREAT choice for snacking, and I typically choose it for my mid-morning snack between breakfast and lunch.

Pistachios!  I love love love these nuts.  I portion them out into baggies - because like ANY snack that isn't already portioned out, they can be dangerous if not eaten properly!  This baggie (1/2 ounce) has around 80-100 calories, 6.5 grams of fat, 4g carbs (3g dietary fiber).  You have to crack them open, which keeps your hands busy (or your stapler on your desk at work, for that one or two in the bag that aren't easy to crack open - lol!).  These are a great mid-afternoon snack for me.  Now, the side of the bag of pistachios will tell you that one ounce is a serving (around 49 nuts) whereas I have quoted you half an ounce above.  Cut that in half, and you have a good healthy snack without overdoing it. I also really like roasted almonds, we're just on a pistachio kick at our house right now. :)

Trail mix!  This is a newer favorite of mine.  Now, that is 1/4 cup of tropical trail mix which equates to 142 calories, 6 grams of fat, 22 carbs and 2.2 g of protein. You must be careful with trail mix, just like you are with nuts as it is easy to grab a bag and then wonder where the heck it went!  Recently, I was lucky enough to get to tour a plant that bags up nuts and trail mixes - and saw how they portion things out to go into the baggies - its all very scientific and the machines drop the different components onto a conveyor belt at certain speeds to control how much of each thing goes in each bag.  This is why you never run into trail mix that is mostly chocolate (darn!).  Thought I'd share that tidbit with you.
 Wait, didn't I share Larabars as breakfast items?  Well, folks, they can also be a snack!  I don't recommend eating more than one a day as they are higher in calories, though they are nutrient dense - meaning they pack a good punch of health and no preservatives (huge to me!).  These are great on the days I eat oatmeal or cereal for breakfast, just before one of my 2 hour workouts in the evening.

Yeah, that's an apple.  A gala apple at that.  Does that seem boring?  It shouldn't.  Once you rid your taste buds of all the sugary processed crap you've been eating, this apple will taste like candy.  I promise.  Apples range from 70-100 calories per apple depending on the size.  Try some different brands and types until you find your favorite!  They are also a great source of fiber.

Bananas are a great choice as well.  They also range around 80-110 calories depending on their size.  I love a banana as a morning snack, or sometimes just before my workout in order to prevent cramping and get my blood sugar to a good place just before I sweat like crazy. I don't eat a banana as a snack on the days I chop one into my oatmeal or cereal.

Not pictured are my little grapes and baby bell cheese snack baggies (I'm out right now).  Basically I put about 15 grapes in a baggie with a little round baby bell light cheese round.  The cheese is around 50 cals as are the grapes.  It is SUCH a yummy snack and very satisfying with the protein and fat from the cheese and the sweetness of the grapes.  Those seem to stave off my search for sweets in the afternoon.

So there you have it, my most frequent snacks!  Sometimes I pair the apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter or almond butter if its post long run or something like that.  I also like my almond milk mixed with a serving of ovaltine for a "chocolate milk" type of snack.  Filling and yummy.

Do you notice anything common about my snacking?  Most of it is real food with minimal processing.  Look, I am not a perfectly "clean" eater, but the cleaner I do eat, the better I feel, and my tummy thanks me...along with my scale being a good friend to me.

This next week I'm traveling for work and there will be an ABUNDANCE of food around. My biggest goal? Stick to my healthier options (which may mean stealing a banana off the breakfast buffet for later) and not to eat just because food is available.  Food will be available to me forever, God willing.  I don't have to sample everything, all the time.

But I also will NOT allow myself to get so hungry that I eat things I don't really like (because I'm staaarving) or clean my plate and feel miserable the rest of the day.

My other plan of action?  Go to the hotel gym EVERY morning AND dance at every opportunity (there will be several).  This will be funny because I've never been much of a dancer in public, and since I haven't had alcohol at all in around 7 years, I'm wondering, who do I think I am planning to dance? 

Well, ya know what?  If I can do Zumba, and I'm half Colombian, darn it, I should be able to cut a rug.  And cutting a rug or two will help me out if I decide I *have* to have that chocolate torte at dinner.

Pray for me?

Have a great week.


PS - next Food Blog adventure will take us into the land of LUNCHES!  Hoping to get some good pics for you this week or next while traveling of some of my favorite lunch options.

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