When you're on a mission to get back in shape, it is as much a challenge to continue doing your exercise routine as it is to follow your new diet plan. Most people find it easier to be “good” at meal times than the time in between. Snacking in theory isn't a bad thing because it can help minimize the feeling of being deprived and also control insulin levels. It is when we snack on the wrong things when we get into trouble.There's an old joke about the “Seefood” Diet: whatever food you see, you eat.
When you think about it though, there is a lot of truth in there, so if you are serious about losing weight, get rid of your stash of chips, cookies, candies and other snack food laden with fat or sugar. Opt instead to buy items that are high in fiber (i.e. whole grains, fruits and vegetables) or high in lean protein (i.e. tuna or chicken salad) because they are effective in staving off hunger for a longer time than other foods. If your food intake is low in calcium, you can also choose to snack on low fat dairy products such as low fat milk, cheese or yogurt.
Remember to monitor the portion size of your snacks. Some snacks, such as nuts or seeds (ex. walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds) contain healthy fats and are therefore dense in calories, so they should be consummed in moderation.
Here are some ideas for snacks which are both healthy and satisfying.
• Cut up fruits and vegetables such as celery sticks, carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers, apples and pears and store them in plastic containers so that they are “ready to eat”. Pair them with healthy dips such as hummus, low-fat plain yogurt, salsa, peanut butter, low fat cheese or cottage cheese. You can also do the same to whole wheat crackers (5 crackers/serving), whole wheat pita triangles or small whole wheat tortillas – they also go great with these dips.
• Prepare a fruit salad with fruits in season and low-fat yogurt. Or make a homemade smoothie with non-fat milk and your choice of fruit; add non-fat yogurt or ground wheat germ for added protein if desired.
• Mix high fiber, low-sugar cereal, nuts and dried fruit and store in small plastic bags to be eaten as homemade trail mix.
• When craving for cake or cookies, reach for homemade granola bars instead. Put together whole grains/cereal, dried fruit and a little honey to form the mixture into bars.
• Add a little low-fat mayonnaise to tuna flakes or boiled chicken cut into cubes. Use as topper for a quick tuna or chicken salad made with lettuce and tomatoes or as a sandwich filling.
• Keep a few hard boiled eggs in the fridge as a quick protein pick-me-upper when energy levels go down in the afternoons.
• Munch on frozen grapes, frozen bananas or sugar-free gelatin when you feel like eating something a little sweet, and pickles or olives when craving for something a bit sour/ savory.
• Check the labels of store-bought granola bars, protein bars and frozen yogurts because although they may be touted as low-fat, they can still contain a lot of calories per serving.
• Top pieces of pita bread with a little tomato sauce, Italian seasoning and grated Parmesan cheese, then pop into an oven toaster to make little low-calorie “pizzas”.
• Substitute air-popped popcorn, soy chips or rice crackers when hit by cravings for chips. If you really need to have some chips, choose baked potato chips over the traditional fried ones. Another acceptable option may be pretzels, just check the label for their sodium content.